Tysons, VA

Officials from Fairfax County Public Schools announced yesterday (Tuesday) that the county plans to expand the use of solar energy across 87 FCPS schools and facilities.

The new contracts, which are known as solar power purchase agreements (PPA), with service providers are the largest “solar PPA initiative by a local municipality in Virginia to date,” according to a press release from Fairfax County.

“Our move toward solar reinforces the School Board’s commitment to our environmental stewardship responsibilities,” said FCPS School Board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders in a statement.

The following area schools are being considered for solar modifications:

Vienna

McLean

Falls Church

Merrifield

Photo via Flickr / Minoru Karamatsu 

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Dozens of students and adults joined a climate strike today in the Town of Vienna as part of an international effort.

Protesters, elected officials, local groups — including 350 Fairfax and Mothers Out Front Fairfax — and community members gathered outside at the Vienna Town Green (144 E. Maple Avenue) from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

“WAKE THE HELL UP,” said one sign with a drawing of the earth on fire.

“‘Once we begin to act, hope is everywhere’ – Greta Thunberg,” another sign said with the message of the Swedish environmental activist who has sparked climate change activism among young adults and kids.

The strike in Vienna was a part of a larger effort organized by the Sunrise Movement, along with the help of youth coalition groups, ahead of the UN’s annual climate conference.

The student strike in Vienna is being organized by Katie M., a high school climate activist.

Katie told Tysons Reporter that she grew up in a family of climate activists. After becoming interested in climate change as a sophomore, she started planning strikes and events in D.C.

She said she decided to organize the strike in Vienna, because “D.C. already has a strong climate movement.”

Katie said that she was “really excited about the turnout” today and is hoping to plan another strike for Earth Day.

At the strike, protesters urged people to write a postcard to the Fairfax County School Board. The students and adult allies are pushing for a Green New Deal for FCPS that would switch all of the schools to net-zero carbon emissions by installing solar panels and energy-efficient windows. The plan would also continue the push for electric school buses in the county.

“I just want to make sure [my kids] have a liveable planet to live in,” Tiziana Bottino, a community organizer for Mothers Out Front, told Tysons Reporter about why she joined the strike.

While Bottino said that she’s impressed by the recent youth activism, she said the students shouldn’t have to be the ones calling for climate action.

“They should be worried prom,” Bottino said.

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In two weeks, Fairfax County public school students plan to demand action on climate change in Vienna as part of an international strike.

“This is not a hypothetical. This is not a partisan issue,” Deepa R., a climate activist and junior at James Madison High School, said in a press release. “This is real, this is now, and this is the way that we as a species will die if we don’t take action.”

The strike is set to take place on the Vienna Town Green (144 E. Maple Avenue) from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on  Friday (Dec. 6), the press release said.

Elected officials and local groups are expected to attend the strike, including School Board Member Ryan McElveen, 350 Fairfax and Mothers Out Front Fairfax, the press release said.

The strike in Vienna is a part of a larger effort organized by the Sunrise Movement, along with the help of youth coalition groups.

After the nationwide climate strike in September ahead of the UN Climate Change panel, this strike aims to encourage young activists to strike during the UN’s annual climate conference.

The student strike in Vienna is being organized by Katie M., a high school climate activist who was recently honored along with fellow student Wendy G. by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for pushing for climate change, according to the press release.

At the strike, the students and adult allies plan to call for a Green New Deal for Fairfax County Public Schools that works switch all of the schools to net-zero carbon emissions by installing solar panels and energy-efficient windows. The plan would also continue the push for electric school buses in the county.

“The students also demand that the county require comprehensive climate education in schools,” the press release said.

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Locals want more eco-friendly guidelines as Fairfax County looks ahead to the next 10 to 20 years.

Roughly four dozen attendees showed up to the meeting at Marshall High School last night (Wednesday) to provide feedback on the county’s preliminary strategies.

After brief presentations by County Executive Brian Hill and James Patterson, the manager of the countywide strategic planning process, attendees were able to choose three out of the nine areas they wanted to learn more about by talking to team members.

Attendees were given copies of the preliminary strategies — 166 in total — and asked to provide feedback to the teams.

