Simplified: Sioux Falls set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions both within city government and in the community at large by 45 percent by 2030 – with a long-term goal of hitting net-zero emissions by 2050.

Why it matters

  • These goals are part of a broader plan to address sustainability citywide, the second plan of its nature.
  • Sioux Falls' first sustainability master plan launched in 2012 with a goal of reducing emissions 50 percent by 2017. That didn't happen, said Holly Meier, sustainability coordinator for the city.
  • But while net-zero emissions by 2050 is "ambitious," Meier said it's also realistic.  
  • A community survey conducted by the city showed that 88 percent of respondents were concerned about sustainability, including harm from water and air pollution, flooding, drought and other environmental hazards.
"There is support for this kind of work," Meier said. "It's comforting to know people are thinking about that."

What does "net zero emissions" mean?

It means a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to the point where any remaining emissions can be offset in other ways (think: planting trees or preserving the prairie).

How can the city meet this goal?

Two big areas of focus are buildings and transportation.

With buildings, the goal is finding more ways to use electricity or solar power instead of natural gas.

With transportation, it's a mix of encouraging use of bicycles, public transit/carpooling, and electric or hybrid vehicles.

  • The city next year plans to pilot the use of an electric vehicle in its fleet, Meier said.

What about folks outside of city government?

That's where the relationship building comes in, Meier said.

If this plan is going to work, the city needs to get buy-in from businesses – something Kasey Abbott sees as an economic opportunity.

  • Abbott is president of Direct Digital Control and also a member of the steering committee overseeing the master plan.
  • He sees the goal as one of achieving net zero emissions while also maintaining Sioux Falls' economy.
"Growing up on a reservation, one of the Native American sayings I've always liked ... we should be thinking about how our decision impacts seven generations from now," Abbott said. "We need to be thinking long-term."

Tell me more about the sustainability master plan.

The plan has six focus areas, including:

  1. Protecting and conserving natural resources
  2. Promoting clean transportation and sustainable land use
  3. Using clean energy and encouraging green building practices
  4. Encouraging businesses to use sustainable practices
  5. Encouraging people to reduce, reuse and recycle,
  6. And promoting the benefits sustainability has to both individuals and the community at large.

What happens next?

The steering committee will continue its work on setting goals and developing sustainability strategies through the summer.

It'll then bring those goals to the public this fall, with the goal that the sustainability master plan will have final adoption by the City Council in early- to mid-2022.