McKees Solar Park

McKees Solar Park has generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Newark is considering ways to install more solar panels in the city.

In November, after two years of work by a volunteer steering committee and a consultant, Newark’s city council adopted the city’s first sustainability plan. More and more cities are recognizing the importance of sustainability in their planning. But what exactly is “sustainability”? And what commitments has Newark made?

“Sustainability” is sometimes defined as using resources in a way that could continue forever without using them up. Like drawing water from a reservoir at the same rate as it is filled each year. It requires thinking about the needs of future generations and how to ensure there will be sufficient money, well-maintained infrastructure, clean water and enough of everything else to meet them.

The vision put forward in Newark’s sustainability plan is to “be a responsible steward of [the city’s] natural, human, and economic resources to ensure an equitable and prosperous community by balancing the needs of people and the planet and relying on robust civic engagement to enhance the quality of life for current and future generations.” To implement that vision, the plan sets specific goals and calls for corresponding actions around four connected themes. These are: (1) response to climate change; (2) equitable and inclusive planning and development; (3) energy-efficient building and city operations; and (4) preservation of natural resources.

To do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the worst effects of climate change – such as more severe storms, heat waves, and more frequent flooding – Newark will gradually convert its energy sources away from fossil fuels. As a first step, the city is looking into adding solar panels to its existing McKees Solar Park and/or on city-owned buildings. It also continues to provide incentives for private solar installations. In addition, it will develop a greenhouse gas inventory to identify where the emissions are coming from.

Newark has committed itself to implement land-use practices to ensure that the city accommodates the needs of people of all ages and abilities without breaking the bank or destroying the environment. That includes supporting cleaner transportation options like electric cars and car-free lifestyles. New construction will have to meet sustainability standards, for efficient, healthy, and comfortable buildings. Through the Efficiency Smart program, the city provides incentives for energy efficiency measures that will help both the planet and the residents’ pocketbooks. At the same time, the city will look at its own operations to save energy.

To preserve its natural resources, Newark will identify opportunities to reduce its water usage and help its businesses and residents do the same. It will develop programs to improve the wastewater stream by keeping grease and oils out, while reducing its refuse stream by keeping recyclables and compostables out of the landfill. Reductions in stormwater runoff will improve flood resiliency. Newark is also committed to preserving and improving its green spaces, increasing its tree canopy and contributing to clean air efforts.

Many of these initiatives are already underway, while others are brand-new. The sustainability plan makes sure that the efforts are coordinated and designed to meet Newark’s goals. Of course, the city government won’t be able to do it on its own. Everyone – its residents, businesses, visitors, and friends – needs to do their part. This column will continue to provide suggestions on how to do that.

The Conservation Advisory Commission was created in 1977 to advise the city of Newark in the development, management and protection of its natural resources, with appropriate consideration of Newark’s human and economic resources. It meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers. The public is invited to attend and provide input. Commission members provide this monthly column to inform area residents on conservation issues.

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