Five Reasons You Should Support the Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan
For South Dakota's largest city, the time to act is now for a sustainable future
Are you ready to show your support for the Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan? Join us for an Earth Day rally on April 22 to tell your city leaders to take a stand for a sustainable future! You can also sign the petition or reach out to the Mayor and your City Council representatives. Let’s make our voices heard for a sustainable Sioux Falls!
South Dakota’s largest city is at a crossroads on whether it will pursue a path towards a sustainable future.
For the past year, a 30-member Sustainability Steering Committee representing Sioux Falls businesses, community organizations, and city government have been working hard to draft a consensus-based sustainability plan that reflects community voices and priorities. But those efforts were stymied earlier this year when the Mayor’s Office decided, behind closed doors, to replace the Committee’s draft plan with a “sustainability framework” which eliminated over a third of its goals, weakened language to remove meaningful deadlines and accountability measures, and scrubbed all mentions of climate change.
For those of us who care about the climate crisis, the way forward is a no-brainer: we want to see the Committee’s Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan reinstated and for the City of Sioux Falls to commit to real actions that address climate change and other pressing environmental challenges. But the Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan has the potential to bring many more benefits and to clear the path to a healthier, safer, more resilient community for everyone in Sioux Falls.
We are counting down five reasons this week ahead of our Earth Day Rally on why you should support the Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan:
5. Cutting energy costs through improved efficiency
The Sustainability Steering Committee's plan would update Sioux Falls' long-outdated building efficiency codes for new municipal buildings, making those buildings 30-40% more efficient. The plan also included actions to improve efficiency in existing city buildings - ultimately reducing energy expenses and saving taxpayer dollars.
The plan would also pursue actions to update Sioux Falls’ overall building efficiency codes, including for new residential buildings. An independent analysis found that making these updates would be cost-effective and provide energy cost savings of almost 25%. Adopting the new code would "result in homes that are energy efficient [and] more affordable to own and operate”. It would bring Sioux Falls up to speed with building quality standards in all of our surrounding states. The mayor’s framework only included weak language to “explore the feasibility” of these actions.
Bottom line: more efficient buildings will put money back in Sioux Falls residents' pockets.
4. Protecting our watershed and local ecosystems
As Sioux Falls grows, it’s critical that we continue to commit to more responsible stewardship of the Big Sioux River and the other natural places. The Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan commits to “conserve and protect habitat and wetlands in areas of new development and reduce habitat fragmentation and degradation,” preserve landscaping with native pollinator-friendly plants on city property, and to introduce incentives, technical assistance and education to “increase green infrastructure and low-impact development.” These actions would help preserve habitats that are important for local birds, pollinators, and other wildlife while providing ecosystem services that prevent harmful pollutants from entering our river systems.
The Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan would take meaningful action to protect Sioux Falls residents’ ability to enjoy the beauty of nature - while the Mayor’s framework only includes vague commitments to educate on these issues.
3. Supporting public health through active lifestyles
The Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan is full of concrete actions that would help enable local residents to live healthier, more active lifestyles. It commits to implementing the Sioux Falls Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans to create more opportunities to safely bike and walk around the city, and aims to “establish a park or green space within a half mile of every resident.” It also includes a goal to "increase urban agriculture, neighborhood orchards, food forests, and community gardens” to enable greater access to healthy local foods. Its goals to transition to a low-emissions city fleet and encourage adoption of electric vehicles would help decrease local air pollution, which is a leading cause of asthma and cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
Acting on sustainability will help improve the health of both people and the environment.
2. Laying the foundation for climate action
The Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan is crafted through careful negotiation and consensus-building between business interests, community organizations, and city officials. As such, it doesn’t include the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 that was included in the original draft plan unveiled in March 2022. But it does commit to real actions that would result in measurable, meaningful reductions in climate pollution in Sioux Falls, like supporting adoption of renewable energy, increasing the availability of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, setting a high-performance green building policy for new municipal construction, educating the community on ways to reduce emissions and save money, and many others.
The Mayor’s framework removes or weakens many of these goals and eliminates any mention of “climate change” or “greenhouse gas” altogether. The Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan puts Sioux Falls on the right track to begin tackling climate change and pave the way for more ambitious action in the future.
1. Involving and listening to community voices
The Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan was crafted by a 30-member Sustainability Steering Committee of diverse community representatives. Despite approaching from a range of personal and political perspectives, these committee members came together to find common ground. Under the great leadership of the Sioux Falls Office of Sustainability in conducting extensive public engagement, the Committee worked to collaboratively draft a plan that reflected community voices and priorities. The Mayor’s “framework” undermines that consensus-based process.
Even more importantly, however, is how the Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan commits to reflect community voices in the future. The Plan commits to “create a sustainability advisory board" so that community members can continue to have representation and involvement in the direction of the City’s sustainability actions. It also includes goals to "develop a sustainability ambassador program to educate and engage residents” on sustainability issues and “integrate the Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan into City strategy, planning, and budgetary decisions" so that City decisions will reflect the community’s sustainability priorities and ensure Sioux Falls stays on a sustainable development pathway. The Mayor’s framework eliminates all of these goals.
The time to act is now
As South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls serves as a trendsetter for the rest of the state. Where Sioux Falls goes, other communities and municipalities will follow. Sioux Falls has an opportunity now to lead with courage towards a sustainable future, not just for its own residents, but for communities across the state.
And thanks to legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, new federal funding is now rolling out to help local governments implement actions exactly like those outlined in the Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan.
Sioux Falls has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a real difference. Let’s not miss this chance.