Meet Your Neighbors: Middleburg Sustainability Committee
Written by Lia Hobel
Photos by Kaitlin Hill
There’s the adage, “it takes a village.” And when it comes to developing environmentally friendly policy solutions in Middleburg, those words ring true.
Leading the town’s sustainability efforts is a group of concerned citizens who serve on the Middleburg Sustainability Committee (MSC), an advisory body to the Middleburg Town Council. MSC, formerly known as Go Green, rebranded last year when its initiatives expanded across the sustainability spectrum. The committee is comprised of both town residents and individuals who live just outside the town boundary.
“The Town of Middleburg may be small in size, but it is composed of residents and business owners who really care about the local environment,” says Peter Leonard-Morgan, the vice mayor of the Town of Middleburg and the liaison to MSC. “I think this may, in part, be due to the fact that many of us actively chose to live in the countryside because we love what nature has to offer and appreciate its fragility.”
Staying mindful of the environment’s delicateness is an ongoing effort, according to Committee Chairman Ric Woodie. He explains that the committee works relentlessly to raise awareness in the community about environmental concerns such as the value of recycling, the importance of preserving water quality, and the best methods for conserving energy. They also present new sustainability solutions to the Middleburg Town Council. “With sustainability, you think globally but have to act locally in order to have any effect,” he explains. “MSC focuses on the things that can be done at the local level which, taken collectively, will have a net positive impact on our environment. We focus on environmental stewardship.”
Committee members routinely publish articles in local news outlets regarding sustainable practices in order to spread awareness throughout the community. Additionally, MSC hosts biannual cleanup events. “We have these in the spring and fall where we organize local volunteers for cleanups downtown,” Woodie says. Coinciding with these community cleanups are recycling initiatives that include the collection of used batteries, razor blades, cigarette butts, and more recently, the collection of old household paint waste. Woodie says these initiatives have improved the look of the town through reduced litter, and more importantly, have fostered proper disposal practices and reduced the accumulation of these types of pollutants in local landfills.
After nearly four years of effort, MSC will launch the installation of electric vehicle charging stations within the town limits. “MSC researched a variety of companies that install and maintain charging equipment and conducted our own hybrid and electric vehicle counts during peak and nonpeak times within the historic downtown area to justify the need,” Woodie says.
After interviewing several manufacturers, the town is finalizing the contract for the installation of these systems in the coming months according to Leonard-Morgan. The company will install two dual port Level 2 charging stations at the Liberty Street parking lot and one additional dual port station either along or close to Washington Street. The final location has not been determined. “Longer term, we are working with the same company to install DC Fast EV charging stations in the parking lot of the new town hall,” Leonard-Morgan adds.
The Town of Middleburg is on track to have its new town hall completed by the start of 2023. Leonard-Morgan notes that the committee has worked in conjunction with construction management firms to make the building as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. “Those companies already adopt best practices to help ensure that their projects are sensitive to the environment so much of what we suggested was already in their plans,” Leonard-Morgan says. He adds that the old town hall will be demolished but will have a “new pocket park built on that site for the benefit of the public.”
Eliminating food waste will be another topic of interest going forward. MSC will continue to research and explore a composting program which would involve the collection of food waste to redistribute to local community farms. Committee Member Lynne Kaye says food scrap composting is important because food scraps release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, when they decay in a landfill. “This isn’t a theoretical problem. According to the EPA, food scraps are the number one item that arrives at landfills.” She and another committee member, Pam Jones, have been exploring permanent solutions to allow town residents and businesses to compost their food waste and create cleaner agricultural practices.
With Loudoun County’s recent adoption of a tax on single-use plastic bags, MSC is also working with the town to provide residents with recycled reusable bags for their individual use, according to Woodie. “The idea is not to increase taxes on the population, but rather to foster a behavioral modification by promoting the use of reusable bags rather than the single-use plastic bags and skip the tax,” he says.
All the committee members share a dedication to sustainability, with a few of them working in environmental and sustainability-related professions. Recently, the committee lost long-time members Mary Woodruff and Kathy Fisher within the space of a few weeks. Of Woodruff’s contributions, Leonard-Morgan says, “[She] was regularly the first to volunteer to set up and assist in the running of our annual wellness day events, thoughtfully contributing ideas to improve the event for the following year. Mary was always ready to take part in our town cleanup and battery collection and recycling events, and she routinely offered the committee inspiration for new initiatives based on what she had read was being tackled in other parts of the country.” As for Kathy’s time on the committee, Woodie shares, “Kathy, a longtime resident, was committed to the environmental initiatives of the committee and single-handedly ran the social media accounts for the group. She championed town cleanup events, always providing great direction to focus the committee’s efforts.” In time, they plan to fill their open seats with the next generation of eco-focused leaders.
The committee meets at 6 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at the Middleburg Town Hall. ML
This article first appeared in the April 2022 Issue.