Will conduct "sustainability audit" to evaluate current city practices

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - A kitchen composting program like the one Lake Oswego recently implementing is something Sustainability Advisory Board has its eye on for West Linn. When the West Linn City Council voted unanimously in December 2015 to adopt a new Sustainability Strategic Plan, it marked the end of a two-year effort led by the City’s Sustainability Advisory Board.

But that doesn’t mean that things have been slowing down for the board in 2016 — far from it, in fact, according to Board Chair Alex Mihm. The third installment of The Tidings’ series on citizen advisory boards focuses on some of those new sustainability initiatives in 2016.

“(The Strategic Plan) shapes most of what we’re working on right now,” Mihm said. “Some other issues have popped up since then that have warranted our attention as well, but one good thing about the plan is that it is meant to be updated regularly to clearly state what our active goals are.”

Just this past Tuesday, for instance, the board hosted a lecture by Bob Hatton of the Portland Fruit Tree Project. Specifically, Hutton discussed a “Community Fruit Harvesting” project in which volunteers pick unused fruit from residents’ trees and donate it to those in need. According to Mihm, community members have expressed an interest in starting a West Linn version of the fruit harvesting program, thus prompting the board to schedule the lecture.

“(We’re) organizing educational lectures, forums etc. for community members who want to learn more about local sustainability topics and get involved with them,” Mihm said. “It’s a good way to grow a base of supporters and help interested citizens connect with one another. … We would like to arrange another one about how pesticides are getting into our local watershed and causing ecological problems.”

The board is also developing plans for a “sustainability audit” to evaluate West Linn’s current status as a sustainable city.

“There are a lot of things we can look at, like energy and water use, transportation options and even some larger community and social issues,” Mihm said. “We could get a really interesting snapshot of today that will not only indicate what may warrant attention, but will also be invaluable when measuring the value of improvements made in the future.”

In a similar vein, the board is also researching a “green purchasing” policy for West Linn, and what that might include. Vehicles might eventually be part of that green purchasing, and the board is also looking at the City’s vehicle fleet and “investigating when in the vehicle phase-in/phase-out cycle would be good to promote the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles.”

Finally, the advisory board was recently inspired by discussions taking place in a neighboring city.

“Lake Oswego’s adoption of curbside food waste pick-up has sparked a discussion about how such a program could work here in West Linn,” Mihm said. “We’ve just started to look into that possibility further, and we’ll continue to research how it could succeed, how to education citizens about its benefits.”

In March, the Lake Oswego City Council approved a new food waste pickup program, which raised rates by about $1.89 per month and allowed for Republic Services to collect food waste in its weekly pickups.

At a more general level, the board is also working to broadcast the new Sustainable Strategic Plan at other levels of the city.

“(We’re reaching out to City staff and other boards to highlight the sections of the plan that relate to their work and see if we can collaborate on anything,” Mihm said. “This early phase after approval means we need to promote the plan.”

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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