Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Green, and beyond

A thoughtful new plan links environmental protection in greater Toledo to economic growth and social equity



A wekk that includes Earth Day is a good time for Lucas County government and other key public and private actors to introduce their long-term sustainability plan for Toledo, its suburbs, and the region. But the proposals they will unveil today amount to more than a tree-hugger’s manifesto that includes a handful of environmentally friendly initiatives.

Instead, the plan’s authors seek to “go beyond green” to address what they call a triple bottom line: improving local environmental quality, while also promoting economic growth and strengthening communities. This comprehensive approach deserves the attention, and support, of all Tolodeans.

The sustainability plan, summarized as “people, planet, and profit,” is an outgrowth of years of discussions among local public officials, employers, community and environmental groups, and other major social and educational institutions. It aims to develop a strategy to address collectively a number of urgent regional issues: broad themes such as climate change and economic inequality, and more-specific matters such as water quality, land use, public health and safety, job creation, school improvement, and infrastructure repair. The plan’s sponsors concede that this community has a lot of work to do in these areas.

“We’re not where we should be,” Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak told The Blade’s editorial board on Tuesday, as she and other local leaders previewed the plan. “This action plan is what’s required of us.”

The plan identifies five “catalyst” projects that will get special attention. A source water action plan aims to protect Lake Erie and the Maumee and Ottawa River watersheds by keeping harmful pollutants out of local water supplies, not merely treating them after the fact. A green infrastructure portfolio standard will help manage rainwater where it falls in developed areas, for reuse and irrigation, thus limiting pollution and flooding caused by stormwater runoff.

A complete-streets project will include efforts to promote walking, bicycling, and public transportation along with car and truck traffic throughout the region, with special attention to schoolchildren. An economic localization initiative will encourage support of locally owned, independent businesses, including farmers’ markets and minority firms. A better-buildings project will build on current efforts to provide economic incentives for cutting energy waste and greenhouse-gas generation in commercial and industrial facilities.

Each of these projects not only can blunt the local effects of climate change, but also can enhance social and economic equity and community vibrancy. Working together rather than piecemeal to ensure their success makes sense.

To measure progress on these initiatives, the plan includes a regional sustainability index. Right now, greater Toledo scores 41 out of 100 — a rating that is charitably described as fair. The region does better on economic measures than on environmental and social ones. The plan’s authors want to elevate Toledo’s score to at least 70 by 2030.

You can read the sustainability plan at Then you can decide how you want to participate in the effort: volunteer work, community leadership and outreach, donations to favored groups and issue campaigns.

One of the most valuable contributions of the sustainability plan is the reminder it provides residents of this region that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive values; rather, each depends on the other. If the plan delivers on its considerable promise, the positive effects on greater Toledo over the next decade and beyond will be profound.

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