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Indiana University Partners with Local Governments to Reduce Carbon Footprints

Indiana University is taking commendable steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not just within the University community but in municipalities across the state. 

The Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) at Indiana University partners with local governments throughout Indiana to help them take stock of their greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce them. Through their multi-phase Resilience Cohort program, ERI offers cities and towns one-on-one guidance, training, and technical support to “measure and manage” their emissions. 

Credit: Jia Jia Shum

“This program is important because it gives local government resources at a low cost, and training and the staff capacity through our partnership with Sustain IU,” explained Andrea Webster, ERI’s implementation manager. “We give them all these things, so they can do climate work, prepare for climate change and reduce emissions.”

Starting in 2019, the first round of participating cities included Carmel, Elkhart, Evansville, Fishers, Fort Wayne, Gary, Goshen, Michigan City, Richmond, West Lafayette, and Zionsville. These cities began with a community-wide inventory of their carbon footprint, and this year they’re working to implement climate action plans aimed at reigning in emissions. 

“Once adopted, these plans will provide a tailored roadmap for each community to address local sources of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change,” said ERI director Janet McCabe. “In addition to lowering a community’s climate impact, implementing these plans will lead to immediate community benefits like green jobs, lower utility bills, and improved air quality.”

This year, a new group of cities will begin their phase one greenhouse gas inventory, a crucial first step in addressing climate change within a community. 2021 participants include Cedar Lake, Chesterton, East Chicago, Highland, Hobart, Huntington, and Indianapolis.

In addition to training, guidance, and tech support, all participating Resilience Cohort cities have the option to add additional staff in the summer through an internship program. As part of the Indiana Sustainability Development Program, students work with participating municipalities to compile data on greenhouse gas emissions in their host community. 

“Not only are these students developing professionally, but they are also making real sustainability contributions to the state of Indiana by doing the foundational work needed to seriously address the challenges posed by climate change,” says Andrew Predmore, director of sustainability at IU. 2019’s internship program had 30 participating students, double the number that signed up when the program began 3 years prior. 

Additional technical support for ERI’s Resilience Cohort comes from ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, a global network of more than 2500 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development. For over 25 years, ICLEI has helped local communities reduce emissions and become better prepared to address the climate challenges at hand. 

Zionsville mayor Emily Styron sees her city’s partnership with ERI as a big step towards addressing and mitigating a changing climate within the region. “I think that this is an opportunity for our community to define what mitigating climate change looks like for us. For our businesses, for our residents, for our students, for people of all ages,” she said. “What I’m excited about is that this is a community-based approach that is using science to help inform us of how we develop policy.”


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