Sustainable Cities Initiative and Oregon Law

UO Law students addressed six areas where the law can improve sustainability in Redmond

Jun 03, 2016

The closing celebration for the Sustainable Cities Initiative's Sustainable City Year Program occurred yesterday, and law students were an integral part of making the full project a success. By helping to develop new ordinances and revise existing laws and policies to enhance sustainability in Redmond, Oregon, 14 students from the University of Oregon School of Law identified ways for the law to support sustainability.

“The law can be a vehicle to help develop positive or negative environmental, equitable, or economic conditions. In the course 'Sustainability & the Law' we push the students to question current policies and to think creatively about drafting laws that create sustainable conditions,” said Jonathan Rosenbloom, Oregon Law’s Spring 2016 Environment & Natural Resources Law Distinguished Visitor Professor. “We start by asking the right questions: What is it about the existing law that is not sustainable? Are there obstacles? If so, how do we remove them? How do we incentivize sustainable behaviors through the law, and mandate where necessary?”

Discussions about sustainability often relate to global issues, and breaking down that information to apply locally can be a challenge for city managers. Throughout the 2015-2016 academic year, students and faculty representing two-dozen courses across the University of Oregon worked closely with officials in the City of Redmond to develop comprehensive environmentally and economically viable plans, ideas, and visions for sustainability. In the spring, six groups of Oregon Law students, including several international LLM students from Czech Republic, Honduras, Kenya, and Thailand, analyzed local ordinances, identified conditions that inhibit sustainability, analyzed those conditions, and made proposals to enhance sustainability.

“What’s unique about this project is our students are drafting concrete, real ordinances the Redmond city council could adopt tomorrow,” said Rosenbloom.

Working together with the Eugene City Attorney, the Redmond City Attorney, the City of Eugene Climate and Energy Analyst, and other staff from Redmond, the Oregon Law student groups proposed actual ordinances in six areas where they could enhance sustainability through the law:

  • Incentivizing more local and organic food growth within the city limits;
  • Developing a tiered water pricing structure to encourage water conservation;
  • Banning Styrofoam and plastic bags from the waste stream;
  • Encouraging xeriscaping (use of drought-tolerant plant species) to conserve water;
  • Adopting a sustainable procurement purchasing policy for the City of Redmond; and
  • Developing a policy to promote sustainable development on vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and under-utilized property between properties.

For their final project, students traveled to Redmond on Tuesday, April 26 and presented their findings to 15 staff members and the mayor. Last week, the students sent their reports and recommended ordinances.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, the Sustainable City Year Program will partner with Albany.  To learn more about the Sustainable City Year Program and the Sustainable Cities Initiative, visit SCI.UOregon.edu.