The EcoAdvocate
Fight Climate Change, Zero Carbon
Buildings Now
Buildings account for 58 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Arlington and will need to transition to meet the County’s goals of carbon neutrality by 2050. Zero-carbon buildings are highly energy efficient, all electric, and powered by onsite or offsite renewable energy. In particular, elimination of the use of fossil fuel-based systems (usually natural gas) to heat, cool, and ventilate homes and buildings, to deliver hot water, and power cooking and other appliances is a key step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The pathway to carbon neutrality starts with new construction. Large office, multifamily residential, and hotel projects almost always seek zoning changes and large increases in density and require County Board approval, giving the County Board an opportunity to insist that building designs meet these goals. Such projects can help bring progressive energy efficient technologies into the mainstream.

On December 12, the County’s Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) staff will present its proposed revision to the Green Building Incentive Policy to the County Board for approval. This policy is an important mechanism for negotiating sustainability elements into large development projects. The revision commendably strengthens the policy, but will not put Arlington on a rapid path to zero carbon buildings for pending and future large development projects.
In particular, EcoAction Arlington is calling on the County Board to:

  • Make the baseline requirements mandatory for all projects seeking County Board approval for zoning changes and increased density. The current voluntary status of the program allows developers to opt out of the program while still seeking desired zoning and density changes by negotiating to provide other community benefits such as affordable housing or parks for the community.

  • Require all electric HVAC equipment in the baseline (or no later than July 2023 when automatic updates for energy efficiency go into effect) and hot water systems no later than 2025. In the interim, all buildings should be required to design in the electric infrastructure to meet the increased demand that will result in future transition to electric systems. A recent study demonstrates that with early design consideration such a shift is feasible for all these systems. 
Voice Your Opinion on the County’s Community Energy Plan Implementation Framework
Join the conversation on how to make Arlington carbon neutral by 2050 and shift to 100% renewable electricity by 2035. Active community engagement is the best way to implement measures critical to preventing a climate catastrophe. To get alerts about upcoming activities and events, sign up for AIRE Energy Tips and Events. See last month’s EcoAdvocate for more details on how to achieve these goals.
Sign Our Plastic Bag Tax Petition
The County will begin the process for a plastic bag tax ordinance in January. Sign our petition letting the County Board know you support this move to reduce the scourge of plastic pollution in our community
Weigh in on Ongoing County Developments
The Arlington County Long Range Planning Committee will review the Clarendon Sector Plan Update on November 19, 7-9 PM and will address enhanced stormwater management, biophilic design, bicycle infrastructure and other sustainable design. For more details on the process and how you can participate – click here.
Support Food Waste Collection in Arlington
Arlington County is considering launching curbside collection of food waste for composting. This shift will divert valuable organic material from the waste stream at a cost of under $1 per month per household. Let the County know you support this initiative by taking this survey before December 4. You can learn more about the proposed program here.
Connect with Other Conservation Organizations
The Potomac Riverkeeper Network
The Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) is a non-profit organization that has been stopping pollution and restoring clean water in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and their tributaries through community engagement, advocacy, and enforcement for the past 20 years.
Thank you to the contributors to this issue: Leslie Louden, Joan McIntyre, Ellie Trumpfheller, Julie Teixeira
EcoAction Arlington
Elenor Hodges, Executive Director
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