Sustainability is a Mercer Island value. It is a process of ensuring the wise use and management of all resources within a framework in which environmental, social, cultural and economic well-being are integrated and balanced. It means meeting the needs of today without adversely impacting the needs of future generations.
In 2006, a grassroots effort of Island citizens led the City to modify the vision statement in its comprehensive plan to include language embracing general sustainability, and in May 2007 the Council committed to a sustainability work program as well as a specific climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 2007 levels by 2050, which was consistent with King County and Washington State targets. Later in 2007, the Council set an interim emissions reduction goal (often called a “milepost”) for City operations of 5% by 2012.
In recent years, the City has pursued a wide range of actions focusing on the sustainability of its internal operations. These measures began with relatively humble recycling and waste reduction campaigns, and then expanded into much larger initiatives such as energy-efficiency retrofits and cleaner-burning fleet vehicles. More recently, the City has installed its own on-site solar PV project at the Community and Event Center, and has now purchased several commercial-grade electric utility vehicles for Water Department and Parks Maintenance purposes. Approximately 35% of the City’s internal electricity use is offset through the purchase of green power REC’s from Puget Sound Energy. The City tracks several metrics in its annual “Dashboard Report” that evaluate progress made in energy consumption, fuel use, green power purchasing, solid waste diversion, and overall carbon footprint of City operations.
In 2012, activities were expanded further with the hiring of the City’s first dedicated Sustainability Manager, who designs, implements, and then oversees much of the internal sustainability project work. In addition, the Mayor and City Council have increasingly addressed or supported specific regional and state-level climate commitments or legislation.
In 2017, the City confirmed a major commitment to clean power by announcing its contract with Puget Sound Energy for 2019 through 2039, in which it will buy 20 years of clean wind power to replace its current mix of electricity, covering its annual municipal usage of 3 million kilowatt hours.
Due to the 20-year horizon envisioned by this Comprehensive Plan, it is especially appropriate to include internal measures that address the long-term actions needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ideally in collaboration with other local governments. Actions that the City will implement with the entire community’s sustainability in mind are addressed in the Land Use Element of this plan. Various City departments, such as Parks and Recreation and Maintenance, prepare functional plans that directly implement some sustainability programs.