By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor
Washington, D.C.’s efforts to become a more sustainable city are paying off. Recently, the District was recognized as the third most sustainable city in the United States, under the STAR Community Rating System.
STAR is the nation’s first citywide rating system. It helps communities evaluate themselves across seven areas. More than 80 communities are actively using the system, and more than 30 are currently pursuing certification.
The STAR Community Rating System supports three leadership certifications: 3-STAR Community (between 200 and 399 points), 4-STAR Community (between 400 and 599 points) and 5-STAR Community (more than 600 points). Washington, D.C., is one of only seven cities ranked at the 4-STAR level. It earned 534 points out of a possible 720, making it the highest ranking 4-STAR city. Notable achievements included increasing high school graduation rates among underperforming groups, being the first in the nation to offer a stormwater-retention-credit-trading system, and achieving near-perfect scores for the establishment of new businesses and high employment rates.
“This 4-STAR rating shows the progress we are making on our Sustainable DC Plan and how we fare compared to other cities – many of them larger than us,” Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement for the press. “The District consistently scores high on a host of city rankings for sustainability and quality of life. But none are as comprehensive as STAR, helping us understand where we are doing well and where we need to dedicate resources to become a truly sustainable city.”
Washington, D.C.’s 4-STAR Community rating is effective for three years, after which the city will be reevaluated. The areas that need improving include natural systems and equity and empowerment.
The other U.S. communities ranked at the 4-STAR level are Austin, Texas; Broward County, Fla.; Davenport, Iowa; Evanston, Ill.; Portland, Ore.; Tacoma, Wash.; and Tucson, Ariz. The two communities considered more sustainable than Washington, D.C., are Northampton, Mass., and Seattle, Wash., both ranked at the 5-STAR level. Ten other U.S. communities are ranked at the 3-STAR level.
“Sustainable cities provide a healthy environment, support a strong economy and continually improve the well being of the community,” added Hilari Varnadore, executive director of STAR Communities. “Washington, D.C., is an excellent example of a city with a strong commitment to sustainability and to being transparent about progress toward its goals.”