Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Sustainability Commission

GANA Speaker Series
George Huntington
Bloomingfoods General Manager
Member of Bloomington Sustainability Commission

8:00 – 9:00 p.m. February 22, 2006 (after our monthly meeting, see meeting report)

George brought us up-to-date on the initial stages of the newly formed Bloomington Sustainability Commission, sent around numerous pieces of paper that documented their process and responded to our questions.

The Process
George Huntington has lived in Bloomington all his life, “within an eight-block area,” he says, centered in Green Acres. Now on East Gate, he began on Edwards Row, when that street was literally the end of town, before the by-pass. He and his friends used to play in fields where the Travel Lodge and Jiffy Lube and Red Lobster are now. He remembers 50 kids living and playing on the streets and lawns of Green Acres when he was small. “When I graduated from I.U.,” he says, I decided I had a decision to make. What was my most important value? Would I base my life on how much money I could make? On my profession? Or on where I lived? I chose to base my life on where I lived.”

He wanted to focus his talk to us on the beginnings of this first, development year of the Sustainability Commission, and warned us that, since its members are still structuring their identity and educating themselves as to what sustainability is all about, that we can’t expect actual results yet! In fact, he was amazed and impressed that GANA already wanted input from the commission, since the commission is just now deciding the kinds of presentations that will benefit the public. And he was pleased to recognize that Green Acres intends to serve as a model neighborhood for sustainability in this city and beyond.

History of the Sustainability Commission: in May 2005 City Councilman Dave Rollo introduced an ordinance to the city council with a mission “to educate, monitor and recommend initiatives on sustainability to the community.” The ordinance passed and was signed by the mayor.

For the next three months, potential candidates for one- and two-year terms were interviewed, with six each chosen by the mayor and the city council. Due to the city’s concern for balanced representation to ensure the commission’s credibility, the ultimate makeup of the commission includes members from the business and professional sectors, the development and real estate sectors, the academic sector, and the arts and non-profit sectors.

The first official monthly meeting was held in October 2005 with the task to develop an official mission statement. He said that though both “gratifying and interesting,” the process was also “like herding cats, with many fifteen-minute discussions on single words!” Finally, he and another member volunteered to try to synththesize what everybody was saying and invited them all to email him their versions of the mission statement. Their submissions, he said, were “amazingly similar” and all included what they call “the three “E’s”— Environmental, Economic, and (social) Equity for current and future generations as core values.

Since that meeting they have set up two committees: the Indicators Committee and the Education Committee, and are in the process of forming two more: the Partnership and Resources Committee and the Initiatives Committee.

The Indicators Committee: creates indicators to measure sustainable methodologies and will report on an annual basis. Some examples of indicators identified so far:

  • in the area of resource conservation, one indicator is solid waste generation, measured through per capita solid waste sent to landfills.
  • in the area of environmental health, one indicator is vehicle miles traveled, measured through vehicle miles per capita.
  • in the area of public health and safety, one indicator is infant health, measured through mortality rates.
  • in the area of transportation, one indicator is use of public transportation, measured through local surveys.
  • in the area of economic development, one indicator is economic diversity, measured through growth of industry sectors and manufacturing.
  • in the area of land use, one indicator is tree cover, measured by percentage of city under tree canopy.
  • in the area of civic participation, one indicator is philanthropic donations, measured through donations, demographics, organizations in community.
  • in the area of human dignity, one indicator is economic self-sufficiency, measured through percentage for savings and percentage for basic needs.
  • in the area of education, one indicator is adult literacy education, measured through literacy programs, public library.

The Education Committee: seeks to educate themselves about sustainability issues as well as the public — through a speaker program, through focus groups at the library (two sessions each on February 27 and March 1 — please call ahead to reserve your spot; some are already “full,” but they’ve decided to move the venue to accommodate everyone), and eventually through classes of various kinds (for example, on retrofitting an older home for passive solar).

The Partnership and Resource Committee: seeks to identify and foster resources, partnerships and networks with various individuals, groups and institutions in the community to amplify sustainability initiatives. An example of this is the resource manual a SPEA class put together at IU to help commission members familiarize themselves with sustainability issues.

The Initiatives Committee: will decide on which sustainability initiatives to put before the mayor for his possible signature into law.

Besides his long term commitment to healthy food grown and sold locally and his two-year term on the Bloomington Sustainability Commission, George sits on the boards of five or six other non-profits as well. We are very grateful for his exemplary citizenship as he serves and brings his food expertise to many sectors of his beloved hometown community. And we thank him for his generosity in sharing the commission’s mandate with us at this early stage in its development.

You can learn more about the Bloomington Sustainability Commission online at the city website,

Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

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