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City official highlights South Bend sustainability

| Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Krista Bailey, sustainability coordinator for South Bend’s Office of Sustainability, spoke to Saint Mary’s students Tuesday evening about environmentalism and innovation in the city.

sustainabilityEmilie Kefalas | The Observer
Her lecture, entitled, “How Students Can Create Success,” aimed to educate students and faculty about how they can join forces with various eco-initiatives in the greater South Bend community, assistant professor of political science and women’s studies Sonalini Sapra said.

Bailey studied at Indiana University Bloomington and Indiana University South Bend, Sapra said. Prior to her work for the Office of Sustainability, Bailey worked as an environmental educator for more than 10 years.

Bailey opened her discussion by addressing the topic of sustainability and the methodology of choosing to act on possible environmental, economic and social intitiatives both within city government and in the larger South Bend community.

“Our approach to projects and the city is to look at them across the triple bottom line,” Bailey said. “So, [we don’t] just look at saving the trees, but to balance that economic need between cultures here in South Bend.”

The Office of Sustainability looks to create a community in South Bend which fosters sustainability, strengthens its economy, has the capacity to bounce back from environmental stress and is inclusive to everyone, Bailey said.

“One thing I realized is that the city is committed to sustainability,” Bailey said. “Sustainable communities are more inclusive, because people love where they live, and South Bend wants to be more of that kind of place. It’s not that South Bend has been doing that kind of sustainability before. It’s not just saving the quality of the river, but really having fun in the city we’re in and loving the city we’re in.”

A sustainable program helps strengthen the community and helps the city government directly by reducing its operating expenses and improving relationships between the city and the diverse regions and residents within South Bend, Bailey said. She encouraged students and faculty to explore and discover what South Bend offers in terms of environmentalism.

“[There are] lots of amazing things happening in the city,” Bailey said. “There’s a huge variety of nonprofits in the area. There’s a lot going on with sustainable food systems in the downtown. There’s a lot of great things happening in town but also energy efficiency endeavors as well.”

The Office of Sustainability is currently overseeing several initiatives, including cutting its costs by enacting sustainable approaches, she said.

“There’s a couple different things we’ve focused on already that people don’t realize are happening here,” she said. “… We’ve developed a whole new section on our website. It’s finding a hub for all these things that are happening in all the city departments.”

“We have a yard waste composting program, a great service,” Bailey said. “It’s been in place for about 15 years. We have a community garden program. You can actually apply to use [a] piece of land as a garden. It’s a very easy process.”

Another project currently in the works is the Smart Streets Initiative which will allow for more traffic to flow throughout downtown South Bend, Bailey said.

“Maybe you have seen that the roads are changing in South Bend,” she said. “You’re not rushing through downtown, so you actually know what’s going on. To make it more of a downtown-feeling downtown, it’s adding social and cultural amenities. People are actually stopping and enjoying the businesses.”

Bailey said receiving input and involvement from individuals and organizations will be essential to successful programs.

“We work together both internally and with members of the community to find creative and innovative approaches to preserving our natural resources, ensuring social equity and cutting costs,” she said.

Collecting and using government and community-wide data will be the cornerstone of the Office of Sustainability programs, she said.

“When I first started the position, I didn’t think this was a big deal,” she said. “It’s been a really fun eye-opener … [to improve] on what we have and using our assets as a city to move forward.”

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