The Environmental Resource Assessment provides a holistic and integrated analysis of an institution, organization, or community, and an instrument for long-range planning to achieve greater sustainability.
It examines goals, resource use patterns, and opportunities for improved efficiency, self-reliance, and dollar savings. It provides a method to examine land use, water, food, energy , shelter, waste recycling systems, and contemporary lifestyle patterns. A total resource assessment includes the following components:
Land Use: This aspect of the assessment examines the totality of past and current use of the institutions complete landholdings, including forests, wetlands, riparian areas, meadows, pastures, food growing areas, and land areas surrounding the built environment and places of recreational use. The goal to promote and enhance self-sufficiency and efficient delivery of services can be realized by examining methods for edible landscaping, gardens and other ways of food growing, ponds, lakes and aquaculture potential, multiple use for recreation, parking, and assembly, walkways and silent space, preservation of wildlife refuge areas, and the aesthetic qualities of landscaping/land use to achieve balance and harmony.
Physical Facilities and Indoor Space: The physical condition of buildings and the patterns of use in these areas are determined for maximizing efficiency of energy and human-scale interactions. More efficient and practical use of existing buildings is underscored as a way of avoiding the resource and dollar costs of new construction. Space is examined for its potential to enhance a sense of recreation, harmony, and reflection.
Water: The Assessment examines water use and sources as well as management of wetlands and riparian areas. It offers suggestions for conservation, alternative sources and improved management and appreciation of water ecosystems.
Energy: A basic requirement of environmentally compatible institutions is to supply at least a portion of their own energy needs. The assessment explores conservation and efficiency opportunities and recommends possibilities such as: solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower; solar food drying and cooking; greenhouse use; passive solar design for natural space heating and cooling; solar for domestic water heating, saunas, pools; and photovoltaic potential receive special analysis.
Gardens & Food: The Assessment recommends ways to increase on site food growing for greater self-reliance and to reduce costs in food procurement, production, and preparation. The educational value of agro-ecological land management and food production is stressed, and important attention is focused on nutritional education as a way to promote individual and institutional wellness.
Transportation: This part of the analysis provides an overview of the available sources of public and private transportation, vehicle pools and maintenance, distance of the properties from shopping, recreation areas, places of worship, as well as frequency of travel, and for present and future parking space determinations. Recommendations are made for improving the efficiency and environmental quality of transportation types -- including alternative fueled vehicles and travel patterns.
Wastes: A look at disposal of personal and community waste materials reveals much about current lifestyle practices and care for resources -- their place of origin, the method of their extraction, processing, manufacturing, and delivery to point of end use. This portion of the total assessment suggests alternatives strategies such as: source reduction, waste minimization, reuse, recycling -- including innovative marketing approaches, composting of organic materials, and use of compost toilets.
Wildlife: This covers native species -- birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and other fauna, as well as vascular plants, woody plants, and tree species. Suggestions are made for improving, protecting, and restoring populations and habitat with emphasis on rare, threatened, and endangered species.
Community Relations: Every institution is situated in a rich and diverse social habitat -- a community of organizations and people who have many resources to give and share with the institution, and also many benefits to receive. The Assessment will try to identify potentially beneficial linkages that already exist and are perhaps under-utilized, or to create institution-community partnerships that will enhance overall institution and community well being.
General Environment: A number of aspects may need consideration which do not fit into the categories already listed. The outdoors may have noise, odor, air, vibrational, or visual pollution problems which must be addressed according to the site. These may require the joint action by neighbors within the local community. The indoors may have a variety of materials or practices which could help contaminate the indoor air: toxic pesticides, automotive products, volatile hobby supplies, tobacco or other forms of smoking, improper venting of kilns, radon gas emissions, and use of certain electronic devices without proper protection. Often product removal, increased ventilation, and the presence of more houseplants are among the recommendations.
We invite institutions and communities to put their growing environmental awareness into action by converting their landholdings and other property into a model of what larger communities can become -- healthy and sustainable ecosystems which revitalize their own neighborhoods.
Institutions and communities can become exemplary models of practical ways to achieve more holistic, mindful, and sustainable resource use. New ways of using land, water, energy, built-environments, and food producing techniques can result in institutional changes that improve health, restore environmental quality, cut operating expenses, and enrich our collective consciousness. Lifestyle changes require a total consideration of options, including goals, means, and resources currently or potentially available. A written report integrating all recommendations into a practical model plan for action is presented at the end of the analysis.
The Assessment is typically initiated by the invitation of the institution or community. The group provides basic materials -- maps, various records, data, previous reports and analyses, and a list of particular concerns that they wish to be addressed. The Environmental Resource Assessment team then compiles an analysis from assembled data and produces a 30-40 page report and series of recommendations. Then the host institution or community has the catalyst necessary to begin or to continue its mission in the most environmentally conscious manner.
With the completion of this report, the ERA team then will be available to help in the process of guiding the implementation phase of the work by suggesting a variety of groups or consultants with expertise in various disciplines who will be able to bring the plans into action. If a host institution or community would like to offer educational outreach on any phases of the plan implementation, the ERA team will be willing to help create and organize workshops and training programs.
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