BACKGROUND

THE EVOLUTION OF SUSTAINABILITY IN PORTSMOUTH

The Sustainability Fair is an effort to raise awareness, create action and celebrate municipal and city efforts to make Portsmouth a more sustainable community. The Sustainability Fair did not just drop out of the sky; but has steadily evolved from public and private actions over the past several years.

The City of Portsmouth began adopting sustainable practices and policies several years ago. In “green construction,” the Portsmouth Public Library was one of the first LEED Certified municipal facilities in the state. Portsmouth is committed to LEED Certification for upcoming construction projects including the Waste Water Treatment Plant, Middle School and Fire Substation. Expanded recycling has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and kept thousands of tons of waste out of the regional landfill. City vehicles operate on a no-idling policy and there is a pilot bio-diesel program for the City Fleet. Energy efficient lighting has been installed in the Public Works facilities. Residents have been provided with water conservation kits and public transportation has been expanded.

In 2003, the City began its ten-year review of its Master Plan. The Master Plan’s “Vision for Portsmouth” was for a “livable, walkable community that preserves its history (and) lives in balance with its natural resources.” Input into the Master Plan was hailed as a “clarion call for Portsmouth’s future development to be sustainable and balanced.” The Portsmouth Listens Natural Resources Study Circle introduced a specific framework called “The Natural Steps” that embraced a systems approach to sustainability.

The following year, the City embraced the sustainability concepts and introduced them to the community. “The Natural Step for Communities” co-author, Sarah James, was brought to Portsmouth to present her sustainability framework to department heads, city leaders and the public through three workshops the following year. A Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on sustainability was created to advance the study and implementation of sustainable practices in Portsmouth. Sustainability principles are being incorporated into land use regulations.

In the past two years, the City Council unanimously passed major policy initiatives including the signing of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and joining the International Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. This past fall, Portsmouth adopted the Eco-Municipality Designation Resolution, formalizing its longstanding commitment to the principles of sustainability. Related action included the completion of a grant-funded greenhouse gas emissions inventory to be used as a baseline tool to guide the City toward setting targets to reduce energy consumption and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions.

An inherent characteristic of an Eco-Municipality is The Natural Steps systems approach to sustainability. In a simplified form, The Natural Steps systems process embraces four sustainability principles or conditions:

$ Reducing Dependence on Fossil Fuels

$ Reducing Dependence on Synthetic Chemicals

$ Reducing Encroachment on Nature

$ Meeting Human Needs Fairly and Efficiently

To further this sustainability initiative, the City recently appointed its first “Sustainability Coordinator.”

In the community, Portsmouth Listens followed up with an eight-week educational study circle that provided interested citizens from the region with an in-depth look at sustainability based on the “Natural Steps” framework. These study circles resulted in a new region-wide organization, the Piscataqua Sustainability Initiative, that has continued to provide sustainability study circles. More than 100 Seacoast citizens have participated in sustainability study circles in the past two years and many are now capable of facilitating ongoing sustainability study circles as well as bringing sustainable actions to their communities.

The Sustainability Fair, like the evolution of sustainability in Portsmouth, is a synergy of the City and citizens’ commitment to meet environmental challenges head on and achieve their common goal of making Portsmouth a more sustainable community. The Portsmouth Master Plan defines sustainability as:

Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs; the use of eco-systems and their resources in a manner that satisfies current needs while allowing them to persist in the long term.

Incorporating the four principles or conditions of The Natural Steps into our systems is a logical approach to achieving sustainability in our community and in our homes.

The goal of the Sustainability Fair is to make the community aware of sustainable actions being taken by the City, local businesses, citizens and community organizations; to educate the community about actions that can be taken to create a more sustainable community; and to provide each attendee with something he or she can do to make his or her home and community more sustainable. The Sustainability Fair will be guided by and based on the four conditions of The Natural Steps.

To gain entry to the Fair, everyone will be asked to bring one of several recyclable items such as cell phones, ink cartridges, used books, used clothing, lithium batteries, electronics or to make a monetary donation that will be distributed to a non-profit organization that “meets human needs fairly and efficiently.”

There will be education forums on issues ranging from the carbon challenge, sustainable aquaculture and waste water to the “Life Cycle of a Sneaker.” The educational forums will be held throughout the day in the Levenson Room at the Portsmouth Public Library and in the Portsmouth Middle School.

Over 15 educational exhibits will provide information, multigenerational interaction, fun and activities. Organizations such as the Blue Ocean Society, will coordinate a clean up of the South Mill Pond in the morning as well as an opportunity to experience the “life size” of their 60-foot inflatable whale.

Children and their parents will be challenged by an educational “scavenger hunt.” By visiting the various exhibits, they will be able to find the answers to the “scavenger questions.” Those who answer all of the “scavenger questions” will be rewarded with the opportunity to create their own sustainable drawing that will be pressed on their personal pin. Participating adults who successfully complete the scavenger hunt will be given an opportunity to enter a raffle to win one of 25 cotton shopping bags.

Locally grown food products will be highlighted by an early season farmer’s market and food vendors. There will be live entertainment and a rummage sale/yard sale put on by the Portsmouth High School Ice Hockey Boosters Club. There will also be live entertainment.

Over 40 vendors will exhibit their green services or products. Exhibitors range from geothermal HVAC systems to solar panels, electrical cars and other sustainable products.

Sustainable art and sustainable art practices will be featured through the day. Children’s art activities will be available in the Portsmouth Library.

The entire fair will be a “zero waste” event. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own reusable drinking containers. Plates and utensils will be made of recyclable cornstarch based materials. Teams of volunteers will be available to assist visitors in properly disposing of any waste products. Waste food products will be composted.

Before leaving the Fair, residents will be asked to make a personal sustainability pledge. The pledge will identify what those who attend the fair intend to do over the next year to help make their community more sustainable. Pledges will be compiled and presented to the City to reflect citizen support for and action to achieve a sustainable community.