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Ordinances and Policies

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Local governments are uniquely positioned to influence the type, location and amount of green development through ordinances and policies. The nuances of developing ordinances and policies in smaller towns and cities can differ from the experience of larger communities. For instance, small communities may question the transferability of a large city’s green building ordinance to that of their own.

As examples of green ordinances and policies in small communities continue to grow, the confidence that these types of ordinances can work in small communities increases. Below are a couple of tips for tailoring model ordinances and policies to the needs of small communities, as well as resources and examples. The topics include biofuels, energy, green building, green government, landscaping, lighting, transportation, waste, and water.


Getting Started

Here are some tips to tailor model ordinances and policies to your community:

  • Analyze existing policies and ordinances, and determine how they may unintentionally inhibit green development.

  • Research model ordinances and policies that address a topic that is of concern to the local government and residents. Topics may include water use, land use, transportation, and clean energy siting and generation.

  • Consult with town/city counsel to determine if state law requires enabling legislation to adopt specific ordinances or policies.

  • Tailor these ordinances to fit your community.

  • Consider reviewing the proposed ordinance or policy with local stakeholders to ensure that it will achieve its purpose (i.e., avoid unintended consequences).


How ICLEI Can Help

ICLEI members have access to model ordinances on a variety of sustainability topics such as land use, transportation, and procurement.

Selected Resource:



  • Climate Protection Manual for Cities, by Natural Capitalism Solutions
    This manual provides general resources, city/county action plans, state action plans, and model ordinances (green building ordinances, Smart Growth policies, alternative fuels, environmental purchasing).


Biofuel Examples


Green Building Examples

  • Clean Air-Cool Planet Green Building Ordinances
    CA-CP lists local programs designed to incentivize green building in their community, also contains links to state-wide resources.
  • Township of Cranford, NJ: Green Building Ordinance
    Cranford’s Green Building Ordinance, adopted in November 2005, requires all township-funded facilities projects and township-owned facilities to meet LEED Silver certification. The Township also adopted LEED-EB for its existing facilities.
  • Town of Fairview, TX: Ordinance to create Green Building Program
    Fairview’s green building program ordinance allowed for the creation of a green building program and for the regulation of the indoor air quality, energy efficiency, water conservation and waste recycling of residential buildings.
  • Town of Carbondale, CO: Efficient Building Program
    Carbondale’s Efficient Building Program is to encourage cost-effective and sustainable building methods to create durable, energy efficient structures that conserve natural recourse, promote the efficient use of building materials, and improve indoor air quality… there are requirements for on-site renewable energy mitigation.


Energy Examples

  • City of Del Mar, CA: Solar Energy Ordinance
    Del Mar’s ordinance strives to decrease the City’s dependence on “non-renewable energy systems for sources through the encouragement of solar energy systems for heating or buildings and water.”
  • Town of Epping, NH: Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Design Ordinance (Article 22)
    The Epping Planning Board passed Article 22 in March 2007. The ordinance, which requires non-residential developments to meet green building criteria, is similar to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in terms of compliance process.  There is a point score system which is based off of the square footage of a building.  The larger the square footage, the more points the building will need.  Points are given based on a variety of energy efficiencies.  Some examples include HVAC efficiencies, building orientation, reduction in water usage, source of building materials, day lighting and production of onsite electricity.


Green Government Examples

  • Town of Fairview, TX: "Green Fairview"
    Fairview provides a number of ways that their government can become more “green,” goals and objectives focus on water conservation and quality, energy conservation, sustainable development, air quality, and solid waste management.
  • City of Eureka Springs, AR: "Greening of Eureka Springs"
    Learn what the Eureka is doing to “go green,” local policies implemented include increased recycling, eliminating the use for pesticides in City parks, and relying more on bio-diesel transit.
  • City of Marathon, FL: "Green Local Government"
    Marathon’s resolution to become a “Green Local Government” is accomplished through improved environmental performance, using criteria and standards developed by the Florida Green Building Council and encouraging the legislature and governor to support the green Local Government Program.


Landscaping Examples


Exterior Lighting Examples


Transportation Examples

  • City of Aspen, CO: "Transportation Options Program"
    Aspen’s Transportation Options Program offers carpool matching, an emergency ride home, transportation information boards, construction and traffic email alerts, monthly newsletters, incentives and PR, and national recognition.
  • City of Ferndale, MI: Hybrid-High Mileage Vehicle Parking
    Ferndale’s Hybrid-High Mileage Vehicle Parking Ordinance (Article VIII Section 18-90) encourages the use of hybrid-high mileage technology by granting free on-street parking on all city streets and free parking in municipal parking lots to hybrid vehicles and high mileage vehicles.


Waste Examples


Water Conservation Examples


Case Studies

  • Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Design, Epping, NH
    The Epping Planning Board passed Article 22 – Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Design, which requires non-residential developments to meet green building criteria, using a point system. This case study explains how through an extensive public education and outreach campaign the ordinance was implemented in the town.
  • A Sustainable Approach to Small Town Expansion, Fairview, TX
    This small town has seen substantial population growth in the last few years. Learn how Fairview, TX worked to preserve the rural character of the town, while still providing opportunities for growth, through its Ten Principles of Development Excellence.