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Page last updated on May 2, 2019 at 3:24 pm

It is wonderful to be celebrating another Earth Week with you in our beautiful city.  Since you all are Eco-Heroes, I know I don’t have to convince you about how special it is to be in Bloomington on this day, with the sun shining, and the hint of a warm breeze, and the trees blossoming.  And of course right next to the Farmers’ Market, the heartbeat of our community, a place where we salute and support small farmers and their stewardship of the land.

Bloomington is also a place where we’ve had an Environmental Commission for 48 years.  Bloomington’s Environmental Commission was founded only a year after the first Earth Day in 1970.  That milestone was the culmination of growing national concern about the state of our earth, the way human activity contributes to its degradation, and the role that humans can play in its sustainability.  In 1971, Bloomington was one of those places across the nation where people recognized it was time for a change.

And all these years later, we still do.  At a time when our national environmental policies and the Environmental Protection Agency have been seriously weakened, and our nation is poised to withdraw from the historic Paris Climate Accord, we here in Bloomington are fighting back for the Earth, harder than ever.  Because there’s a lot we can do at the local level to make a change. Here are just a few of the things we’ve done in Bloomington to earn -- just this past March -- the title of “Indiana’s greenest city” (from Insurify):

  • We have joined with almost 400 other cities across the nation, to declare our ongoing commitment to the Paris agreement.

  • We launched the City’s first five-year Sustainability Action Plan in 2018

  • We’ve installed 6500 solar panels at 30 City buildings and facilities in the last two years, estimated to provide almost 3 MW of solar capacity for municipal operations, which earned us the title of EPA Green Power Partner.”

  • At the same time, 184 homeowners installed over 1.2 megawatts of solar capacity through the city’s Solarize program, with special discounts offered so that low-income households can go solar too.

  • The building we’re in now, over a century old, earned LEED Gold recognition in 2018 for its sustainable features and practices.

  • We’re adding seven miles of trails to our city, including an east-west B-line trail, and a trail that goes from our magnificent new Switchyard Park, through RCA Park and all the way to Wapehani.  And we’re making connections between existing trails, to make it easier and easier for folks to get around town without using cars.

  • We’re planting and replacing 1,400 street trees, to sustain our healthy and beautiful tree canopy.  We’re been an official Tree City since 1984!

  • We’re investing in green stormwater infrastructure that might particularly interest you--given this year’s topic:  Lakes, Rivers, and Streams! With things like bioswales and permeable pavement, we can slow down the flow of stormwater and allow natural processes to remove sediment and many contaminants that would otherwise pass directly downstream.

  • Speaking of water, we’ve done a lot to improve the quality of our drinking water coming out of Lake Monroe, while minimizing the environmental impact of decontamination.

  • We’re investigating the possibilities of taking our organic, compostable waste and turning it into fuel for our City’s fleet of 600 buses and service vehicles.  This system would keep a lot of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and give us a renewable fuel as a byproduct! We’ll be sharing more about this possibility later this year.    

  • And we launched the Year of Food in 2019, in the hopes of strengthening our local farm economy -- like the folks you see out there selling their products at the market -- and at the same time, getting more people access to healthful food.  

And so much more! Since we are committed to sustainability, we’re glad we have so many Eco-Heroes to carry on this work!  We are pleased that you have put your artistic talent in service of the campaign to protect our Lakes, Rivers and Streams!  Your efforts add to our proud tradition of environmental commitment here in Bloomington, dating back at least as far as the founding of the Environmental Commission in 1971.  

As you look around at our parks, trails, tree-lined neighborhoods, lakes, rivers, and streams, think about what life might be like in a city that wasn’t as committed to its natural environment as Bloomington.  Would you like living there? Would you be as happy or as healthy there? Making sure a bustling city like Bloomington stays green doesn’t just happen naturally, ironically enough. We have to be very intentional about it.  By participating in this contest, you are demonstrating your own intentionality, and sense of responsibility to our planet. By reflecting on current ecological challenges and sharing your ideas with us, all of you Eco-Heroes are raising environmental consciousness in our city, and setting a good example.  We are proud of your commitment to the health of our planet, and of our city.

This spring and summer, we encourage you to explore the natural life of your city even further!  The Parks and Recreation Department offers concerts where you are invited to listen to nature sounds, and hikes where you can learn about our city’s natural areas, our ecosystems, and our geological history.  Have fun out there! We’re so fortunate that the future of our city and our planet is in the hands of such Eco-heroes. Congratulations!