The City of Columbia has been awarded a 3-STAR Community Rating for national leadership in sustainability by STAR Communities, a nonprofit organization that evaluates the livability and sustainability of U.S. communities. The city is the first in South Carolina to receive certification.
“We are incredibly excited and proud to be the first city in South Carolina to achieve a STAR rating,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Our City staff and community have proven their commitment to making Columbia increasingly sustainable across a variety of performance areas, and this recognition provides us with an assessment backed by data that will help us determine our next steps. Through our Climate Action Protection Campaign (CPAC) and other programs, we will continue in our bold commitment to protecting our planet and fulfill our responsibility to our children, their children and beyond.”
STAR is the nation’s leading framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, encompassing social, economic and environmental performance measures. STAR helps communities evaluate their strengths and weaknesses across seven areas: the built environment; climate and energy; economy and jobs; education, arts and community; health and safety; and natural systems. There are over 500 outcomes and actions that comprise the evaluation. STAR Communities provides support as localities benchmark progress, and a robust third-party verification process ensures accountability.
Several efforts stood out among Columbia’s sustainability initiatives:
- City Council’s commitment to 100% clean energy by 2036.
- The City’s Climate Action Protection Campaign, created in 2007.
- 90 percent of residents live within one mile of a community venue that is open to the public and provides community events.
- 133 net new businesses opened in the past three years.
- City’s recycling rate of 60%, 20% over the baseline requirement.
- Richland School District One’s #1 State Ranking from Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
The City of Columbia is one of more than 70 local governments that have been certified with STAR Communities. Other STAR certified communities in the Southeast include Atlanta, Birmingham, Louisville, Memphis, Raleigh and Winston Salem.
“The STAR rating process gives cities a roadmap for how they can refine and improve their operations to drive continuous improvement,” said Hilari Varnadore, executive director of STAR Communities. “The City of Columbia should be applauded for its commitment to sustainability, and for the clarity and transparency provided while achieving its goals.”
The City’s participation in STAR was underwritten by grant from Siemens Cities Center of Competence (CoC), which is dedicated to working with cities to undertake key challenges as cities strive for economic growth and long-term sustainability.
Featured photo: Annette Boette, CPAC; Keith Byrom, Siemens; Mayor Steve Benjamin; Mary Pat Baldauf, City of Columbia; Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine; Morgan Hughes, STAR Intern. Back row: John Epting, CPAC; Robert Anderson, City of Columbia; Michael Bailey, DHEC; Councilman Howard Duvall, Jr.; Councilman Daniel Rickenmann; Councilman Edward McDowell, Jr.; Councilman Sam Davis.