Plan-it Sustainably Dec/Jan 2015–APA’s new Sustainability Champion program

This past summer, APA’s Sustainable Communities Division (SCD) launched a sustainability leadership pilot program: the APA State Chapter Sustainability Champion program.

The Division sought nominations and selected champions this past August and September. I was one of 10 champions chosen and look forward to working with Hing Wong, APA California’s President Elect, in beginning to develop the program.

The idea for the program grew out of the research and facilitated discussion on mobilizing sustainability in state APA Chapters that I co-developed with Anne Miller (Colorado APA Sustainability Committee) for the 2013 APA National Conference in Chicago,

SCD’s ultimate goal is to have one Sustainability Champion in each APA Chapter. Together, these Champions will form a national network, with the credibility to influence the national discourse on sustainability. The Division’s hopes for the program are that sustainability champions will . . .

  • Advance the understanding and practice of sustainability planning and be a resource for fellow planners.
  • Draw on support from others in the network and the SCD leadership to build sustainability planning capacity in their local chapters.
  • Be professionally recognized as experts who speak for sustainable planning in their community and chapter.
  • Undertake a one- or two-year term as a SCD Sustainability Champion and be supported by a co-champion.

The SCD’s goal for the initial pilot program is to recruit one Champion from each of nine regions: (1) the West Coast; (2) the West; (3) the Midwest; (4) the Great Lakes; (5) South Central; (6) the Deep South; (7) the Southeast; (8) the Northeast; and (9) New England. A second goal is to form this initial network before the 2015 national conference in Seattle.

Locally, Champions will promote sustainability within their chapters by developing a work program reflecting chapter interest around some of the following functions:

  • Being the voice for sustainability within the chapter by delivering a regular sustainability report to the chapter board, for example.
  • Functioning as the SCD liaison to the chapter and disseminating Division news in the state or region.
  • Being part of the national Sustainability Champions Network and be a subject-matter expert for planners nationally.
  • Documenting existing sustainability ‘best practices’ in the State.
  • Initiating or further developing an existing ‘sustainability track’ for the chapter conference, and possibly extending this track year-round to further institutionalize sustainability capacity within the chapter.
  • Networking with allied professional groups to develop broad-based support and greater impact for the Champions’ work.
  • Developing a sustainability committee within the chapter or taking another approach preferred by the chapter.

Next steps for me include preparing a draft work plan and beginning discussions with the California Chapter Board to identify interests, issues, and priorities to be pursued in 2015. I have started working with the 2015 APA California Conference’s local host committee through Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee to develop the sustainability track for the conference. In addition, Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee will be a key component of a likely statewide champion’s network composed primarily of interested California Section members.

If you would like to know more, have suggestions, or be kept informed, please e-mail

Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, is founder and former co-director of Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee ( He is the committee’s Research Program Lead, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist with the San Francisco Planning Department. This is a copy of the Plan-it sustainably column that first appeared in the California APA Northern News, Dec/Jan2015 issue <<URL forthcoming>>.

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