Collaborations to Inspire Dreaming Big
About the author: Pat Bonner has been working in public involvement from local to international scales since 1971. Her most fun projects with EPA were web based dialogues and what she's doing now, launching collaboration training across the Agency.
Recently, I experienced a very positive reality check while coordinating EPA's input to the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) 2007 Annual Report on Cooperative Conservation.
Pulling together what became the Collaboration and Partnership collection reminded me why people want to work at EPA. Yes, we want to use what we know to prevent and stop pollution and to protect public health. Idealism may attract us, but having the chance to see ideas become actions keeps us here generating creative ways to improve environmental results by working with others to solve real problems.
That's what's happening in Greensburg, KS where EPA staff members are helping a community to plan and rebuild itself “greener” after an EF-5 tornado (1.7 miles wide, packing 205 mph winds) leveled their town on May 4, 2007. The goal is to build the greenest city in Kansas and in less than a year people are working together to implement an adopted plan to do just that.
It's the inspiration that comes from seeing ReGenesis, Inc. of Spartanburg, SC, grow a $20,000 environmental justice grant into the ReGenesis Environmental Justice Partnership that has obtained over $179 million through community driven public/private partnerships. ReGenesis now serves as a national model featured in a documentary film produced by EPA to help similar communities. It's the story of how Harold Mitchell's dream for an environmentally safe and economically viable place to call home became the dream of a community and then a region. EPA staff has been helping Harold and his community for over 12 years. Their success has led to legislation initiated by now State Representative Harold Mitchell to make a similar difference in other parts of South Carolina.
There are 109 more examples in the collection. Here are just a few more good ideas that have been put into actions with or by EPA's partners: using green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff; cleaning out the chemicals used in K-12 schools; enlisting faith-based groups in stewardship (Earthkeepers) actions and partnering with car manufacturers, recyclers and others to reduce pollution from mercury switches.