Standing outside the ballroom at the Owyhee Plaza earlier today, a group of four women dressed in business casual talked animatedly about the ideal time of day to run a clothes washing machine. Nearby, another explained to her companion the demerits of installing water heaters in every unit of an apartment building.
The topic of the 194th Idaho Environmental Forum event they were attending was the question of whether urbanization and the environment can go hand-in-hand. It was a topic that was already on everyone's tongues.
Andy Grinnell, member of the Idaho Environmental Forum's steering committee, moderated the discussion between panelists Lauren McLean of the Boise City Council and Anthony Lyons of the Capital City Development Corporation.
"We're thinking about what Boise wants to be when we grow up," Lyons said.
The speakers grounded their discussion in Boise's developing urban area, including the 30th Street area, which the city has targeted for urban renewal efforts, and how city agencies like the CCDC and the City Council work together.
Urban growth and environmental friendliness runs counterwise to the reduce-reuse-recycle adage, and growth and expansion are at the core of the city's plan to keep itself green.
"We actually want a lot of great development to happen," Lyons said.
"There's a lot more that we could be doing," McLean said. "We really need to do more building."
McLean and Lyons also fielded questions from the audience, explaining Boise's plans regarding topics as diverse as storm water runoff and parking lots, but explained that ultimately, Boise will be shaped by public involvement and civic diligence toward the environment and aesthetics.
"Cities really should lay out what's really important to them, and that's the public realm," Lyons said.
"We don't have to risk becoming a Portland or Seattle," McLean said. "We can be so much more."