The ECOS Plan, first adopted in 2013 and updated in 2018, culminated efforts of over 60 organizations, working together - and defined a collective vision of a healthy, inclusive and prosperous Chittenden County. As we work collectively toward achieving our goals, this Scorecard will serve as a tool to help track our progress and guide our actions. This work would not be possible without the help of our partners: the public and public representatives (federal, state, municipal and regional), and the business and non-profit sectors. The ECOS Scorecard compiles accomplishments and indicators depicting progress towards all 17 of the ECOS goals. Each of the goals are associated with a set of indicators that together give an overall picture of what is going well and what needs improvement. The indicators are drawn from the most reliable statistics, objectively based on substantial research, and intended to be understood by broad audiences. The notes that follow each indicator represent interesting trends seen in the data and the significance of the trend. Along with the partners that work together on actions that impact the trends in some way.
Information about the people living in Chittenden County helps us understand the nature of our community and how we are changing over time. Such information can help decision-makers anticipate potential pressures on the wider social, economic, and physical environments. Factors such as age, ethnicity, migration and household composition are often key determinants of conditions across a whole range of issues affecting quality of life. It is important to note that the US Census Bureau includes college students
A sustainable community preserves natural systems in order to maintain quality of soil, air and water and because they offer a richness that nurtures the human spirit. Healthy landscapes are necessary to sustain the complex myriad of plant and animal species that share our habitat. We are dependent on the surrounding landscapes for many resources such as food, water and fuel; for recreational opportunities and aesthetic values; and for vital natural processes such as water retention and recycling, air cleansing, carbon sequestration, and nutrient cycling. Preservation of our natural systems can help guide new growth into existing developed areas. In addition, a network of healthy natural systems and green infrastructure can make very important contributions to the overall prosperity of the region.
Chittenden County is rooted in its scenic, recreational, and historic resources. These provide residents a place to relax, play, gather, and learn about nature, conservation, and our heritage. They also provide important ecological functions including wildlife habitat, and water and air quality protection. Scenic resources represent an important element of the region’s landscape and contribute directly to sense of place, quality of life and economic vitality through tourism and by attracting new residents and businesses
There are two types of actions that can be taken to respond to climate change: mitigation or adaptation. Climate mitigation refers to actions that are taken to reduce the speed and amount of climate change. Mitigation measures involve reducing greenhouse gas emissions or increasing the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By reducing the net addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, mitigation measures will help to reduce climate change impacts in the long term. The greenhouse house gas and carbon sequestration indicators are the primary indicator for measuring climate mitigation.
Climate adaptation refers to actions that are taken at the regional or local level to reduce adverse impacts from climate change, or to take advantage of beneficial impacts. The ability to cope with, and recover from, the effects of climate change is also called resiliency. The indicators related to disasters, heat stress related ER visits, and infectious disease assist us in understanding how we are being impacted by changing climate. For more information see the Chittenden County Climate Action Guide.
Educational achievement is essential for effective participation in society and to maintain a region’s economic prosperity. Increasingly, urban societies are becoming knowledge-based and urban economies require innovative solutions to meet market demands. People’s ability to learn new skills during their working lives is important if they are to keep pace with rapidly changing work environments. Access to life-long learning opportunities is also related to people’s need for self-fulfillment and self-determination.
Health starts where we live, learn, work, and play. All Chittenden County residents should have the opportunity to make the choices that allow them to live a long, healthy life, regardless of their income, education, race, or ethnic background. Community design is a tool that can raise the bar for everyone.
Feeling safe and secure in our homes, communities and urban areas is key to overall health in the community. Safety and perceptions of safety feature highly in people’s view of their living environment, their sense of well-being and quality of life. As urban areas grow, the need for safe social and physical environments, where people are able to participate fully in their communities, becomes an increasing challenge
Civic engagement consists of political and nonpolitical activities that help identify and address community concerns. Being able to participate in, express views and influence decisions that affect one’s life, neighborhood and community are essential for a true democracy. Effective civil and political systems allow our communities to be governed in a way that promotes justice and fairness and supports people’s quality of life. Enabling democratic local decision making is one of the key purposes of local government and is also important in promoting the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of communities. Vermont and Chittenden County have a long held tradition of “local rule.” Sometimes this supports to maintain local traditions and pride; and sometimes it is an impediment to collaboration and integrating new ideas.
