Sustainable DC Plan (Washington D.C.)

The Sustainable DC Plan, also 'Sustainability DC', is the District’s first sustainability plan, and has the goal of making the District the healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the nation over the next 20 years. In January 2013, Mayor Gray signed the Sustainable DC Act into law, which is designed to help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, including clean energy financing and supporting renewable energy incentive programs. The legislation will also address water pollution in rivers, protect children from toxic exposure, and aid in energy assistance for low-income and elderly residents, among other initiatives.

'Sustainability DC' is a robust plan with a comprehensive approach to creating sustainability across sectors. Through strategies and solutions in the built environment, energy, food, nature, transportation, waste, and water sectors, the plan addresses current and future challenges to create jobs and grow the local economy; improve public health through clean air and water and access to healthy food and lifestyles; provide equal access to services and assistance for those who need it most; and protect the local environment and global climate. 


Equity was consistently identified as a priority during community outreach for this plan. The plan notes, “One of the city’s greatest assets is the incredible diversity of its people, but providing equitable access to services and resources among racial, economic, and social groups is an ongoing challenge” (p. 34). Two key goals for increasing equity include:

  • Ensure that all school-age children in the District are educated in sustainability and prepared for a changing green economy.

  • Ensure transparency in the District’s  sustainability agenda including future plans and past progress.

The plan seeks to embrace the city’s entire population in every goal, target, and action to bring the benefits of sustainable practices to all city residents, particularly the most vulnerable. For each of the seven solution categories, there is a section describing the anticipated benefits for equity and diversity. For example, energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy projects could help improve air quality and stabilize energy prices, which would especially benefit low-income families paying a large portion of their income on energy bills.


In 2015, the Georgetown Climate Center published a case study exploring how District agencies integrated considerations of climate change during the development of the Sustainable DC plan. Read the case study here.

The Sustainable DC Plan gave rise to Climate Ready DC in 2016, which focuses explicitly on climate change adaptation. See that plan here.


The plan asserts the goal of reducing local greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in 2032, and presents specific energy efficiency initiatives, but also integrates progressive community engagement, with strategies such as 'creating online tools that allow people to view and share greenhouse gas emissions data and make more informed choices.'  The plan's climate adaptation planning goals are to: 

  • Evaluate the vulnerability of the District's energy infrastructure to the anticipated impacts of climate change.
  • Prepare District emergency services to respond to severe climate-related events such as extreme heat, storms, and flooding.
  • Require adaptation solutions as part of planning consent for new developments.
  • Ensure transportation infrastructure can withstand the upper ranges of projected climate change impacts.

Many other aspects of sustainability throughout the plan involve significant adaptive goals such as the 'Built Environment' goal of improving the sustainability performance of existing buildings with a target of retrofitting 100% of existing commercial and multi-family buildings to achieve net-zero energy standards. An additional related goal is to ensure the highest standards of green building design for new construction, and to meet net-zero energy use standards with all new construction projects by 2032.

The District will work with several implementation committees to develop financing tools, outreach strategies, educational materials, and legislative and policy changes for specific measures to move the District towards this sustainable future.

The District released a newer version of this plan -- Sustainable DC 2.0 -- in 2019.  



Publication Date: January 2013

Related Organizations:

  • District of Columbia Office of Planning
  • District of Columbia
  • District Department of Energy and the Environment (DDOE) - Washington DC

Related Resources:


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Resource Types:

  • Plans (other)

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