The county is especially interested in these nine areas:

  • cultural and recreational opportunities
  • economic opportunity
  • education and lifelong learning
  • effective and efficient government
  • health and environment
  • housing and neighborhood livability
  • mobility and transportation
  • safety and security
  • self-sufficiency for people with vulnerabilities

The nine areas have five shared themes: affordability, equity, sustainability, innovation and collaboration, Patterson said.

Many of the people told the various teams that they support environmentally-friendly strategies, urging the staffers to strengthen or add language that would reduce pollution and waste. “I feel like the environment is critical,” one attendee said.

Locals talking to the “Health and Environment” team pushed for replanting of older instead of younger trees and stronger recycling rules.

People also suggested mandating that businesses recycle, adding urban gardens to schools and reducing food waste. Several attendees expressed frustration about unclear recycling rules and suggested that Fairfax County use stickers and more communication to clarify its glass recycling rules.

“We’re a wealthy county,” one person said. “Give us a glass recycling bin.”

While attendees seemed to come to a consensus that they want stronger protections in place to protect the environment, not everyone agreed on the specifics. In response to a suggested plastic ban, an attendee pointed out that plastic bans can hurt low-income families.

Over at the “Mobility and Transportation” station, people pushed for more frequent bus transit, suggesting different size buses — like double-deckers and buses of various lengths — to accommodate more riders.

Brent Riddle, a transportation planner for Fairfax County, said that the staffers are exploring different ways to add more cross-county transportation, like adding buses between Annadale and the Mosaic District and creating bus-only lanes.

“Public transit is more oriented as a feeder system into D.C,” Riddle said about current transit options.

Overall, attendees said that it’s better to incentivize group travel than disadvantage single-occupancy vehicles — possibly hurting lower-income communities in the process.

Some of the strategies that attendees showed strong support for include:

  • Increase the walkable access (within half-mile or 10-mile walk countywide) to parks, facilty entrances or trailheads to connect people to nature and receational experiences, prioritizing implementation in areas with disparate health outcomes and other equity measures.
  • Prioritize and incentivize the use of high-occupany vs. single-occupant vehicles; this includes transit buses, vanpools and carpools.
  • Shift the design of selected roadways away from a sole focus on automobile traffic to a multi-modal focus by incorporating sidewalks, bike lanes and high-occupancy vehicle and bus lanes and rail lines.

The meeting last night was the last of six recent meetings to seek community input. Currently, county staffers are working to develop and refine strategies before finalizing the draft by the end of the year, Patterson said. Early next year, the draft will get publicized and adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

The county plans to use the input to identify priority areas and success metrics for the county-wide strategic plan.

People can still submit feedback on the preliminary strategies through an online survey that is available in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Urdu and Vietnamese.

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About 40 protesters joined a climate strike this morning in the City of Falls Church as part of a nationwide climate change strike ahead of the UN Climate Change panel.

Protesters gathered outside of Brown’s Hardware (100 W. Broad Street) around 8 a.m. today (Sept. 20) with signs demanding “Climate Action Now” and dogs.

“It’s very important to act locally to do good global things,” Councilmember Phil Duncan said. “It may seem small to start locally, but locally is where [the action’s] at.”

Shaun Dakin, the organizer of the local strike, told Tysons Reporter that he posted information about the strike earlier this week on the global climate strike’s website and on Facebook with the hopes that two or three people would show up.

“I’m totally surprised,” Dakin said about the turnout. “It shows the power of social media.”

Dakin, a Falls Church resident who is the social media director for Moms Clean Air Force, said that the strike is a way to show people that they get involved with activism locally.

“You don’t need to go to a big march with millions of people,” Dakin said,

The nationwide strikes were inspired by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old who Dakin said has sparked climate change activism among young adults and kids.

Dakin said that he wants people who care about climate change to head to the polls in the upcoming election and vote for politicians who will take action on climate change.

Babs Williams, a protester who brought her 14-year-old dog Katie in a stroller, said that she heard about the event from a friend.

“I feel like if you love your children and grandchildren, you should try to turn this toxic climate change mess around,” she said, adding that people need to vote for politicians who will protect the environment.

“Mine is not too radical a message,” Williams said. “It’s just common sense.”

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