Sustainability in Hanover

PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 0708-08
Thursday, May 15, 2008

The manifestations of global warming and climate change can be seen in cities, towns, and villages all over the world, although their specific effects depend on a number of local geographical, political, social, and economic factors. Local governments are in a unique position to address the main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions that drive global climate change: energy use, transportation, waste, and land use. Land use, zoning, building codes, waste disposal, service delivery, and management of schools, parks, and recreational areas all affect a municipality's energy inputs and outputs. Local governments can also influence the culture of sustainability in a municipality through education and outreach that influence citizen energy use, consumption patterns, and consumer choices.

This project has two main goals. The first is to raise awareness about actions that governments, businesses, and individuals can take to reduce the threat of global warming through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and to guide decision makers, business owners, and homeowners in Hanover toward policies, strategies, and actions that can make Hanover more sustainable. The second is to create a resource manual that improves the town's sustainability, helps manage current sustainability practices, and provides feedback on policies not currently pursued.

This resource manual will have three main focuses:

  1. assessing Hanover's current practices
  2. assessing outside practices that could be implemented in Hanover
  3. providing policy recommendations based on the assessments

The development of community-specific policies and programs that seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster sustainability tend to involve one or more of the following elements: an emissions inventory to identify the major sources of greenhouse gas production and establish a baseline to measure future progress; a solutions plan that is community specific and meets the specified target for greenhouse gas reduction and other sustainability goals; a commitment from the local government to create a reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions; and the formation of citizen activist groups focused on educating and working with citizens, the local government, businesses, schools, and other municipalities on issues related to sustainability. Lastly, a method to implement and monitor progress toward reaching the set goals is necessary.

Small towns and big cities alike have started to incorporate sustainability initiatives into local policies. Some of these initiatives are specific to the community, and others have been put into place in many communities across the United States and abroad. Sustainability measures that we consider to be "smart practices" not only benefit the environment, but are cost-effective and enforceable, encourage citizen involvement, and have proven successful in their communities.

Communities that currently implement smart practices include:

  • Burlington, Vermont
  • the Chequamegon Bay Region, Wisconsin
  • the Duluth Superior Area, Minnesota
  • Lawrence Township, New Jersey
  • Keene, New Hampshire
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts

Hanover is making strides with regard to sustainability, but more can be done. Hanover can learn from smart practices in similar communities, encourage more community participation and education, and strengthen the relationship between the Town and Dartmouth College.