A group of Bexley residents and business owners has identified a set of priorities in which to encourage the adoption of environmentally friendly practices among individuals and organizations.

During a July 17 meeting at Bexley City Hall, members of Bexley's Environmental Sustainability Advisory Council brainstormed with Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler and Councilman Troy Markham on "green" initiatives. The advisory council comprises local residents and business owners who have committed to helping the city implement its zero-waste plan.

The plan, which the city adopted last fall, aims to reduce waste generated citywide by residents, organizations and the city government, both by reducing consumption and increasing recycling. The plan is to be implemented in three phases: from 2018-24, 2025-30 and 2031-40.

The advisory council has identified priorities for the first phase, one of which is to research the feasibility of implementing a citywide ban on stores issuing plastic bags to customers. ESAC members discussed several options, such as requiring businesses to charge customers for plastic bags, rather than an outright ban.

"You need to come up with a financial disincentive," Kessler said. "If there's not a financial incentive, people won't do it."

Other priorities the advisory council established include:

* Expanding the city's recycling program to businesses, apartment complexes and other multifamily dwellings.

* Promoting the city's Property Assessed Clean Energy program that offers financing for the installation of solar panels.

* Establishing a committee to promote recycling and environmental practices at schools with representatives from the Bexley City Schools, Columbus School for Girls, St. Charles Preparatory School and Capital University.

* Expanding the city's food-waste recycling program so it is citywide.

* Establishing an online directory of resources that residents can consult for recycling various items.

* Establishing a semiannual environmental fair in which participants can learn about resources that promote recycling and other "green" initiatives.

* Creating a "seal of approval" for local businesses, indicating the city has certified that a business has adopted waste-management practices outlined in the zero-waste plan.

Markham, the chairman of council's service and environment committee, said a phased approach to implementing the priorities will promote buy-in from residents, businesses and institutions.

"I liked the phased-in approach," he said. "That's how you eventually learn."

The advisory council also set a regular schedule for meetings, which will be held at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St. The group's next meeting will be Aug. 21.

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