Eye on the Environment: Learning from past prepares for a better future in Hilliard

Ayaz Hyder
Guest columnist

As we look forward in 2021, there is much to reflect upon and learn from the events of 2020.

In 2020, the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission continued to serve Hilliard residents in a number of ways while overcoming multiple challenges.

Ayaz Hyder is a member of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission.

The ESC, which reviews "green" policies and advises Hilliard City Council and other city officials on programs that help the city reach its sustainability goals, met monthly and remotely since the start of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Despite not being able to meet each other in person or plan our usual activities, our work went on.

In April, we had planned some really cool ways to publicly unveil plastic park benches made from recycled bottle caps. Unfortunately, those plans did not come to pass due to the pandemic. Yet we persisted in capping the yearlong effort that involved collecting more than 2,000 pounds of plastic bottle caps by bringing back 10 benches from Indiana and installing them throughout Hilliard.

Not being able to hold our annual Earth Day event in 2020 also was a huge disappointment for our team because we know how much it means to the children, families and residents who come out every year to learn about environmental sustainability. Again we persisted by shifting our efforts to writing and submitting grant applications to fund environmental sustainability activities in Hilliard.

These efforts paid off in the receipt of grants that made it possible for the city of Hilliard to launch the Community Composting Program at the end of 2020 and invest in an on-site Styrofoam densifier.

Related column:Eye on the Environment: ESC wants to process polystyrene foam close to home

Our commitment to long-term environmental sustainability in Hilliard only was strengthened by facing these setbacks in 2020. Over the summer of 2020, the ESC worked on Hilliard’s MORPC Sustainability2050 application with city staff members to identify and document all the amazing environmental sustainability programs, initiatives and policies that are happening in our city.

In fall 2020, as the pandemic continued, we were unable to hold our annual fall recycling collection event. We followed public-health guidance and limited collections to paper, Styrofoam and electronics in an outdoor setting. It was one our most successful fall recycling collection event.

Despite all the challenges we faced in 2020, interest in the work of the ESC continues to increase with the addition of two new members toward the end of 2020: Jason Wright and Brett Bergefurd.

We as an ESC learned much in 2020, but most of all we learned that – pandemic or no pandemic – the work of protecting the environment and building a sustainable future must go on.

In 2021, we plan to be even more resilient and continue to work for our community by advancing Styrofoam recycling efforts in Hilliard, expanding the Community Composting Program and linking Hilliard residents and students to community-service opportunities that promote environmental sustainability in our community and beyond.

We also plan to look at codes and regulations that protect the environment in a sustainable manner, particularly in the sensitive Big Darby region.

In 2021, the Hilliard ESC once again will rise to the challenges and face them as they come in the service of our community.

Ayaz Hyder is a member of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission.