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County, locals must lead on environment

A few months ago, Downtown Newsmagazine published a one-on-one interview with Erin Quetell, Oakland County's new environmental sustainability officer, who was hired last fall by County Executive Dave Coulter with the responsibility to identify opportunities around the county towards greater climate goals. It's a first of its kind position, putting into action some of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's initiatives in Michigan Healthy Climate Plan, which looks to make Michigan carbon neutral by 2050.

Being carbon neutral means not putting more carbon into the environment than we are utilizing. Ultimately, the hope is to utilize less carbon energy, improving the environment.

In September of 2020, Whitmer ordered EGLE's Office of Climate and Energy to coordinate the state effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 through development and implementation of the Michigan Healthy Climate Plan. That office is supposed to provide guidance to local communities in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting renewable energy and generally moving to a clean energy economy. As the behemoth of the national government spins in political stalemate, it is even more imperative that state, county and local leaders grab the green mantle and advance Michigan forward.

Quetell explained that environmental sustainability has three main buckets: energy, waste, and water. Both individuals and communities can – and must – make efforts to change long-held habits in order to uphold the environment and protect it. If you haven't already, easy changes are converting light bulbs to LEDs which emit much less energy and less heat; switching to Energy Star rated appliances, low flow toilets and low flow faucets.

Local municipalities should begin to think about electric vehicle infrastructure, how they're managing stormwater and how that is impacting their communities either with flooding, as well as updated trends in transporting water to homes and businesses. How road infrastructure is updated is another important component. As the pandemic evolves to an endemic and companies determine their office needs, municipalities will need to think about renewable energy for buildings, and how they can be better users of space and energy.

We applaud Coulter's foresight and leadership in guiding the way in promoting sustainability. We encourage him and county leadership to extend their reach to their local municipal partners and assist them in efforts to turn the county green.

Regional collaborative efforts can provide the inspiration and motivation for substantive adaptations. It's a challenge we must all throw our weight behind.

Our Great Lakes State depends on it.


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