Henderson Sustainability Program Serves as Model
The city of Henderson Sustainability Program traces its roots back to 2001 as the Energy Policy Initiative Committee (EPIC). This effort was overseen by the Public Works Department, with the goal of encouraging people to turn off lights and computers when they left the office each day to conserve energy. By 2007, an official, interdepartmental “green team” had been formed, and as these efforts came into focus, the City’s Guiding Principles for Sustainability were adopted in 2008. The Our Henderson campaign followed in 2009 to help brand the sustainability efforts with a logo and website (OurHenderson.com). Natural Awakenings sat down with Projects Coordinator Stacie Welsh and Ned Thomas, principal planner and coordinator of citywide sustainability initiatives to find out how their strategy is progressing.
Henderson’s program has saved the community millions of dollars in energy costs. Why has it been so successful?
Sustainability is really about good management. Henderson has always practiced good planning and careful management and focused on quality of life for its community members. The way the City has operated its municipal facilities, overseen development of master-planned communities, and laid out parks and other community amenities was all designed to support quality of life. Sustainability is just another name for what we have been doing all along. Now we focus on planning for the future residents of Henderson and maintaining their quality of life through a coordinated sustainability program.
How did the Our Henderson branding campaign come about?
The city of Henderson has a slogan: “A place to call home,” so we spun off that and came up with Our Henderson and added the tagline, “Our home, My responsibility.” It sends the message that each resident is responsible in helping maintain the beauty and quality of life in Henderson.
What are the basic tenets of the program?
There are seven themes to our sustainability program: Energy, Water, Recycling and Waste, Reduction, Transportation, Urban Design, Urban Nature and Environmental Health. Within each theme, clearly defined goals and objectives help the City focus its overall efforts. For example, with water, our areas of focus are water conservation, water quality and storm water management.
Why is storm water management important?
Cleanliness of our water is important, but storm water management, in terms of a sustainable community, is about being resilient in the face of flash floods and storms. One of the greatest hidden success stories is the amazing system of storm water basins that the Regional Flood Control District manages across our valley. Thirty years ago, flash floods were common. We don’t have them anymore, because of good management and planning. In Henderson, several of those flood control basins have been designed to serve as dual-use facilities for recreation and open space.
Urban Forestry is a goal in the Urban Nature theme. Why is that needed in a desert community?
It does sound funny, but where other than the desert would you really want to protect your trees? In the desert, an older tree is a great asset and adds value to your community. The city of Henderson is currently the only city in the valley that employs a full-time urban forester. She manages the tree inventory – again, we’re talking about good management – and her department carefully accounts for all tree resources and studies existing growth to plan for future plantings.
How do you measure the success of the sustainability program?
Sustainability is a very broad topic, so success is probably best measured by the results of each individual program. For example, when the Public Works Department recently replaced equipment like boilers and chillers and streetlights - all large users of energy - with more energy efficient models, we were able to translate the energy savings from kilowatt-hours to money saved to how those changes reduced our carbon footprint. The boiler replacements resulted in a 438,000 reduction in kilowatts of energy, which is equivalent to removing 27 cars from roadways. Street light retrofits are saving even more. Over the past year, we partnered with Republic Services to pilot a single-stream recycling program to more than 25,000 households within select neighborhoods across the City. This program resulted in dramatic increases in recycling rates simply by making it more convenient for residents, and a UNLV survey of residents participating in the pilot program revealed overwhelming support for the new program.
What are your plans for the future?
The city of Henderson was recently awarded a $3.5 million Regional Sustainable Communities Grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and over the next three years we will be working with other local governments to develop a regional sustainable development plan for the whole valley. With this grant, we hope to engage a broad range of community stakeholders in developing a vision for future development and redevelopment that is more sustainable due to qualities like walkability and access to transit. We’re all [cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Clark County] working together on issues related to land use planning and increasing transportation alternatives. The new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service along Boulder Highway is a great example of this. The buses are clean, fast and equipped with Wi-Fi, making them an increasingly attractive alternative to driving a car between downtown Las Vegas and Water Street.
For more information, visit OurHenderson.com.