Achieving a more diverse, resilient, and thriving economy, while protecting and enhancing our environmental legacy, will not just happen on its own. It requires long-term planning that simultaneously creates a sense of community and connects the economy, the environment and our social lives. To create the future we envision, I’ve asked our citizens to help guide us on the journey that we began in 2011 through my Sustainability Initiative, making Orange County “Our Home for Life.”
When you are seeking to accomplish great change, it’s always wise to consult leaders who have already achieved great success to help show you the way. Mayor Jacobs invited Mike Harcourt, the former premier of British Columbia and a former mayor of Vancouver, to kick-off the Community Sustainability Plan by presenting a seminar at our Board of County Commissioners (BCC) Chambers in February 2013.
Through his leadership, Harcourt helped British Columbia earn its reputation as one of the most livable, accessible, and inclusive places in the world and shared his focus on conservation and sustainable development – along with his resolve to contribute to the transformation of cities and communities.
Orange County’s Sustainability Plan is known as “Our Home for Life” and continues to shape our efforts to create a future in which Orange County is known as the best place in the world to live, work, play, and raise a family. An ad hoc committee appointed by Mayor Jacobs met monthly to review and provide input on the Sustainability Assessment, providing a summary of Orange County’s challenges and opportunities. The committee also provided input on the Community Sustainability Plan, including goals, metrics, strategies, and a detailed implementation plan covering these seven focus areas: arts and culture, built environment, civic engagement, community, education, mobility, and natural resources.
The internal Sustainability Steering Committee oversaw these efforts, including the appointment of sub-committees comprised of government staff and external stakeholders, charged with drafting the Sustainability Plan documents. All recommendations will be presented to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners for final consideration in 2014.
In addition to a full schedule of meetings and workshops, numerous events have celebrated “Our Home for Life.” In July, Orange County held the Lake Mary Jess Water Improvement Project Dedication Ceremony in conjunction with National Lakes Appreciation Month. This drainage and water improvement project treats storm water from Orange Avenue (State Road 527) and surrounding commercial development by redirecting it into a new facility that captures trash, sediment, and pollutants before discharging them downstream to Lake Mary Jess. This project will help to improve the quality of the natural resources in this area, thus creating a sustainable, high-quality neighborhood for current and future residents.
And our sustainability efforts are being recognized! This fall, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) was awarded the 2013 Sustainable Best Practice Award in the government category. Presented by Sustainable Florida and administered by the Collins Center for Public Policy, the award recognizes organizations that exemplify sustainable development and practices in Florida.
OCCC was also awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance Gold (EBOM) certification from The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), an arm of the U.S. Green Building Council. The Orange County Convention Center is now the largest convention center in the world to achieve LEED EBOM Gold certification.
Additionally, OCCC became only the third convention center in the world to achieve a new international sustainability standard–Level One certification with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard pertaining to the Evaluation and Selection of Venues for Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows, and Conferences. This recognition helps event planners and suppliers produce events in a more sustainable manner.
The “Our Home for Life” project continues to be a robust platform for creating a sustainable community. You are encouraged to be part of that conversation through the Orange County Website, PlaceSpeak, a virtual town hall, and through future events on living sustainably.