At the end of last year, the city of Kirkland adopted a comprehensive set of goals and plans to build sustainability into almost every aspect of city life and governance.
Kirkland’s commitment to sustainability aims to make the city a leader in sustainability through infrastructure upgrades, new policies and also through public education intended to spur collective behavior changes.
Kirkland Senior Planner, David Barnes said the plan, which includes goals such as reducing the amount an average person drives by 50 percent by 2050, composting all food and yard waste and reducing the emissions of fossil fuels from all buildings by 20% by 2025 and 50% by 2030, is admittedly lofty.
“If goals aren’t aspirational, it might not penetrate the community psyche,” Barnes said.
He said what makes this “master plan,” different than most is that it has an action plan built into it.
The plan has nearly 150 specific goals related to energy use, transportation, waste management, infrastructure, community health, sustainable business development, sustainable governance and others.
Each individual goal includes a relative cost rating and relative effort requirement as well as an estimated timeframe of completion and a weighted scoring system for the city to measure its own progress.
In the first year or so of Kirkland’s commitment, Branes said the short-timeframe, low effort and low cost projects will be completed first. The “low-hanging fruit,” as Barnes described it.
In January, Kirkland agreed to participate in Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct Program for the next twenty years. This allows the city to purchase 100 percent of its energy from renewable and non-fossil fueled sources. The city is now receiving power from the Skookumchuck Wind Facility.
Barnes said being a part of PSE’s Green Direct Program will be a significant step towards meeting the city’s carbon-reduction goals, which include achieving a 50 percent reduction in the Kirkland’s greenhouse gas emissions from the city’s 2007 baseline and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
Kirkland’s plan also includes a commitment to achieve “zero waste by 2030,” a goal which Solid Waste Coordinator, John MacGillivray, said is often misunderstood.
He said true zero waste is practically impossible as every individual produces some level of waste material through their own consumption of goods. MacGillivray said “zero waste,” in this case means to not waste or throw away any materials or resources of value.
According to him, this means not only focusing on the diversion of solid waste through recycling, what used to be the benchmark for reducing waste, but also working “upstream,” and using policies to incentivize the use of more sustainable materials in industry.
For example, MacGillivray said policies that ban the use of polystyrene foams in the food service industry and ban plastic bags rid two valueless and unrecyclable materials from the waste stream.
Kirkland’s plan also aims to reduce food waste and encourage food waste producers to compost.
MacGillivray said Kirkland’s push for more sustainable waste management will not be centered around infrastructure changes, but rather education and outreach efforts intended to create positive behavior changes.