The Green Column

It’s Time to Define New Green Vision for City

April 23, 2009—This column is the first of a series aiming to establish a new vision of Lincoln’s future. This is an ambitious goal but we members of Lincoln Green by Design believe the city confronts unprecedented challenges that demand intense thinking.

Describing the problem is easy and was thoroughly popularized by Thomas Friedman’s 2008 best-seller Hot, Flat, and Crowded. The climate is growing warmer, globalization is altering the world economy in profound ways and human beings continue to multiply on a crowded planet.

These trends are visible in Lincoln and the region. Recent winters have been mild and summers longer. Local jobs have been exported to Mexico and Asia. City population growth is faster than that of the state or the nation.

Some of the trends have benefits. Lincoln’s latitude means the reduction in heating is a net gain over the increase in cooling. A growing city is certainly a better problem than a shrinking one. Creating enough jobs with a livable wage, however, remains a dilemma that threatens the quality and affordability of all our goods and services.

Describing solutions is difficult. We will try to do this in detailed future columns about specific areas of opportunity. This LGbD column will appear every two weeks as long as green advertisers want to support it.

But first it’s important to understand that “Green by Design” asserts the intent for an intellectual and professional strategy (design) to grow the city on principles of sustainability and conservation.

Green buildings and the teams who create them foster respect for the past and expanded dreams for the future. Planning and design can create a community that attracts innovative new businesses. And leaders play a key role by balancing competing interests.

In other words, Lincoln Green by Design is intended to be shorthand for achieving and maintaining all the qualities of a sustainable community:

  • Recognizing that growth occurs within some limits and is ultimately limited by the carrying capacity of the environment
  • Valuing cultural diversity
  • Respecting other life forms and supporting biodiversity
  • Having the courage to seek common ground in the face of disagreements
  • Employing ecological decision-making (i.e., integrating environmental criteria into all municipal government, business and personal decision-making)
  • Making decisions and plans in a balanced, open and flexible manner that includes the perspectives of the social, health, economic and environmental sectors of the community
  • Making best use of local efforts and resources (nurturing solutions at the local level)
  • Using renewable and reliable sources of energy
  • Minimizing harm to the natural environment

Fostering activities which use materials and food systems in continuous cycles.

And, as a result, a sustainable community:

  • Does not compromise the sustainability of other communities
  • Does not compromise the sustainability of future generations.

We are fortunate to live, work and raise our children in a community that has for many years had civic leaders, mayors, planners and public administrators who care deeply about the quality of Lincoln as a place and the quality of life for its citizens. Long before “green” or “sustainable” became popular words, Lincoln planning and development recorded landmark projects and practices that now are integral parts of the sustainability inventory for this city.

Specifically, the Comprehensive Plan for Lincoln/Lancaster County has for a number of years controlled the city growth boundary with contiguous development, restoration and protection of historic properties, established development requirements for flood and storm water protection and advocated mixed-use, walkable and bikeable transportation routes, and especially good access routes to generous parks and recreation areas throughout the city.

More recently, the Mayor’s Environmental Task Force has produced an inventory of 42 projects or practices that the municipal government has launched or completed under the heading, “2008 Green Initiatives and Practices by the City of Lincoln.” The list is categorized by sustainability, energy efficiency/conservation, solid waste management, water quality, air quality, green building, land use and transportation projects or practices. The detailed list can be seen online at

In the context of the current tsunami of economic collapse, we at LGbD believe that local strategies and courageous leadership offer the greatest opportunities for future growth. These local green initiatives and practices are not just symbols or ways to collect the stimulus funds from Washington —they represent jobs, economic returns, higher quality and longer-lasting structures, good environments, conserved nonrenewable resources and long-term investments in our children’s and grandchildren’s future.

© Lincoln Green by Design