5 Ways Local Leaders Can Affect Environmental Policy

This is a guest post by Logan Harper, the Community Manager for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillís online Masters of Public Administration program – a top degree for public service leaders.

“Think globally, act locally” is a concept that has been applied to the environmental movement for decades. The concept encourages local strategies for protecting the earth, including conservation, recycling, restriction of environmental pollutants and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

By adopting a global perspective, local government officials can play a key role in implementing policies that support the environment in their communities. They can also work through state and federal channels to influence far-reaching policies to protect the earth.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a wide range of support programs for local government officials. Here is a sample of five ways that local government officials can leverage EPA support programs to implement environmental policies.

Climate and Energy

Local governments can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their communities by implementing policies that improve energy efficiency. According to the EPA, the amount of energy used for government operations can be reduced by up to one third by adopting energy conservation strategies. Wastewater facilities represent up to 40 percent of municipal energy use in many communities, so one of the most important areas to address is community water treatment. Local governments can also develop policies and programs that reduce residential energy demand by improving energy efficiency in homes. The EPA Local Climate and Energy Program provides planning information and grant funding to help local government create and meet energy-efficiency goals.

Pollution Reduction

Local government officials need to be aware of toxic pollution that damages the environment and affects the health and well-being of residents in their communities. Government officials can apply for federal grants to help reduce toxic pollution through the EPA Community Action for Change (CARE) program. The program also provides resources to help community leaders understand the risks of pollution and organize efforts to investigate and eliminate the emission of toxins.


The EPA reports that older diesel engines are a major source of air pollution due to the emission of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. These pollutants contribute to serious health issues, including asthma, cancer and heart and lung disease. Local government officials can address diesel engine pollution in their communities by collaborating with environmental groups and private industry. They can also spearhead clean diesel projects and lobby state lawmakers who are responsible for air quality regulations. The National Clean Diesel Campaign provides tools and resources for state and local government officials who want to improve air quality and ensure public health by reducing diesel engine emissions.


Local governments can reduce the amount of waste generated by their communities by implementing recycling policies. This can include instituting a residential recycling program; providing recycling support in public areas like parks, stadiums and shopping centers; and purchasing recycled materials for government operations. The EPA Wastes program provides Conservation Resources and Tools that can help local government officials promote resource conservation in their communities.

Natural Disasters

Preparing for natural disasters like floods, hurricanes and earthquakes has become a critical issue for local, state and federal government agencies. Too many communities have had a difficult time recovering from a natural disaster because there was no recovery plan in place. Planning ahead can help lower the cost of environmental cleanup and reduce the risk of contamination from raw sewage, chemicals and other hazardous materials.

Recycling and disposing of disaster debris is another important issue that must be addressed. Local government officials can work with their state office for emergency management and with non-profit organizations like the American Red Cross to implement policies that address natural disaster preparation. Resources are available on the EPA Natural Disasters website.


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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Care2 Causes Editors, for Sharing this!

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

The federal government has to be regulated and stopped whenever psychotic politicians try to sleaze their way into power and begin corrupting institutions like the EPA, Fish and Wildlife, BLM, etc. However that also occurs in local governments. State and local governments go on rampages to destroy their environment and wildlife for profits. For example states with large remaining wilderness areas such as Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Alaska have a nasty record of passing laws to wreck the environment and that fight federal decisions for wilderness and wildlife protection. The common denominator of both federal and local governments is those immoral scumbags who become politicians and who are in the pockets of criminally minded special interests such as corporations, farmers, ranchers, etc.

Ron B.
Ron B4 years ago

Tell that to Republican Governors. The majority of them are affecting the environment, not to mention their State's economies, for the worse. With Obama in office, the GOP can't inflict it's damage upon the US in general as fast as it would like. It's solution, at least for the moment, is to do it on a State-by-State basis until Republicans can rig enough elections to illegally seize total power again. And as far as they are concerned, the next time will be permanent.

Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago

Recycle, recycle and recycle! Thanks

Jim F.
Past Member 4 years ago

WHEN will we all decide to think as locally as possible and continue to act Globally also.

The ONE person to blame is in the MIRROR, every day you can have a chat with yourself, if you chose, and begin "LOCALLY" to think in ways that will benefit the human race forever.

WHY be DEPENDENT on ANY Government, take action individually! Then we have a history of banding together, standing together, sharing the load so no one is overwhelmed and we will be successful as we have proved, in the past and free ourselves from the damage we have caused ourselves.

Nicole W.
Nicole W4 years ago

noted, thank you

Ram Reddy
Ram Reddy4 years ago

Thanks for the article

Tim C.
Tim C4 years ago