Sustainable Living in Washington DC

Washington DC is the center of the American government. While not known for industrial or agricultural pollution, the vast majority of area residents commute into the city for work. The District is also a major American tourist attraction, bringing in millions of travelers from all over the world. These factors can significantly impact the environment of Washington DC, adding to the urban air pollution and energy consumption.

Despite the potential for a significant carbon footprint, the city has taken great steps to lead the nation in living and working in a sustainable manner. Washington DC was the first city in the nation to require all newly constructed private buildings to meet LEED standards. Currently, there are 24 LEED certified buildings and nearly 200 buildings that are LEED registered. By 2012, all new private development projects must comply with the legislation.

Washington DC is also well known for its green space and parks. In fact, with over 7,800 acres of parkland, the District leads the nation in park space in metropolitan areas. Residents can utilize these many parks, including the National Zoo, for eco-friendly recreational activities such as running and hiking.

In addition to the creation of parks and green space, the nation’s capitol has also taken steps to reduce the carbon footprint of the citizens and businesses in the city. Washington DC recently passed legislation prohibiting retailers from giving away plastic bags for free with customer purchases. Instead, a plastic bag tax was enacted requiring retailers to offer alternate bags, such as paper or reusable bags. In addition, plastic bags must be sold for a minimum of five cents each rather than just given for free. This law has drastically reduced the number of plastic bags used by retailers in Washington DC and has been the model for similar legislation across the United States.

Housing and businesses make up a large portion of the city’s environmental impact. The government of DC has taken several steps to reduce the impact. One of the most unique initiatives is the Green Roof Rebate Program. This newly developed program provides funding for developers to use green or vegetated roofs to manage the city’s stormwater. These roofs may be added to new construction or retrofitted on older buildings.

Homeowners can also take advantage of the District’s RiverSmart program. This program offers financial incentives up to $1,200 for the installation of shade trees, rain barrels, rain gardens, bayscaping, or pervious pavers in order to help manage stormwater. This program is primarily in place for existing structures that do not otherwise have stormwater management measures in place.

Washington DC also encourages a green lifestyle through the use of several transportation programs. The city is ranked first in the nation for walkability and second in the nation in terms of the number of individuals who ride the subway system. Currently, over 96 percent of residents live within a quarter of a mile to one of the many public transportation stops. For residents who prefer to ride a bike, Washington DC is the first city in the country to develop a system of self-service bicycle rentals, making renting a bike convenient and quick for commuters.

Individuals interested in truly embracing the sustainable lifestyle can choose to relocate to Takoma Village. The development is a co-housing eco-friendly community. Each condominium in the development is built according to the latest green technology, including sustainably harvested lumber and fibre-cement siding. The development is two blocks from a metro-station and within walking distance to many stores, playgrounds, and public offices.

Washington DC has become the world’s pioneer in living a sustainable urban lifestyle. With a multitude of green initiatives, a significant public transportation system, abundant green space, and a layout designed with walkability in mind, area residents will find it easy to live in an environmentally friendly manner.

Companies looking to set up new business headquarters and offices in Washington DC will find a multitude of ways in which to support eco friendly schemes, from green technology to sustainable building.