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International Best Practices and Innovation -- Strategically Harvesting Environmental Lessons from Abroad

by Dale Medearis | Brian Swett | G. Mark Gibb

As state, regional, and local governments in the U.S. respond to demanding and complex environmental challenges such as urban sprawl, non-point source pollution, brownfields, and degraded water infrastructure, environmental policies and best practices from overseas are serving as important models. The reasons are clear -- countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Australia have addressed similar environmental challenges by developing and implementing creative and often highly successful solutions. The policies of other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)-member countries have helped promote low-impact development to manage stormwater, constructed wetlands to treat wastewater, "green" buildings and renewable energy to address climate change and air pollution, and industrial ecology to support pollution prevention and brownfields revitalization.
In these countries, creative state, regional, and local governments have led the way in the development of these innovative polices and projects, which are environmentally sound and economically practical. As they plan new initiatives, projects, and policies, and seek new and different approaches to existing challenges, environmental officials and policy makers in states such as California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, are looking across the Atlantic -- and often beyond -- to observe and integrate these international lessons learned. International state-to-state, region-to-region, and city-to-city environmental partnerships are growing. Through these mechanisms for transferring lessons learned, U.S. states, regions, and cities are developing new, concrete ideas that produce projects and policies with environmental and economic benefits.

* The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Environmental Protection Agency or the Northern Virginia Regional Commission. .