RIVERSIDE, CA – The City of Riverside is the first community in California to earn the Audubon Green Community Award from Audubon International for their ongoing sustainability initiatives. Members of Audubon International’s Sustainable Communities Program are eligible for the award, which recognizes significant environmental achievement and is an intermediate milestone en route to earning the rigorous designation of Certified Audubon International Sustainable Community. Mayor Rusty Bailey received the Green Community Award on behalf of the City of Riverside from Audubon International’s Director of Community Programs at the Riverside Sustainability Coalition Meeting on June 15.
In 2015, the City of Riverside joined the Sustainable Communities Program through the support of The Toro Company. Toro’s sponsorship aims to further environmental health and sustainability in communities where Toro has facilities. Mayor of Riverside Rusty Bailey noted, ”The City of Riverside and its partners are proud of our sustainability efforts that will enhance healthy living and economic prosperity. We are working with Audubon International and local partners to give all residents and visitors the tools to help create a better, greener, more sustainable world.” Sustainability Coordinator Andrew Markis led the effort to obtain the Green Community Award and complete Stage One.
Riverside’s accomplishments include:
- Planning & Leadership – Riverside’s Sustainability Policy Statement was adopted in 2012, and the Green Action Plan guides implementation of policies for urban nature, transportation, energy, and other sustainability elements. The City encourages construction of green buildings that reduce energy use, use sustainable materials, and incorporate innovative technologies. City regulations encourage mixed land uses, affordable housing, and preservation of scenic views in new development projects. These elements of development create accessible centers of activity accessible and reduce traffic generation, benefiting the environment and human health.
- Open Space – Voter-approved initiatives passed decades ago preserved natural hillsides, arroyos, and agricultural lands around the city, and function as a greenbelt buffer between rural and urban land uses. Abundant public lands and open space surrounding the city are enhanced by recreational access points that enable residents and visitors to experience nature firsthand. The Santa Ana River, focus of a recent initiative to address watershed issues, is a natural asset being rediscovered downtown. These natural areas provide important habitat for 39 vulnerable species and are part of the Western Riverside County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan.
- Energy and Air Pollution – An air pollution reduction plan, the Riverside Climate Action Plan, requires tracking emissions and installation of renewable energy infrastructure to reduce the introduction of particulates into the air from vehicles, industry, and energy production. The city looks to new sources of energy: solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, methane gas recovery project creating energy from waste. The City of Riverside has several programs focused on energy efficiency in homes and businesses, which use a mix of regulations, upgrades, incentives, and education to change energy use. Credits toward utility bills are offered for planting trees that reduce energy demand and offset carbon emissions.
- Access to Healthy Living – Riverside’s recreational facilities include many miles of biking and walking trails, parks, and golf courses where people can be active, view wildlife, and enjoy the outdoors. These outdoor amenities support ecotourism and economic development, as natural areas draw people to visit or move to new communities. Residents of all income levels have access to local, healthy food through farmers markets that accept food stamps, as well as classes on nutrition and preventive health.
- Outreach and Education – An important priority for Riverside has been educating the community regarding environmental and sustainable stewardship. Events like GrowRiverside and a Green Festival and Leadership Summit, the Green Power Report radio program, and websites like Riverside Public Utilities’ Green Riverside (on sustainability activities) and Blue Riverside (water conservation-focused) showcase environmental practices and teach residents about the local environment. Demonstration sites around the city explain sustainable technologies on site, such as a native plant garden with Integrated Pest Management at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, solar panels at Marcy Library, and a LEED Gold-certified McDonalds. Sustainability planning efforts involved citizens at every stage, forming resident committees that provide accountability and facilitate partnerships in implementing plans.
“As the first municipality in the State of California and west of the Mississippi to receive the Audubon International Green Community Award, Riverside demonstrates a strong commitment to embodying the ideals of sustainability—economic vitality, environmental protection, and social responsibility,” says Joanna Nadeau, Director of the Sustainable Communities Program. “By facing its unique challenges and embracing the beautiful natural landscape, Riverside has much to celebrate. It is a unique place filled with leaders that care deeply about its future.”
After a community sustainability plan is approved, communities in the program may apply for certification in the Sustainable Communities Program by demonstrating continuous progress towards goals in the plan under fifteen focus areas that comprise sustainability principles.
For more information, contact Joanna at Audubon International at (518) 767-9051 ext. 124 or email@example.com, or visit the website at www.auduboninternational.org.