The Power of
Who better to explore long-term sustainability initiatives in Shaker
Heights than high school students? After all, it’s their generation who will
be living and raising families in Shaker in the decades to come.
That’s exactly what the City’s Sustainability Committee decided when it
tasked its High School Advisory Group with strategizing how the City could
improve on its LEED certification five, 10, even 20 years from now.
“We will hopefully get a base level of LEED certification this year,” says
Julianne Potter, a Shaker resident and senior sustainability consultant with
ERM, who works with the students. “But the idea is that over the years, the
City can improve its performance on the LEED criteria and achieve higher
levels of certification.”
The students presented their goals and recommendations to the
Sustainability Committee in July. The report sets out a road map for two
major environmental and social achievements: to make Shaker Heights carbon
neutral by 2050 and to ensure housing and transportation costs are at 45
percent or less of Shaker residents’ income by 2030 (Shaker is currently at 65
percent). LEED certification for cities covers sustainability measures across
environmental, social, and economic topics. In
addition to environmental factors, LEED awards
points for meeting certain social and economic
performance, like a reasonable cost of living.
The students proposed both short- and
long-term ways to achieve these goals.
For carbon neutrality, this included more
solar installations and broader adoption of
renewable electric programs in the short term;
in the long term, the students recommended
the City explore the installation of an
Archimedes Wind Turbine, which is specifically
designed for urban environments.
Recommendations around housing
and transportation costs included adding
more infrastructure for alternative modes of
transportation, like bicycles and electric scooters,
while also exploring how to increase the amount
of affordable housing available in the City.
“The students are coming at this with a blue-sky angle,” says Potter.
“This ability is one of the most powerful things about bringing youth to
The Advisory Group is made up of members from Shaker Heights
High School, Laurel School, Hathaway Brown School, and University
School. Students meet once a month. Potter is joined by Torrey
McMillan, the director of Hathaway Brown’s Center for Sustainability,
and staff members from the other area schools in helping to guide the
students. But all the work is done by the students alone.
“We want to make sure that young people have a voice in the
conversation,” says Potter. “This is not just giving them a seat at the table, but
also the autonomy to execute on objectives.”
Next up for the High School Advisory Group: participating in the Climate
Youth Summit, which is in Cleveland in October, and exploring ways to
develop a composting program for Shaker-area schools, in collaboration with
Rust Belt Riders (see sidebar page 69).
Including young people in the work of the Sustainability Committee is not
only rewarding, it’s important, says Potter. “The work of the Committee should
consider the priorities of the next generation,” she says. “They see the work of
building a sustainable community as increasing our use of low carbon energy,
as well as improving access to transportation, racial equity, and social justice.”
(Continued from page 68)
“There is also an ongoing
perception that Shaker is not solar
friendly, which is not true,” says Peters.
“So sustainability committee members,
led by citizen member Norman
Robbins, went to 40 block parties last
year to talk to residents about solar.”
Residents interested in sustainability
are welcome to attend meetings and/or
join the one of the subcommittees.
“We have a lot of residents who
are passionate about this and this is a
real way to get involved,” says Peters.
Learn more at
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