An Insight Into the Environmental Sustainability Council

So far, this has been a summer of environmental insights. With the recurring poor air quality, everyone has been forced to evaluate their day-to-day lifestyles. Fortunately, many are willing to step up and inform the general public about measures they can take to protect both the public’s health and the environment. This is the purpose of the F.C. Environmental Sustainability Council (ESC): to make environmentally friendly suggestions to city council about policy goals and to educate the public.

“We have some really incredible members who have worked for the ESC who are geologists, who have worked in energy financing—all members of our community with different skills, different experiences, but a shared passion for preserving our future and making the future better for our kids,” said Joseph Schiarizzi, the chair of the ESC.

Composed of volunteers appointed by the city council, the ESC is equivalent to the other Council advisory committees, such as the Planning Commission. The ESC meets every third Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall. The meetings are open to the public, and are recorded. Anyone can attend and make a public comment of up to three minutes. Meetings typically last between two and two-and-a-half hours, yet the public comment segment takes place right at the beginning, which allows people to leave after they make their statement, if they desire.

“We take public comment at the beginning,” Schiarizzi said. “You don’t have to come for the whole time if you just want to comment about what you care about or where you’d like the city to focus in terms of sustainability.”

The council has three subcommittees, each tasked with addressing a section of their work: the Energy Transition Subcommittee, Urban Forestry Commission and Environmental Education. Main topics the council focuses on include climate, consumption and waste, air, energy, urban forest and biodiversity, stormwater and community involvement. Inside a meeting, the group may discuss different plans that are related to one of their main topics.

“The energy action plan is to help transition government buildings to be energy efficient,” Schiarizzi said. “The community action plan is to see what steps we [the council] can take to help community businesses and homes be more energy efficient, more insulated, use renewable energy and transition off of fossil fuels.”

The group also has specialized “task groups,” such as the Education Task Group and Habitat Restoration Task Group. The Education Task Group looks over Operation Earthwatch, an environmental action program for elementary school students.

According to Schiarizzi, education is a crucial way to create a better environmental future for Earth. He believes people should seek to get involved, adding there was an open seat on the Environmental Sustainability Council in Falls Church. “Think globally, act locally” is his belief on how to tackle sustainability and the environment.

“There is lots of organizing…and educating to do…on policies we should be supporting, and how those policies are going to create new jobs, improve our transportation, and improve our way of life,” he said.

In his interview with the News-Press, Schiarizzi took the liberty to state his beliefs on the role of state and local governments within the environment. With state and local governments controlling many aspects of society, he believes true change is made through policies, rather than individual choices.

“It’s very easy to say, give up your car, walk and go by bike and take the bus more often,” Schiarizzi said. “But if every aspect of our society and all of the subsidies for transportation go to designing everything around cars and building highways, then that makes it much harder to make those environmentally friendly decisions.”

 Schiarizzi clarified that his beliefs are his own and do not represent the views of the ESC as a whole.

Schiarizzi ended the interview with encouragement.

“Sustainability is the practice of meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of the future, and I’m optimistic that Falls Church can be a positive example in sustainability for others in the region,” he said.