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About Sustainable DC

What Is Sustainable DC?

In July 2011, Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced a plan to make DC the greenest, healthiest, and most livable city in the nation and tasked the Office of Planning (OP) and the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) with leading the Sustainable DC project. Covering the next 20 years, the Sustainable DC initiative was developed in partnership with the city’s diverse and knowledgeable communities for the purpose of making the District more socially equitable, environmentally responsible and economically competitive. 

From its beginning, Sustainable DC has engaged people across the city by raising awareness, gathering public input, and tapping into business leaders in the District. In addition to this extensive public participation and community input, the District will continue to reach out to an even broader audience until the entire District is aware of and participating in the Sustainable DC Plan.

The Process So Far

Once Mayor Gray announced the Sustainable DC initiative, he wasted no time in developing an ambitious plan. In November 2011, he launched nine public working groups that examined best practices, existing conditions, and public recommendations to make the District more sustainable. Over 700 people participated in the working groups throughout the winter of 2011 and 2012. In addition to developing visions and goals, the working groups compiled a list of over 900 recommendations to make the District more sustainable.

In April 2012, the hard work of the working groups, with input from agency leaders and industry professionals, were captured in “A Vision for a Sustainable DC,” which set the vision for the city as a whole, as well as established a framework for the more detailed implementation plan.

After the release of the Vision, the District hosted a series of public Community Conversations to better understand how to connect sustainability to jobs, health, education, and social equity.  These crosscutting issues were mentioned repeatedly by the working groups as being crucial to the success of the Sustainable DC plan. Each meeting was held in a separate quadrant of the city and was attended by roughly 40 people each who provided valuable input. Their contributions helped establish what were later used to form the Challenge Sections of the Implementation Plan.

Over the summer of 2012, the Sustainable DC team used the working group recommendations as the foundation for developing the full Sustainable DC Plan. The team then researched the feasibility of and analyzed the costs and benefits of each recommendation. Later in the summer, the Sustainable DC team also met with the Green Cabinet agencies to better understand current initiatives, long-term plans, and the issues each agency faces. These meetings were critical in understanding of where the District stood and where it is heading. The goals and actions in the Implementation Plan have used all this information to further refine the working group’s priority actions and develop ambitious but achievable goals for the next 20 years.  

While the Sustainable DC Plan was being developed, the District was already putting many sustainable projects, policies and initiatives in motion to get a jumpstart on action. In the 2013 budget, Mayor Gray allocated $4.5 million to new innovative sustainability projects, which were awarded to agencies pursuing new initiatives that relate to the plan. Through a competitive application process, 12 projects in eight different agencies were funded. The Sustainable DC Budget Challenge Projects are some of the first results from the plan that will make the District more sustainable.

In January 2013, the Mayor Gray signed the Sustainable DC Act into law. The legislation will help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, including clean energy financing and supporting renewable energy incentive programs. It will also promote urban beekeeping, help keep dangerous chemicals out of our rivers, protect children from toxic exposure, and aiding in energy assistance for low-income and elderly residents.

Since September 2011, the Sustainable DC team talked with an incredible number of people, analyzed thousands of ideas, engaged hundreds of people, and attended public meetings across the city. And here are the numbers to back it up:


Public meetings and events


People who have heard about Sustainable DC through public outreach


Registered email followers


Unique suggestions submitted online


Attendees for the Mayor’s kick-off meeting in November 2011


Public working groups


Working group participants


Working group goals and actions

The Process Moving Forward

The District will work with several implementation committees to develop financing tools, outreach strategies, educational materials, and legislative and policy changes for specific measures to move the District towards a more sustainable future. Stay involved with the process and up to date with Sustainable DC news by signing up for our email list here.

Who's Involved?

The Sustainable DC Plan would not have possible without a few key groups of public leaders, subject matter experts and committed citizens, each passionate about the District’s future. These groups were instrumental in providing advisory feedback, developing innovative ideas, and setting the priorities for the Sustainable DC Plan.  

  • Working Groups: Working groups were open to the public and facilitated by District agency staff and experienced community members. The working groups invested an incredible amount of time and effort to develop visions, goals and actions for each topic. Over the winter of 2011-2012, hundreds of dedicated volunteers in nine working groups met every other week to identify and prioritize potential goals and actions within the topics of built environment, climate, energy, food, nature, transportation, waste, water, and the green economy.
  • Green Ribbon Committee: The Mayor convened this committee of leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors to review plan development from a range of community perspectives. This committee is tasked with taking a bigger picture point of view to make sure the plan benefits the entire community.
  • Green Cabinet: Convened by the Mayor, and led by the City Administrator, the Green Cabinet is composed of agency directors and key government officials and tasked with determining how District agencies can incorporate sustainable practices while advancing their core missions.
  • Partnerships: The District has many unique large landowners that it is has worked with to promote sustainable principles. To date, the District has developed sustainability pledges with many embassies and other international institutions as well as colleges and universities, willing to commit to making their facilities and operations more sustainable.

The Structure of the Plan

The District’s sustainability plan focuses on facing our current and future challenges with sustainable solutions.


The four major challenges the District faces are:

  • Jobs and the Economy: Creating jobs, supporting local businesses, fostering a growing economy
  • Health and Wellness: Improving air quality, increasing food and exercise access, reducing toxic exposure
  • Equity and Diversity: Ensuring equal access to services, assisting those in need, lessening  social injustices
  • Climate and the Environment: Protecting natural resources, preparing for climate change


In order to solve these challenges, there are sustainable solutions the District is committed to pursuing over the long term:

  • Built Environment: Use innovative design and technology in buildings and neighborhoods to create vibrant, resilient urban environments, and attractive places to live, work, and play.
  • Energy: Be a world leader in energy efficiency, reliability, and independence.
  • Food: Ensure all residents have access to affordable, local, and self-sustaining food production and distribution systems.
  • Nature: Preserve high quality, well-connected habitats on land and water for wildlife habitat and corridors and the enjoyment of District residents.
  • Transportation: Ensure an accessible, convenient, and resilient transportation system serving residents of every neighborhood.
  • Waste: Reduce the amount of waste we create, reuse or recycle, and re-capture the value of the rest to create a closed-loop system.
  • Water: Ensure all our water resources are clean and accessible to support good health, thriving ecosystems, and an innovative economy.

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