Sustainability Plan

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Sustain Delco: A Sustainability Plan for Delaware County, Pennsylvania

In February 2020, the Delaware County Council recognized its commitment to a more sustainable Delaware County through the creation of the Delaware County Sustainability Commission. Charged with providing recommendations regarding best environmental and energy practices, as well as the creation, review and ongoing input into a Delaware County Sustainability Plan, the group worked diligently to identify priorities for Sustainability in Delaware County. Out of these discussions, four guiding principles and six key focus areas were identified, beginning the development process for Delaware County’s first-ever Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. Below, learn more about the planning process and how to get involved in.

What is a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan?

Why is a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan important for Delaware County?

What progress has been made so far?

What are we currently doing?

How can I get involved in the process?

What are the next steps?

What is a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan?

A Climate Action Plan serves to identify and measure greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and establish meaningful strategies to reduce them in a community. Climate Action Plans typically set specific targets for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reduction and provide detailed steps for achieving them. One notable example of a Climate Action Plan is the 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan, which identifies strategies for government, business, agriculture, community leaders, and all Pennsylvanians to reduce GHG across the state.

A Sustainability Plan is typically broader than a Climate Action Plan focusing on the three main pillars of sustainability: profit (the economy), people, and the planet. In taking this approach, sustainability plans typically establish broader goals than just GHG reduction, such as reducing environmental inequalities in marginalized communities, improving water quality in local watersheds, or addressing environmental health concerns such as indoor air quality. Delaware County is seeking to create a plan that blends the priorities of both a Climate Action Plan and a broader Sustainability Plan. In taking this approach, the County is seeking to create a data-driven and community-informed plan which addresses key focus areas, with special attention to GHG.

Why is a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Important for Delaware County?

Sustain, by definition, means “cause to continue for an extended period or without interruption.” In creating a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan for Delaware County, the County is taking steps to improve our environment and community today, so all may have safe, healthy, and enjoyable place to live without interruption in the wake of a changing climate. Sustain Delco: A Sustainability Plan for Delaware County seeks to “green” county operations while also promoting positive changes in all 49 Delaware County municipalities.

What progress has been made so far?

Since the creation of a Sustainability Commission in February 2020, the County has been actively taking steps toward building a more sustainable Delaware County. Beginning in 2021, the creation of a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan has become a main priority.

In September 2021, Delaware County joined the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Local Climate Action Planning Cohort. Through this program, Delaware County worked with two college students from Bryn Mawr College to create a Local Climate Action Plan (LCAP) for Delaware County . The LCAP will serve as a guiding document to the County’s larger sustainability plan, providing valuable information on GHG emissions in the County, as well as suggestions for reducing them. This data will be woven into the key focus areas of the sustainability plan including, Zero Waste, Energy and Efficiencies, and Transportation. To view the Delaware County LCAP, completed and submitted in August of 2022, please use this link.

In concurrence with the LCAP process, in 2021, the Sustainability Commission created an internal subcommittee to identify priorities of the Plan as well as the guiding principles of the process. After much research, collaboration, and a community survey, four guiding principles and six focus areas were identified as priorities.

The four guiding principles represent the most important values that will serve to shape County behavior and action in our Sustainability Plan. They include:

  • Economic Sustainability Making smart economic decisions without compromising the health of the environment or community.

  • Education – Ensuring that we are not only being thought and practice leaders but are providing the residents of Delaware County with the educational tools needed to grow and thrive.

  • Equity, Inclusion, and Justice – Serving to ensure that all community members of Delaware County are equally getting a seat at the table and receiving the benefits of this plan while also addressing the barriers that marginalized residents face that prohibit them from having equal access.

  • Governance – The idea of ethically and transparently serving the residents of Delaware County.

In addition to the four guiding principles, six focus areas were identified as key areas for action in the County’s path to sustainability:

In June 2022, six subcommittees comprised of community advocates, partners, and experts were created to identify the goals, targets, and actions for the plan. Ranging between 10 and 20 members in each group, the subcommittees met first bi-weekly, then monthly, from August 2022 to March 2023. In tandem with this process, Office of Sustainability staff met with internal County Department and external community partners and groups to identify areas of partnership and opportunities to elevate existing initiatives and programs around the County. The information gathered from these meetings was taken back to the subcommittees to inform actions in the plan. In total, the subcommittees had 87 participants in over 63 hours of active meetings. The outputs from this process included 12 main goals, 18 priority areas (subgoals), 29 targets, and over 245 specific and implementable actions.

What are we currently doing?

With goals, targets, and actions identified, county staff are now actively drafting the plan.  Narratives will include important facts and data to better understand existing conditions, explanations for technical topics, case studies of sustainability super stars in Delaware County, and insight as to why certain topics were included in the plan.

In additional to drafting the plan, staff are actively planning community engagement sessions to provide members of the general public the opportunity to review actions identified in the plan and provide feedback. For additional information on our Open Houses, please see below:

How can I get involved in the process?

In December of 2021, a community survey was issued to identify priorities in sustainability, aswell as gauge the community’s existing thoughts on climate change. Below are some of the highlights in response to over 650 respondents from 40 of the 49 Delaware County municipalities:

  • 75% of respondents were concerned about the impacts of climate change by a great deal, while only 2% were not concerned at all.

  • Respondents identified Natural Resources, Climate Resiliency, and Solid Waste Management as the top three priorities for the Sustainability Plan.

  • 81% of respondents felt that flooding would have the greatest impact of the climate change related hazards.

Now that our goals, actions, and targets have been drafted, we are looking for your feedback! The Delaware County Office of Sustainability will be hosting three in-person and one virtual open house to solicit feedback on the drafted actions. Participants will be provided a brief presentation and then will have the opportunity to visit stations for each of the six focus areas where they will be asked for their feedback. To find the closest Open House to you, please see the attached flyer

What are the next steps?

Following the community engagement process, amendments to the plan will be made and feedback will be incorporated into the Plan. A completed draft will then go before the Sustainability Commission for review, prior to being presented to the Delaware County Council. It is anticipated that the final plan will be adopted at the end of June 2023.

To see a more detailed planning timeline, see the attached chart.

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         Media, PA 19063
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About Delaware County

Delaware County, presently consisting of over 184 square miles divided into forty-nine municipalities is the oldest settled section of Pennsylvania.

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