Magazine article Parks & Recreation

More Than Birds and Bunnies: The Role of Parks and Recreation in Global Climate Change

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

More Than Birds and Bunnies: The Role of Parks and Recreation in Global Climate Change

Article excerpt

Parks have always had a role in nature education. They are where the public goes to experience and learn about the natural world. Many agencies have nature centers, guided hikes, paddling trips, nature-focused summer camps and more. But most of those programs and facilities are focused on local flora and fauna (birds and bunnies). There will always be some demand for this. However, if parks and recreation is to remain relevant and important in our communities, we need to address the important issues of today. And, in the environmental field, nothing is bigger than global climate change. From extreme weather events to rising sea levels to reduced crop yields, the effects of climate change are front-page news.

These planet-altering impacts are caused by greenhouse gases like carbon pollution heating our atmosphere. It may all seem too global to address on a local level, but it is not--and park agencies can be local leaders in promoting sustainability and educating people about what they can do.

Reducing Your Footprint

In 2005, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority adopted energy conservation plans for each park. At the same time, we started tracking our carbon footprint. Using the accounting system, instead of just recording utility costs, we also recorded units of consumption for all fuels so we could calculate our carbon footprint. Every year, the facility that has the greatest reduction in energy consumption is recognized and awarded at an all-staff meeting.

Results: While carbon emissions in 2012 were virtually the same as in 2005, our park system has grown dramatically from 19 to 25 parks and from $10 to 16 million in enterprise revenues. With enterprise revenues as a good measure of activity, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has been able to go from 350 tons of carbon per $1 million of enterprise revenue to just 235 tons. That indicates a great increase in efficiency!

How it was achieved: While many methods were used, the real answer to how it was achieved is the same answer to how anything is achieved ... focus. In all aspects of life, you will go where you place your focus. In this case, focus has meant tracking results, creating plans and making many small decisions that collectively moved us in the direction we wanted. …

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