Milton-Freewater is underwater as I write this Friday morning.

The climate crisis is real, and we need to act now. We know that greenhouse gas emissions are the No. 1 contributor to the climate crisis, and that we have a responsibility to reduce them.

But eliminating emissions here at home could also make Walla Walla more efficient with our spending and improve the quality of life for residents like myself.

What can Walla Walla do? Well, let’s start with a commonsense proposal, something we can do whether or not a federal-level Green New Deal is passed.

The city of Walla Walla should hire a sustainability director as soon as possible. Mitigating our contributions to this crisis starts by measuring them. A sustainability director could help coordinate efforts to measure Walla Walla’s carbon footprint and implement policies that would help curb it in an economical way.

A sustainability director has plenty of projects waiting for him or her, projects that would not only reduce our carbon footprint, but also our budget efficiency. Energy-efficient building retrofits, solar installation, and electric upgrades for city vehicles are just a few things a sustainability director could do, not to mention bigger projects like municipal compost or a publicly-owned electric utility.

A sustainability director could also ensure that infrastructure projects take into account increased climate uncertainty and the need for climate-disaster-resistant construction. Milton-Freewater and Weston should serve as a warning to us.

The city of Walla Walla employs about 300 people and has a huge impact in this town. Let’s set the standard for sustainable municipal development here at home. It’s the 21st century.

Walla Walla, please step up and be a leader on this issue, not a follower. Hire a city sustainability director.

Walker Orr

Walla Walla