Social connectedness provides an indication of community strength and resiliency. The concept of community is fundamental to people’s overall quality of life and sense of belonging. Informal networks and how people connect with others are important for strong communities and social cohesion. Confident and connected communities suffer less social problems, are adaptable to challenges, and support social and economic development. There are major health, economic and environmental benefits in developing opportunities for and participation in social interactions, recreation and leisure, arts and cultural activities.
There is a direct relationship between a region’s economic prosperity and the ability of residents to thrive. By having sufficient income to purchase needed items and services residents are able to lead a healthy lifestyle and contribute positively to their community in a variety of ways. In general, financial stability leads to greater social connectedness, educational advancement, increased life expectancy, and happiness. Furthermore, if the businesses are able to thrive in our community then they are better able to provide philanthropic and volunteer support that protects the investments everyone is making.
Levels of income are key determinants of individual or family well-being. Economic standard of living involves a complex combination of factors such as income, living costs, and household size and composition.
Working lands and resource extraction industries are critical components of a self reliant and diverse economy, making a region less vulnerable to market crises. Local food and fuel production is preferred since the transportation to import these products consumes tremendous amounts of energy and generates pollution. In addition, when food is imported from far-away places, nutrient value is reduced during the transport time.
Working lands and resource extraction industries are economically viable within the constraints of our natural landscape. Sustainably managed farmland and forest land means less developed land, fewer impervious surfaces, and thus a greater presence of the natural ecosystem’s features and functions. Conversely, high quality food and productive forests are dependent upon clean water and clean, nutrient-rich soils. It is imperative that we maintain high quality water and soils for healthy and viable food and forest product industries.
The Center, Metro, Suburban, Village, and Enterprise Planning Areas (all but Rural) are considered "areas planned for growth" displayed on the Future Land Use Map below. Increasing investment in denser, mixed use growth areas will improve economic opportunities, housing options, transportation options and improve community health. Focusing growth in the appropriate planning areas is also a cost effective approach to increasing the supply of affordable housing, reducing energy consumption and using existing infrastructure efficiently.
Adequate and affordable housing is central to a sustainable community. A healthy community is made up of households with a variety of incomes. Affordable housing is needed to satisfy residents’ wide ranging needs. Lack of affordable housing contributes to many social stresses, including homelessness.
Making physical connections – between people, and their social and economic activities are critical to sustaining a healthy society, maintaining economic vibrancy and building social cohesiveness. Providing a variety of transport options is essential to continuing and improving these connections.
The built environment comprises the physical buildings of the County combined with supporting infrastructure necessary for travel, waste, water, and energy for living, working, and playing. Strategic investments to Chittenden County’s built environment and development centers are necessary for promoting a high quality of life that is hinged on economic development, affordability, and environmental stewardship. Infrastructure updates are needed to support livability in these centers. Sewer capacity and water supply investments are necessary to accommodate new residents and employers
All Chittenden County residents depend on energy to carry out their work and conduct their lives. As a northern New England county with cold winters, warm summers, and a rural and semi-rural landscape in many locations, residents need space heat in the winter, cooling in the summer, and electricity and transportation fuels year round. As such, a significant proportion of the income of many Vermont households goes to paying energy bills, and energy is a significant expense for businesses, industries, and government as well.
Chittenden County has a long history of electrical and natural gas energy efficiency programs, dating back to 1990, which have provided significant energy savings and economic benefits to the state and County. These programs along with improvements in federal standards have led to a reduction in per household and per employee energy consumption of electricity and natural gas. Reduction in energy consumption directly results in a reduction in energy bills.
Additionally, Chittenden County has many non-fossil fuel based, renewable energy production sites owned by utilities, private parties, and municipalities. Reliable, cost effective, and environmentally sustainable energy availability is critical to support the economy and natural resources of Chittenden County.