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Practice Guides

Our Practice Guides provide practical advice and support to policy makers and organizations on environmental policy issues. These guide books serve as resources for technical assistance, best practices and financing mechanisms to maintain or improve environmental conditions.

PG34 - Using Principles of Environmental Sustainability to Improve Student Health

The rising obesity rate among children under 18 is a critical public health issue and has led to illnesses normally associated with adults being detected among school-age children. Poor eating habits and lack of exercise are the two biggest contributors to this epidemic. This practice guide offers suggestions on how principles of environmental sustainability—such as walkable streets, civic agriculture, and environmental justice—can also help improve the health of our nation’s children by increasing access to healthy food and opportunities for exercise in both our schools and communities.

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33. Communities, Trains, and Trainyards: Exploring Policy Options for Affected Municipalities

This practice guide addresses how communities can work with rail carriers and regulators to improve community well-being and enact appropriate regulations to preemptively protect community health and well-being. State and federal regulations, idling, whistles and train noise, chemical leaks, transload facilities, and rail safety are discussed in a problem-solution format.

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32. Sustainable Water Management on Brownfields Sites

Managing stormwater is a central concern for municipalities struggling with more intense weather events and increased pressure to develop land that would have previously accommodated stormwater through infiltration. Green infrastructure, which creates an infrastructure through engineered and natural components that act as a living infrastructure for stormwater management, and low-impact development that manages stormwater close to the source in a way that replicates the pre-development management of water on a site, are proven methods to manage stormwater more efficiently. This practice guide makes the case for using green infrastructure on brownfield sites as a way to offer an environmentally friendly amenity while also meeting cleanup requirements. It includes a brief history of brownfields, a description of cleanup practices, examples of potential uses of green infrastructure and low-impact development on brownfield sites, a summary of current sources of funding for including green infrastructure and low-impact development on a site, followed by case studies of developments that successfully included green infrastructure or low-impact development.

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31. Planning for Transparency through E-governance

Urban planners and planning departments have increasingly turned towards the use of technology, commonly referred to as e-government, to enhance planning processes in a variety of ways. While e-government is not without its critics and pitfalls, it has the potential to engage citizens and other stakeholders more quickly and cheaply relative to traditional means. The capability for transparency has never been greater, even for local governments and groups operating in a scarce resource environment. Information and communication technologies are also capable of bringing voices to planning processes and discussions that would be unable or strongly unlikely to participate otherwise. This practice guide serves as a general introduction and focuses on both the design and technological elements to e-governance; it covers the reasoning and benefits of the dissemination of information, how community participation is enhanced with e-governance, explores current related technologies, and explains the implementation process. Legal requirements for e-governance are also cited.

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30. The Public Urban Forest: Planning and Managing a City's Tree Resource

This practice guide focuses on urban forest management from a municipal perspective and is meant to provide decision-makers, such as city arborists, public works officials, public policy makers, city managers, local non-profits, and park managers, with information to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of improving and managing their public urban forest. The guide is divided into sections that give a broad overview of planning, planting, maintaining, and managing the urban forest resource. Case studies that illustrate some of these concepts in action are included, as well as an extensive list of tree-related resources.

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29. Growing a Farmers' Market in Your Neighborhood: Recommendations for Success

Many communities throughout the region are seeking to establish or improve a farmers’ market in order to secure a fresh, local source of food and to support local farmers. This practice guide offers recommendations on market management, from finding a location and market manager to establishing market rules. In addition, issues such as finding farmers to provide produce and developing a market base are also addressed. This guide presents common problems that markets face and additional ideas to enhance a community farmers’ market. The role that markets can play in “food deserts” is also addressed with suggestions for making markets accessible to residents of low-income neighborhoods.

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28. Safe Container Gardening

This practice guide examines and summarizes the research on the safe use of raised beds and container gardening for agricultural and other uses. The purpose of the guide is to 1) help organizations establish a policy for safe container gardening; and 2) inform individuals who seek to build a container garden or simply learn more about the practice of safe container gardening. This is particularly useful for organizations seeking to develop guidelines or policies for safe container and raised bed gardening, including school districts that promote or require raised beds, community gardens, or other organizations that regulate or construct container or raised bed gardens.

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27. Establishing Urban Agriculture in Your Community: What You Need to Know Before You Get Your Hands Dirty

This practice guide discusses the socio-economic and environmental impacts of urban agriculture as well as general obstacles encountered when developing an urban agriculture program. The constraints to urban agriculture as well as the factors that reinforce those constraints are dealt with and solutions are presented to help overcome these obstacles. In addition, this practice guide discusses who can effect change and how they can be of help in establishing urban agriculture.

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26. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: What Are the Potential Community Costs?

This practice guide is intended for individuals who wish to better understand concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), specifically swine operations. The guide provides a brief history of CAFOs; discusses the difference between CAFOs, Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs), and Confined Feeding Operations (CFOs); and describes the potential community costs associated with these operations. This guide is useful for rural planners, city officials, community members, and livestock farmers as a means of addressing potential community costs associated with larger livestock operations.

