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The economic benefits of sustainable development in Sioux Falls

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

How green practices are gainful for the city of Sioux Falls

This March, the Mayor's Office replaced the consensus-based Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan, signed off on after nearly a year of good-faith work by a large group of industry and community stakeholders appointed by the mayor himself, with a vague and weakened framework. As this new "plan" has no concrete goals, Sioux Falls is only biding its time in addressing the climate crisis. Sustainability does not mean economic losses. Embracing robust sustainable practices instead leads to both short and long-term benefits in cost savings, market opportunity, job creation, resource efficiency and resilience, and government incentives.

Recently, Sioux Falls has seen unprecedented growth. According to The City of Sioux Falls, building permit valuations exceeded $1.9 billion in 2022, a 75 percent increase over the previous year. Yet, surprisingly, Sioux Falls still uses the 2009 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) for buildings. Such outdated standards have no place in our rapidly evolving world. Lawmakers and officials have failed to tailor this code to Sioux Falls' needs. Reassessment is critical, as regular update cycles reflect new knowledge and technological advancements. Local inaction causes our city to fall further behind.

Sustainable construction offers several economic benefits. Including energy cost savings are estimated at more than 20 percent. In addition, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings report almost 20 percent lower maintenance costs than typical commercial buildings. Certified sustainable buildings generally command higher property values. The cost of incorporating sustainable features and materials diminishes as one looks at the returns, savings on energy, and maintenance expenses.

Consumers are increasingly seeking environmentally friendly options. Companies that meet these demands can capture a broader consumer base and build brand loyalty. There is a discrepancy between what customers say they would purchase and what they buy; mitigation is possible. Human nature dictates that we all have the desire to fit in. In several citywide studies, researchers have found that when people hear of or see others engaging in green practices, they are much more likely to participate.

Generation Alpha, born in or after 2010, will be the largest, most conscious, and connected population in history. They will look to their families, friends, legislators, and brands to make informed decisions.

Sustainability practices can also help blunt various business risks. Fossil fuel prices fluctuate with volatility driven by sudden and uncontrollable shifts in geopolitical issues, supply and demand, and natural disasters. Companies can increase the reliability of budget projections, lower operating costs, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels by diversifying their energy supply.

Unlike renewable energy, fossil fuel extraction methods often require substantial water. This process depletes local water sources and competes with agricultural and municipal needs. South Dakota won't always have plenty of water. Drought conditions have been worsening. According to the National Weather Service, 72 percent of the state is in moderate drought, 42 percent in severe drought, and 11 percent in extreme drought. By utilizing renewable energy sources, Sioux Falls reduces the potential economic losses from climate-related events.

This year, South Dakota and Sioux Falls declined millions of dollars from the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant. As there were no mandates regarding specific actions, this money would have allowed a tailored local approach to mitigating our own negative contributions to the climate crisis.

The good news is that you can be the change. If you haven’t already, sign this petition, and contact Mayor Paul TenHaken and Sioux Falls City Council representatives.

Governments and local authorities offer various incentives and programs for participation in green practices. Take advantage of abundantly available incentives. The Public Utilities Commission provides renewable energy/efficiency rebates, tax credits, and exemptions. Another great resource is the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Grants and loans are available for drinking water, sanitary and storm sewer, solid waste disposal and recycling, watershed restoration, and petroleum release.

Dollar for dollar, most clean energy, and other green investments create more jobs in the near term than unsustainable investments, according to a new analysis of studies published by the World Resources Institute, the International Trade Union Confederation, and the New Climate Economy.

The growing green sector opens up a wide range of economy-boosting employment opportunities. Renewable energy infrastructure requires people to install, maintain, and operate new systems. Jobs generated through sustainable farming practices and forestry management require farmers, land managers, and foresters. Businesses looking to reduce their impact and comply with regulations leading to a demand for environmental consultants and auditors.

Balancing growth and responsibility leads to a healthier city and world. To build a better tomorrow, Sioux Falls must invest in sustainability now.

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