Sustainability Guide

Light bulb with a green plant inside it, sprouting out of soil

To be sustainable is to meet the environmental, economic, and social needs of today without preventing future generations from meeting their needs. In Johnson County, we all play a vital role in making that possible.

The question asked is, “Can we continue to live as we do without depleting the resources needed for the future?” If the answer is no, what do we need to change to get closer to a yes? We know these resources aren’t unlimited and that they’ll be increasingly relied upon in the future to serve our growing community.

In this guide to sustainability, find out what steps Johnson County Government is taking to be more sustainable, programs available to support sustainability in the community, and tips for you to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

According to the results of the 2022 community survey, Johnson County residents support our sustainability efforts:

  • 84% of surveyed residents believe environmental stewardship and sustainability are very or somewhat important over the next 20 years.
  • Surveyed residents ranked improving environmental sustainability in the top five of Johnson County’s most critical roles over the next 20 years.

Johnson County’s Commitment to Sustainability

Across Johnson County Government, departments are taking the initiative to make our operations more efficient, effective, and sustainable. In fact, one of Johnson County Government’s core principles is to leave the county better than we found it for generations to come. Learn about some of our efforts – from energy conservation to waste reduction – to improve sustainability in Johnson County.


A woman with long brown hair stands in a forest

Sustainability Program and Committee

Johnson County has made several efforts within its internal organization to improve sustainability. We established a countywide Sustainability Committee comprised of leaders from departments throughout the county, to focus on four main areas:

  • Energy & Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Natural Systems, Ecology, and Water
  • Quality of Life & Transportation
  • Solid Waste Management

We also have a Sustainability Program Manager, who convenes the committee and leads sustainability efforts throughout the county. They help departments with practices such as reducing waste, saving energy, and cutting down on costs.


Backside of the Sunset Office Building

LEED Gold Certification

Johnson County achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Cities and Communities rating system. We are only the 25th local government in the world to achieve this certification for the entire community. See how Johnson County achieved LEED Gold in this case study.

As a LEED-certified community, we are committed to greenhouse gas emission targets, climate action goals, improvements to air and water quality, and more. Several county buildings have received LEED certifications for energy savings and other sustainable efforts, with four buildings receiving gold certification and and four receiving platinum certification.


A charging plug attached to an electric vehicle

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Alternative fuel sources like electric and compressed natural gas can help us cut down on fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson County Government has numerous vehicles in its fleet that utilize alternative fuels.

We currently manage 447 light, medium, and heavy-duty passenger vehicles. Of those vehicles, 103 units, or 23% of our fleet, operate on electricity, compressed natural gas, gas/electric hybrid, or flex fuel.

Johnson County hosts thirty-four Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at various county buildings and parks.


Aerial view of wastewater treatment facility

Wastewater

Johnson County Wastewater handles the treatment of wastewater throughout the county at several facilities and continuously takes steps to improve operational efficiency and discharge clean water back into our ecosystem.

The new Tomahawk Wastewater Treatment Facility is designed to utilize electric vehicles for operations, including its first electric yard truck. In addition, the Middle Basin Treatment Plant generates 40% of its own electricity needs by capturing methane gas which fuels a cogeneration plant – a net savings of $150,000-250,000.

Wastewater also received national awards for outstanding compliance with national pollutant standards from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.


recycling survey

Health and Environment

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has a variety of programs to support the health, wellness, and sustainability of the community – specifically in the areas of recycling and waste, food production, and the environment. This includes:

  • The Johnson County Solid Waste Management Plan determines how to manage the county’s solid waste for the next 25 years.
  • The Recycle Right education campaign teaches residents to decrease recycling contamination and increase recycling rates.
  • The Johnson County Green Business Program provides free educational outreach and technical assistance on a variety of environmental management practices to businesses throughout Johnson County.
  • The Household Hazardous Waste program blends paint dropped off by the public and make it affordably available for resale.
  • The Johnson County Food Policy Council strengthens local food production, improves access to healthy food, and reduces food waste.

Worker on a roof installing solar panels

Regional Climate Action Plan

Johnson County’s Sustainability Manager co-chaired the Kansas City Climate Action Plan committee, resulting in a first-of-its-kind 10-county climate planning effort to transform the metropolitan area into a more resilient, equitable, and healthy community.

Within the Action Plan, an ambitious set of interrelated strategies will help to mitigate climate change by achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Board of County Commissioners endorsed the Climate Action Plan by Resolution 061-21 on September 2, 2021.


Health Services Building

Renewables Direct

Through the Renewables Direct program, Johnson County Government is now offsetting a percentage of their energy usage through a renewable resource. This program is a key part of the county's dedication to sustainability. Learn more about the Renewables Direct program.

Sustainability Tips for Residents

Sustainability is the responsibility of all of us, and we encourage you to do your part, too. Whether it’s reducing the energy consumption in your home or cutting down on food waste from family dinner, these tips can help protect our resources – and in many cases, help you save money too. Learn ways you can live a sustainable, healthy, and eco-friendly life as a Johnson County resident.

  • Reduce food waste. Roughly one-third of the world’s food is never eaten. By reducing loss and waste, we can reduce the need for land and resources used to produce food as well as the greenhouse gases released in the process.
  • Be a smart consumer. Think twice before shopping. Only purchase what you need and buy used when you can. Garage sales and secondhand stores are great options to buy used, and can cut down on items in landfills.
  • Recycle. Producing new products from recovered materials requires fewer raw resources and less energy.

  • Be water wise. We enjoy living in a “water-rich” region, but clean water is a critical resource for our entire ecosystem for which there is no substitute.
  • Install a rain barrel. The Johnson County Stormwater Program provides grants to cities throughout the county for stormwater cost-sharing efforts, reimbursing residents for rain barrels, which combat rainwater runoff.
  • Plant native plants and reduce turf grass. Native plants absorb stormwater, thus reducing runoff into lakes and streams. Turf grass requires a lot of water to maintain, so the less grass, the more water we can conserve.

  • Insulate your home. Insulation impedes unwanted airflow in or out of buildings. It reduces emissions by making heating and cooling more energy efficient.
  • Support renewable energy. Whether grid-connected or part of stand-alone systems, rooftop solar panels and other distributed solar photovoltaic systems offer hyper-local, clean electricity generation.
  • Install a heat pump when replacing your furnace or air conditioner. Heat pumps extract heat from the air and transfer it—from indoors out for cooling, or from outdoors in for heating. With high efficiency, they can dramatically lower building energy use.

  • Consider more eco-friendly transit. Drive less, organize carpools, and walk or bike more.
  • Consider public transit. Streetcars and buses offer alternative, efficient modes of transport. Public transit can keep car use to a minimum and avert greenhouse gases.
  • Consider an electric vehicle. Electric cars supplant those powered by gasoline or diesel. They always reduce emissions—dramatically so when powered by renewable electricity.

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