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Etna EcoDistrict Nears Plan Completion and Will Become World’s First Officially Certified EcoDistrict™

October 28, 2019

Standing on the shoulders of the Triboro Ecodistrict, Etna becomes an international role model

Pittsburgh, PA — The Borough of Etna will be awarded EcoDistricts Certification at the upcoming EcoDistricts Summit, becoming the first community in the world to achieve the Portland-based nonprofit’s certification. The Etna EcoDistrict engaged evolveEA in 2018 to lead a year-long Education Series featuring community dinners, speakers, activities, and education centered around six ecodistrict quality of life areas: water, mobility, air, energy, food, and equity. The Education Series resulted in a collection of information booklets that summarize Etna’s key issues and opportunities, which are available online and to borrow from the Etna Little Library.

The Education Series was followed by a year of community planning, where evolveEA engaged residents to co-create an action plan of policies, programs, and catalytic projects that contribute to the achievement of Etna’s EcoDistrict goals. Empowered volunteers embraced the responsibility of envisioning Etna’s future, and have used the planning process to continue building capacity for implementing their shared vision. The results of this process are the foundation of Etna’s EcoDistrict Plan, to launch in December 2019.

“Etna residents and business owners have developed a list of ambitious goals that will improve quality of life for all, such as reducing energy consumption by 50% before the year 2030, and carbon neutrality by the year 2050,” said Christine Mondor, Principal and cofounder of evolveEA. “The plan contains more than just ambitious numbers, but also integrates placemaking and performance with projects such as creekside parks and riverfront access, a revitalized business district, and healthy and affordable housing.”

While the Etna EcoDistrict was established more recently, Etna’s history of environmental stewardship began years ago with the Borough’s national leadership in green infrastructure and stormwater management. The Etna EcoDistrict initiative began in 2016 as a collaboration between the Borough, the Etna Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), Triboro Ecodistrict, and community volunteers, with the newly formed Etna Community Organization (ECO) as the primary steward of the initiative. The EcoDistrict launched with a year of fact-finding and collaborative learning, laying the groundwork for the two-year education and planning process.

evolveEA etna ecodistrict planning

Residents of Etna engage in ecodistrict planning initiatives.

Focusing their planning and strategic action on six quality of life issue areas, the Etna EcoDistrict follows an approach that was pioneered locally by Millvale, Sharpsburg, and evolveEA prior to the establishment of the certification program. As a result of this collaboration, the three communities formed the Triboro Ecodistrict in 2016 to share knowledge and resources, and scale up their impact.

The annual EcoDistricts Summit, an event organized by the nonprofit of the same name, will take place in Pittsburgh, PA on November 4th and 5th. Using the locally-developed ecodistrict planning methodology, Etna has met the requirements for EcoDistricts™ certification, and will be introduced as the first community in the world to become certified during the Summit. Communities are eligible for certification when they have fulfilled the rigorous requirements outlined in the EcoDistricts Protocol, a framework to guide neighborhood development that prioritizes climate protection, resilience, and equity.

“None of what we have accomplished would have been possible without the work that has come before us and without incredible partnerships,” said Robert Tuñón, Etna Community Organization (ECO) Board Member. “It’s an honor to receive recognition for the work that the Etna community has put into building a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable Etna.”

Funding for the Etna EcoDistrict is provided through the Triboro Ecodistrict grant by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

Evolve EA