We'll see movement in at least one environmental area next year, predicts James Patteson, PE, principal at Blue Heron Leadership Group and past chair of the American Public Works Association's Center for Sustainability. "Many communities have worked for several years on climate action plans, and I think you'll see these plans move into the implementation stages. You'll see communities move to both reduce energy use and/or use alternative green energy in their facilities and fleets." He also predicts that local governments will create more active, multi-modal transportation choices and improve the health of local waterways.
Patteson predicts we'll see at least one other potential trend as we head into the New Year. "In the year 2023, we'll be looking at how communities utilize the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding to rebuild infrastructure in a more resilient and sustainable manner."
He adds that in the coming year, communities will also be building social equity into their decision-making. "This will improve how they deliver programs and services to better serve the unique needs of diverse communities."
For cities and counties looking to quickly achieve a big sustainability win, Patteson offers this advice: "Look internally at your own operations and capital improvement programs—local governments are where the rubber meets the road and where administrators can lead by example. Some easy wins are internal policies around energy use (no engine idling, temperature in buildings, lighting, water usage)." He says that big sustainability wins can also be achieved by enacting green purchasing policies.
He adds that infrastructure project planning is an activity where local governments can earn sustainability victories. He says that those projects "can be designed and built in a manner that engages the community in creating a stronger and more resilient future."
For officials who wish to make their city and county purchases and their communities more sustainable, Patteson says there is plenty of help out there.