Fri 1/29 @ 11AM-2PM
Similar to the Chinese zodiac, which designates every year in the name of an animal (rat, chicken, monkey, sheep, etc.), Sustainable Cleveland’s 10-year initiative, which was created with the simple goal of establishing a vibrant livable city with thriving businesses and a flourishing natural environment, assigns one area of focus annually.
So 2016 is the Year of Sustainable Transportation, which in a nutshell supports healthier forms of moving around: biking, walking, transit riding, carpooling and car sharing. Further, a Sustainable Cleveland committee, made up of more than 30 organizations, has identified initiatives to be completed during the 2016 Celebration Year.
Those programs and goals will be announced at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability kickoff event scheduled for Fri 1/29 @ 11am-2pm under the rotunda at City Hall. CoolCleveland talked to Mayor’s Office of Sustainability director Matt Gray about the free affair, the plans for 2016 and why everyone needs to be careful when taking selfies.
What’s the idea behind the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability’s annual designations?
Each year we shine a light on a different sustainability topic. So 2016 is the year of Sustainable Transportation. We work on all of these issues all of the time but this year we’ll focus on transportation. Last year was Clean Water. Before that was Zero Waste, Renewable Energy, Local Food and Energy Efficiency.
Looking back to 2015, how successful was the Year of Sustainable Clean Water?
Last year was our most successful celebration year. I think each year we learn more and more. There were just so many organizations working on water and doing a lot of great stuff on water. We had over 60 organizations as part of our celebration committee. There were about 12 different collaborative projects. One was a Clean Water Tour & Sweepstakes. We had 20 different events we co-marketed throughout the year. Basically, the more events you went to the better the chance of winning these prizes. Another thing we got rolling was training for municipal employees for how to maintain green infrastructure like green roofs and permeable pavements, trees.
As far as the Year of Sustainable Transportation, what’s the plan?
We have a celebration committee of more than 30 organizations, basically every sector. We have folks like NOACA (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency) to Bike Cleveland and many more. The whole idea behind the celebration years has three goals: One is to really identify and implement initiatives that can be done that year. The second is to spark ideas that lead to completion in later years. With transportation, a lot of these projects are really long-term. We’re not going to complete everything this year so what can we spark now that can be finished later. The third is celebrating what we’ve already done.
What are a few projects you’re excited about?
One is the Cleveland Bike Share. Bike Cleveland is helping with a lot of that. It’s really awesome to see this being implemented on a citywide scale this year. There’s another event we’re partnering with called CiCLEvia. The whole idea is you shut down a street for three to four hours and that becomes a center to celebrate sustainable transportation, healthy living, healthy food and things like that. Really what we try to do in these years is to help people take action in their home, in their workplace or in the broader community.
Was it a calculated effort to coordinate the timing of the Year of Sustainable Transportation and the rollout of the Bike Share program?
I’d say that one is a bit of coincidence. More than the Year of Sustainable Transportation, I think the RNC helped prioritize that and move it forward very quickly, but this has been in the planning for years now.
Regarding transportation, there are plenty of groups and volunteers involved, but what can the average person do to help?
The whole idea is how do you get people across Northeast Ohio. Transportation is a regional issue. It’s not just the city of Cleveland. But how do you get people to take action, especially those who are not currently taking action. This whole idea of the Commuter Choice Challenge for businesses is how do you create an easy-to-use tool kit, which we’re doing right now, and what are the incentives for people to participate. Then the individual piece that we’re hoping goes viral is the selfie contest. The idea, and this is pretty simple, is that anyone in Northeast Ohio takes a picture while doing something related to sustainable transportation. So they could be riding an RTA bus, hiking a Metroparks trail or simply walking to the grocery store. You take a picture and share it. Everyone who enters will be eligible for prizes at the end of the day. The whole idea is hopefully it gets some people taking some action that aren’t currently doing so.
Just to confirm, you’re not advocating people take selfies as they’re riding their bikes or hiking on cliffs?
[laughs] No, that’s a great tip. That will be in the fine print.