Municipal Spotlight: Sustainable PA Certification
For local municipalities looking to take on sustainability initiatives and gain recognition for their efforts, the Sustainable PA certification program provides a framework to achieve sustainability goals, save money, conserve resources, and innovate to improve the lives of their residents. Administered by the PA Municipal League and Sustainable Pittsburgh, this free and voluntary municipal certification program was created to assess a local governmentâ€™s level of sustainability and provide a curated list of resources and opportunities to help municipalities improve in ways that are most beneficial and relevant to each unique community. Currently four Chester County municipalities are certified through the program: East Goshen, Caln, New Garden, and West Bradford Townships, and West Chester Borough.
East Goshen holds a Gold certification through the program. Jason Lang, the township's Parks and Recreation Director, spearheaded the certification process with leadership from the township's Board of Supervisors. The program was appealing to staff and elected officials because it is vetted by the state and provides a bump in competitiveness when applying for grants through the PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development. When going through the certification process, Lang determined that East Goshen was already doing 90 percent of the actions required for Gold certification, and the work of the Township's Sustainability Advisory Committee helped with the final 10 percent. Lang's advice for other municipalities going through the program is: "Don't try to do it last minute! You'll need to pull together documents and work with different departments. Do it thoughtfully and use the process to your advantage."
Caln Township holds a Silver certification from the program. Abbey Swan, the Township's Community Outreach Specialist, coordinated the certification process and noted: "The program is a great source of ideas — there were things on (the list for certification) that never would have occurred to me, and things I didn't know we were already doing. It provides good PR that we're able to message to the community." Caln Township's certification was based entirely on things they were already doing. The Township noted that they earned credit for many elements within their Zoning Ordinance and advised others interested in certification to keep the requirements for this program in mind when updating a comprehensive plan and/or zoning ordinance.
The Sustainable PA program was revamped in June of 2022, and requirements have been revised to reflect the latest best practices. Additionally, municipalities will now have to recertify every three years. Jim Price, Sustainable PA program administrator with Sustainable Pittsburgh, advises interested municipalities to see if they're eligible for certification based on what they're already doing or what they'd like to be doing, then in a few years, try for recertification at a higher level.
For more information contact Senior Program Manager Jim Price at email@example.com.