What the City Is Doing
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Starting in 2007, the City began including a section on Sustainability Policies and Programs in the Biennial Budget, which serves as a compilation of current work on this topic. When the City completes a 6-year Sustainability Plan (underway), specific action items for these programs will be developed more fully in that document and will align with the City's ongoing commitments under the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C).
100 Actions for A Better Environment
Click here to read the City's inaugural "Green Report" from 2008, identifying over 100 early-action sustainable practices put in place at the City of Mercer Island: www.mercergov.org/greenreport
Key Sustainability Milestones
In 2006, thanks to a grassroots effort of citizens, the City of Mercer Island added the following to the Vision Statement in the City's Comprehensive Plan:
“Mercer Island strives to be a sustainable community: Meeting the needs of the present while preserving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We consider the relationship between the decisions we make as a community and their long-term impacts before committing to them. We understand that our strength is dependent on an open decision-making process that takes into account the economic, environmental and social well-being of our community.”
At the May 7, 2007 City Council meeting, Councilmembers unanimously adopted Resolution 1389 which commits the city to strive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through City operations and through community education. To read Resolution 1389, click here.The work program calls for calculating the citywide “carbon footprint,” which is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide, CO2.
Other tasks include promoting bicycling and walking, converting the City fleet to hybrid or biofuel vehicles, increasing recycling rates, and maintaining healthy urban forests throughout the island. As part of the resolution, City Council also committed to strive for greenhouse gas emissions of 80% below current levels (i.e. 2007) by 2050, in alignment with King County targets, for both the community as a whole and City operations. Note: In comparison, the Washington State requirement for State agencies is currently 50% below 1990 levels, by 2050; see RCW 70.235.050
In 2007, Mercer Island joined hundreds of cities worldwide in becoming a member of ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability. Among the benefits was access to GHG tracking software, which allowed the City for the first time to quantify its total municipal and community-wide emissions, and track the effectiveness of reduction programs. Selected indicators of emissions status from this software began to be included in the City's annual performance measures Report Card.
In 2008, the City began developing sporadic work plans to identify annual sustainability actions and programs; see example here. Also launched at this time was a Resource Conservation Manager (RCM) program with Puget Sound Energy, which jointly funded a part-time staff position to seek out and reduce energy-wasting practices and equipment, across all City operations and facilities.
In 2011, Mercer Island joined King County and other local cities in a new, nationally-recognized, closely coordinated effort to jointly tackle climate issues and enhance the reach of each City's sustainability initiatives: the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C).
In 2012, the City convened a group of citizens, experts, and Councilmembers, known as the Sustainability Policy Task force, to develop recommendations to keep the City moving forward. The final report included near-term, achievable actions, as well as longer-term aspirational goals; in 2013 the City hired its first Sustainability Manager to help enact these recommendations.
In September 2013, the City won national recognition from the EPA as Green Power Community of the Year in recognition of a recent and very successful Green Power sign-up campaign for residents, and the City's commitment to local solar energy generation.
In April 2014, on Earth Day, the City launched its plastic bag ban, prohibiting single-use, disposable plastic bags for most situations, with regulations modeled on other WA communities. Learn more.
In October 2015, the City and Mayor Bassett were profiled in CityVision, the journal of the Association of Washington Cities, for climate and sustainability work.
In June 2016, the City completed a thorough update to the 20-year vision and development standards for the Town Center business core area – the updated code included a directive that new construction meet LEED Gold or Built Green 4-Star standard, as well as other measures, such as pedestrian-friendly design. (See MI Code, Section 19.11.050, p18)
In 2016, the City along with King County and other partners in the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration, was recognized with a national Climate Leadership Award from the EPA.
In April 2017, the City announced that all electricity purchased for municipal operations will be carbon neutral by 2019, as part of a new 20-year agreement with Puget Sound Energy to directly fund a new wind farm in Southern Washington, along with other major partners. Read press release.
In January 2018, The City of Mercer Island received SolSmart Gold designation from the Department of Energy for meeting stringent and objective criteria targeting removal of obstacles to solar development and indicating that it is “open for solar business.” Gold status in particular recognizes the City's solar installation achievements, which total 116 (and over 900 kilowatts of generation) at the time of writing. Read press release.
At its January 2018 Planning Session, the City Council determined that the City should further deepen its ongoing commitment to sustainability within all municipal operations and across the entire community by making it one of the 2018-2019 Council Goals.
In February 2018, the Council voted to use the STAR Community Rating System as a means to evaluate progress towards Island-wide sustainability, including not just traditional natural systems and climate/energy issues, but also broader topics such as equity, empowerment, and public health and safety. The STAR system consists of a set of 49 standardized objectives, with a menu-based voluntary certification track.
In June 2018, the City launched a second round of its very popular Solarize Mercer Island campaign, seeking to facilitate swift access to the installation of rooftop solar power for interested homeowners and small businesses.
In July 2018, a 3-month pilot bikeshare project with LimeBike was launched using 25 electric-assist rental bikes available 24/7, Island-wide, intended to improve Island mobility.
In October 2018, the City wrapped up a 6-month exploratory rideshare program with providers Lyft and Uber which provided highly-discounted rides between the main Park & Ride and any other Island location. Hundreds of residents and commuters tried rideshare for their first/last-mile connections to regional bus transit, and also received cheaper rates for shared vs solo rides.
By December 31, 2018, the community had added another 61 rooftop solar installations in just 12 months, thanks to a second round of the popular Solarize program, which provided tech support and a group discount. In the last four years, the City has grown from 33 installations to 184, now capable of producing 1.5 Megawatts of solar power. The City even has a demonstration array of its own, installed in 2013 at the Community Center.
In spring 2019, the City continued its program of improving bicycle route signage with the addition of "Mercer Island Loop" wayfinding signs along East, West, and North Mercer Ways (the Island's perimeter)