How to Be an Eco-Warrior in West Chester

Editor’s note, December 2018 update: The Sustainability Advisory Committee is seeking two new members starting in 2019. If you are interested in joining please contact Dana DiDomenico at ddidomenico@west-chester.com

The Sustainability Advisory Committee sees a green future for the Borough

West Chester Sustainability Committee focuses on environmental issues facing the Borough.
The SAC focuses on environmental issues facing the Borough.

If regulation rollbacks and climate deniers have you in a state of eco-frustration, there is a very real difference you can make right here in West Chester. Join the Sustainability Advisory Committee (SAC).

Now in its third year, the SAC is the borough’s latest advisory committee. Its mission, as stated in the official charter is to: “increase collaboration between Borough departments on issues regarding the economic vitality and environmental sustainability of the West Chester Borough.”

But what exactly does that mean?

What does it do?

One of the key functions of the committee is to weigh in on the land development plan review process. Their job is to making sure developers are keeping environmental best practices and principles in mind. Members of the committee review the construction plans submitted by the builder for such features such as bike racks, electric charging stations, pervious pavers, and LED lighting systems and make recommendations where builders and the Borough can score some sustainability wins.

To help encourage this process the committee even created a its own green building distinction – West Chester Sustainable – that builders can earn if their building meets certain sustainability requirements. Buildings are scored against four categories – energy efficiency, site design, material resource and water efficiency – and must go beyond code requirements in their efforts to be sustainable.  There are two levels of distinction, green or gold, and each qualifying building will be recognized with a plaque and press release touting its sustainability creds.

Fun fact: The new Borough Hall renovation could be the first project to earn the honor.

Another key function of the committee is outreach to the community. Sometimes this comes in the form of education and awareness, this spring the committee held a workshop for residents where they could learn about the Stream Protection Fee rebate program and get tips and advice for implementing any of the seven rebate projects at home, but most often this is done through monthly meetings where residents can voice concerns or lobby the committee for assistance with their projects.

Each Sustainability meets starts with an open comment period. During these periods the committee has heard on a wide variety of issues from mosquito control and water safety concerns to adopting a community-wide clean energy resolution.

The latter a recommendation of the Sierra Club was championed by the committee and eventually adopted by Borough Council. The proposal commits West Chester to achieving targets of 100% renewable energy by 2035 and 100% renewable energy for heat and transportation by 2050.

Building on their success members of the committee are now partnering with other municipalities in the area to create a regional plan.

Who’s on the Committee?

The committee is made up of seven members and all but two must be residents of the borough.

Members serve a two year term with the option to stay on for another two years for a maximum of four years of service. Terms expire at the end of the calendar year, so except in the case of an unexpected leave, the best time to look to join the committee is in the fall.

How do I Get Involved?

How to join West Chester’s Sustainability Committee:

  1. Check for openings. Committee openings are usually posted in the fall.
  2. Submit your resume. Interested candidates should submit a resume and application to Borough Hall. Highlight your eco-creds, interests or concerns.
  3. Come for an interview. Qualified candidates will be asked to come to a Borough Council meeting for an interview.
  4. Keep your fingers-crossed. Candidates are selected by Council vote which occurs directly after the interview.

Don’t be intimidated if you don’t have an eco-pedigree. While there are a lot of very qualified members on the committee, there is also me: a concerned mom and resident who just felt like it was time to do something.

This year the committee is losing three of its founding members including, mayor-elect Diane Herrin. Borough council is accepting applications now and would like to begin interviewing candidates this week.

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