For the third year in a row, the city of Ann Arbor has been awarded “gold status” for its leadership efforts in sustainability by Michigan Green Communities. This organization works with government staff from all over the state of Michigan to promote collaboration and ingenuity on sustainability-related projects.
The annual Michigan Green Communities Challenge allows communities to be recognized for their work in sustainability and measure their progress alongside places and governments in Michigan.
Energy Analyst for the City of Ann Arbor’s Office of Sustainability and Innovations Thea Yagerlener helped cultivate Ann Arbor’s application for the challenge in the past two years.
“I grew up in Ann Arbor so it felt really fulfilling to be able to contribute back to the community I grew up in and see it make really aggressive commitments to sustainability,” Yagerlener said.
Ann Arbor’s commitments to sustainability are widespread and diverse. The A2Zero plan, a commitment to being carbon neutral by 2030, has been in place for just over three years and positively impacts many sectors and communities within Ann Arbor.
“It’s a challenge for municipalities around the state and around the country to pursue sustainability and climate action initiatives with the available resources that we have and to prioritize certain actions,” Yagerlener said.
Ann Arbor was awarded its “gold status” alongside 24 other cities and townships. Ann Arbor recently partnered with the city of Detroit, which also received “gold status” this year.
“Transparency and accountability on what we’ve committed to doing is a priority,” they said. “I think it’s really important for this work to not just be centered on a specific municipality, but also be regional and statewide.”
According to Yagerlener, Ann Arbor had over 75 actions listed on its application for the Michigan Green Communities Challenge, propelling them to reach “gold status.” Currently, one of the biggest sustainability-related projects being conducted by Ann Arbor is attempting to fully decarbonize the Bryant neighborhood, focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy and electrification. Ann Arbor also just expanded its Solarize program to include smaller businesses, encouraging more people to incorporate solar as a renewable energy source.
The A2Zero Carbon Neutrality plan is based off of three pillars: sustainability, transformative, and equitable. Yagerlener and the city of Ann Arbor are consistently working to ensure that equity is at the forefront of sustainable innovations and initiatives.
“[We are] making sure that the programs that we’re designing are not just for the affluent of Ann Arbor, but making sure they’re accessible to those who need it most and [that] they’re also designed with the people who may have been left out of decision-making processes historically,” Yagerlener said. “[As well as considering] how can we design programs together with frontline communities, how can we make sure that we’re not leaving behind people who might not have the financial resources to easily pursue investments and things like renewable energy and energy efficiency?”
For residents and business owners who are interested in making sustainable choices, Yagerlener recommends that they look at their building’s energy efficiency performance and determine ways to make energy-saving and sustainable choices.