outside experience 2: green drinks

Bloomington City Hall

Last Wednesday, Joe & I headed to the banquet room at Upland for September’s Green Drinks. If you haven’t been to Green Drinks, it runs something like this:

  • Arrive at 5:30. Donate some dollars. Buy an Upland beer (or local wine).
  • Grab a plate at 5:35 and stuff as much spinach-artichoke dip into your face as you can while (a) looking sane and (b) leaving enough for other folks. (But hey, you’re a grad student–I say go for it.)
  • Chat. Settle in for the speaker to start at 6. Listen to an awesome sustainability talk.
  • Listen to a speaker, then at 6:30 ask your questions & learn some more.
  • Hang out & continue drinking local brew.

This month, Jacqui Bauer, the city’s sustainability coordinator, discussed the changes made to Bloomington’s City Hall in the hopes of getting LEED certified–perfect timing, as we work our way through the sustainable design portion of Toward Sustainable Communities.

I was excited to hear from someone going through the LEED certification process on an old building certified. Like many SPEA students, I’m interested in LEED training, so that I can help people go through the process. This was one of the few times I’ve heard from someone on the retrofitting (rather than new construction) side of the equation.

While the road to LEED certification is bumpy, long and winding, I think the message the project sends to Bloomington (and the region and all of us easily inspired, sustainability-minded folk) is almost more important than the actual certificate. One of the keys to social marketing, to real change of any kind, is setting a clear model.

The City has taken a strong stance on sustainability–from its recycling standards to its growing passion for bikes, not to mention the Farmers’ Market. They’re gradually showing city residents what it takes to become a sustainable city. Once certification is confirmed, Bloomington will be able to use city hall as an educational resource–providing tours & sharing their experience with increasing energy efficiency–for both other municipalities & individual home owners.

One of the first questions asked after Jacqui’s talk was if any other municipality in Indiana had taken on a similar project. No one was able to answer, so I thought I’d try to figure it out. I came across the LEED certified project directory and filtered it for Indiana, but I didn’t see any city halls or similar buildings. There were some surprising finds: several hospitals, schools, even the Indianapolis airport.

I love being reminded that, slowly but surely, the principles of sustainability are becoming more widely accepted & put into practice. We’re reaching an exciting time, when sustainability may finally transition from being seen as a return to slow, inefficient ways of life that sacrifices modern conveniences to a sleek, technology-driven, Jetson-esque future.

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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