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    How Mayor Dianne Herrin is Saving West Chester’s Environment

    Dianne Herrin has ambitious goals as Mayor of West Chester.

    Last September, West Chester became the 2nd town in PA to commit to a 100% clean energy goal by 2035. Now, Herrin is in office to implement these goals among others. Her personal passion for the environment helped fuel her bid for office.

    Like many environmentalists, Mayor Herrin finds healing in nature by kayaking, hiking and nature photography. She frequently visits West Chester’s Stroud Preserve and Maryland’s Sassafras River. During our call, she had recently returned from Glacier National Park.

    Photo: Dianne Herrin

    “Nature is my spiritual place,  and when I see it being destroyed all around me, I feel I don’t have a choice but to try to save it.”

    Mayor Dianne Herrin

    Herrin’s evolution of green action for west Chester

    West Chester PA

    Photo: West Chester. Courtesy of Dianne Herrin

    Herrin’s rally for a sustainable future began at home. After becoming a mother to two children, Herrin wanted to show them to fight for what’s important, and her passion for the environment has been a driving force.

    She started a Moms for the Future group to implement sustainability initiatives in public schools, including an effort to convert school buses in 5 Chester County districts to a B20 biodiesel blend. She then proposed BLUER, the Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reduction, to borough council government to do a community-wide greenhouse gas inventory, set a reduction goal and write a climate action plan. BLUER successfully achieved their goal, which was a 10 percent greenhouse gas reduction over 2005 baseline year level.

    In November 2015, Herrin spearheaded an Environmental Rights Amendments on the West Chester ballot to change their home rule charter to reclaim their right to clean air and pure water and a sustainable energy future. The amendment passed with 73% of the vote and laid the groundwork for political initiatives. Many of these West Chester residents are opposed and protested against the Mariner East 2 Pipeline by Sunoco, due to safety issues including drilling fluid spills, sinkholes, and water contamination. (Ironically, the pipeline is set to carry natural gas liquids from Marcellus Shale deposit to Marcus Hook in Delaware County largely to be shipped overseas to create plastics.)

    Most recently, West Chester appointed a sustainability coordinator in local government and a Sustainability Advisory Committee, to oversee the green energy resolution and action plan. Also on the radar is to implement a straw-free initiative and a plastic bag ban.

    Herrin was sworn into office as mayor in January 2018 and balances that role with being Vice President of Practical Energy Solutions, a local energy consulting group. She alternates her schedule so she has office hours twice a week as Mayor, and is in the Practical Energy office three days.

    Herrin’s goal to 100% clean energy is next on her list of long accomplishments. But her goals aren’t solely on sustainability, they’re to unite the West Chester community overall. As she explains,

    “I think the sustainability initiatives are part of (uniting) too, because when we all come together behind a common goal that is good for the world, it’s good for our community and it’s good for our local economy. We realized that we have more in common than we don’t and we can make a lot of progress together.” – Mayor Dianne Herrin

    The sustainability initiatives can unite parties beyond West Chester, too. A group of citizens began the Chester County Clean Energy Leaders, a coalition of citizens, elected officials, and municipal officials in West Chester, Kennett Square, Downingtown and more to work together on larger goals.

    midterms are November 6th! Herrin on Voting

    Don’t tell Herrin that you’re planning on staying home on November 6th. After calling knocking on doors for her campaign one of the most “transformative experiences” she’s had in her life, she understands how important being an active citizen is.

    “A common theme among non-voters was that they’ve given up on our politicians in our political system. They say,’ I’m just gonna go ahead and live my life.’ And my reaction to that is that a lot of what happens in government, whether it’s the federal level, the state level or the community level, directly affects our lives and we cannot separate those two things. And we absolutely need to participate. We need to be active citizens and we have to vote.” – Mayor Dianne Herrin

    Another way to get involved in decision making is by getting involved at the local level. As Herrin says, “there is an awful lot that goes on at the local municipal meetings and at the city meetings that directly impact our lives and that’s just really, really important.”

    Regardless of how you make changes, you have to start somewhere. And as Herrin shows, the small steps add up to larger actions and results.

    Photos courtesy of Dianne Herrin

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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