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25. Urban Agriculture and Soil Contamination: An Introduction to Urban Gardening

This practice guide is written as a primer for those interested in urban gardening*individual gardeners as well as community groups*and speaks directly to the issue of soil contamination. Several important aspects of soil contamination are addressed, including the dangers of gardening in contaminated soil, potential sources of contamination, acceptable levels of contamination, how to test soil for contamination and evaluate the results, costs of soil testing, as well as various options for addressing these issues. Also included are appendices identifying urban agriculture best practices and additional electronic and print resources for urban gardeners.

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24A. Sustainable Construction Policies in EPA Region IV

This Practice Guide is meant for any person interested in promoting sustainable construction; it will be particularly useful for those who are working within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 4. The Guide is organized into three sections, plus the appendix, and readers can read them in any order or combination. The Guide begins with an overview of the construction industry and its economic and environmental impacts. The second section considers the national and regional contexts for state and sub-state policies; the Obama administration will likely impact this arena and policymakers who can respond swiftly will reap the benefits. The Guide concludes with suggestions for crafting policies and instituting practices. These recommendations are based on a survey of current sustainable construction regulations and practices in the EPA Region 4. Detailed case studies of the policies and practices of governmental, private, and educational sectors of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia are included in the appendix. All information is current through 2008 and, because rapid change is expected in this area, the CEPM hopes to provide updates as often as possible.

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23. Water Pricing and Rates Dashboard

This practice guide is intended to be used as a resource for local government and water utility officials who are exploring ‘best practices’ for managing a water utility, especially as it relates to setting and regulating water rates. This guide is broken down into four sections. The first section focuses on considerations and objectives when setting water rates; the second takes a brief look at the concept of interactive dashboards which can be used to convey complex financial data to the public and elected officials; the third part is an overview of a ‘Rates Dashboard’ designed specifically for water utilities. Lastly, case studies provide anecdotal evidence of how water utilities have benefited from the use of these Rates Dashboards.

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22. Integrating Green Practice into Your Building Management Strategy

This practice guide discusses some of the many ways that building management can explore and implement green management strategies, and offers a wealth of resources for facility owners, managers, and tenants. In addition, it focuses on changes that fall within the realm of building management’s responsibilities, thus creating little need for extensive tenant buy-in before moving forward.

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21. Financing Energy Efficiency Improvements

Energy efficient buildings are simply better buildings—better for business and better for the environment and society. Undertaking projects to improve energy performance can provide significant savings on building operating costs, reduce environmental impact, and create a healthier and more productive work environment. There is a wide range of financing mechanisms, both familiar and unconventional, available to organizations interested in enhancing their energy performance. The purpose of this practice guide is to introduce building managers and owners how to improve the energy efficiency in existing buildings in a cost-effective manner. Five common financing mechanisms are presented and described, including: internal financing, debt financing, lease and lease-purchase agreements, energy performance contracts, and utility incentives. Following the initial description of finance mechanisms, there are discussions of how to choose the best possible financing option and potential funding opportunities. Also included are two appendices, a financial resource directory for EPA Region 4 states and a collection of informational websites related to energy efficiency.

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20A. Energy Efficiency as a Public Priority

This practice guide illustrates some of the ways that public entities can encourage energy efficiency within their jurisdictions. The guide begins with a review of what many states are currently doing to promote energy efficiency, then moves on to show how public entities can serve as guiding examples to consumers, and finally, concludes with some examples of simple calculations of the benefits of adopting incentive programs directed at encouraging energy efficiency.

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19. Green Conferences

This guide is intended for use by individuals and organizations who are interested in reducing the environmental footprint of conference events. While it draws broadly from the existing literature and has wide applicability and utility, it pays particular attention to the needs of academic conference planners and organizers. The goal is to address common concerns including the economic feasibility of environmentally-friendly planning and procurement, and the administrative burden of and rationale for organizational change. The guide identifies commercial and governmental resources and mechanisms that can support the adoption and implementation of an environmentally sustainable meeting policy.

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18. Sustainable Hazards Mitigation

The cultivation of communities that are both livable and sustainable has increasingly become an objective of state and local officials. As urban growth and development increase in hazardous areas, reducing vulnerability to natural disasters is an essential component of achieving sustainability. It is necessary for planners and policy makers to make the critical link between hazards mitigation and sustainable development. This practice guide is designed to help community planners and leaders enhance the livability of their communities by incorporating the principles of sustainable development into hazards mitigation. It begins with an introduction to the concepts of sustainability and the practices of hazards mitigation, followed by a discussion of how to link the two in application. The guide describes the planning process and most common techniques used by communities to implement sustainable hazards mitigation and reviews several federal programs that provide technical and financial assistance.

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