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Investing in a Sustainable Environmental Future for Northern Virginia



Back in 2017, an Environment Fund was launched by the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia (CFNOVA). The mission of the fund was to “protect, restore and improve the natural environment of Northern Virginia, thereby enhancing the health and quality of life of its citizens and the economy of the region.”

The goals of the fund include supporting public awareness, collaboration and public engagement to protect and improve the natural environment.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG)

In 2019, the CFNOVA then went on to award a grant to the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) in support of their long-standing and exceptional, collaborative work in Northern Virginia. 

The Environment Fund grant matches a Prince Charitable Trust’s seed grant and includes some vital funding from an anonymous donor and friend to CFNOVA.

These grants have enabled CSG to take on a Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager, whose primary focus is on Fairfax, but who also is available to assist and support community advocates in neighboring jurisdictions. 

The Role of the Coalition for Smarter Growth

CSG takes a highly collaborative approach to its endeavors, highlighted by a launch event that included a multitude of CSG partners, including those from the sustainable transportation, conservation, social services and affordable housing sectors.

Following the award event and subsequent discussions, Stewart Schwartz, CSG’s Executive Director, led guests on a walking tour across the Beacon Hill area surrounding Richmond Highway, illustrating the interconnection of transportation, land use and housing, alongside social equity and environmental sustainability. 

The grant has had a significantly positive impact on the plight of CSG, more than doubling their capacity for building coalitions and helping to achieve more sustainability within the Northern Virginia suburbs.

More Sustainability Within the Northern Virginia Suburbs

These suburbs are facing growing equity and environmental changes, and local donors who pledge their support through the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia are essential to the goal of improving and protecting the beautiful natural environment of the area.

Darren Robertson of Northern Virginia Home Pro says, “The suburbs of Northern Virginia have indeed experienced considerable growth and environmental changes in recent years, and protecting the natural environment is pivotal to supporting the continued progress and desirability of the area. Sustainability is no longer a trend or a buzz word within real estate – it’s the only way forward.”

Embark Richmond Highway

Throughout the Washington D.C. region, CSG is the leading sustainability organization dedicated to the pursuit of smarter growth. 

Founded by the area’s leading environmental expert groups, CSG brings together cross-sector coalitions, including their Richmond Highway Coalition (with 14 members), comprising transit, water quality, smart growth, bicycle/pedestrian, social services and affordable housing organizations.

United, these groups won passage for Embark Richmond Highway, a plan that combines expanded stream buffers, restoration, modern stormwater management, transit-oriented redevelopment of parking lots and commercial centers, and green streets. The release of the Fairfax Healthy Communities Platform was also recently released by CSG, shared with the public and candidates for office – highlighting smart growth, important conservation, social equity and affordable housing priorities for the county.

Expanding Parks, Reducing Greenhouse Gasses, Bike Investments

The Northern Virginia Advocacy Management role at CSG is tasked with expanding upon public engagement, education and coalitions, as well as shaping the vital policies that will ensure that Fairfax and Northern Virginia continue to grow more equitably and sustainably. 

Specific goals assigned to this all-important role include securing funding and policies for:

  • Expanded parks and stream buffers, improved stormwater management and forest protection
  • Mixed-income, mixed-use, transit-oriented (walkable) development (TOD) at commercial corridors and Metro stations
  • Reduced greenhouse gasses, vehicle miles traveled, particulate pollution and ozone
  • Transit, pedestrian/street/bike investments that are prioritized over highway upgrades
  • More affordable housing options close to transit and jobs

As well as the focus on expanding cross-sector coalitions, CSG seeks to advance sustainability policies, hosts educational forums and walking tours, and helps to expand and support the grassroots movement for social equity and environmental sustainability.

Transformation of Fairfax

Fairfax County is the largest jurisdiction in the Washington and Virginia region, and a remarkable transformation is unfolding, as encouraged by the CSG. “The best way to handle future growth, manage traffic, and preserve remaining open space in Fairfax County is to focus new transit-oriented development in its aging commercial corridors and adding new transit links.”

Fairfax is in full support of its revitalization efforts, conducting evaluations upon an expanded network of transit, as well as the development of a master bicycle plan.

From the Vienna Metro station redevelopment approval, the town centers at Dunn Loring and Merrifield, and the plan for Tysons Corner, to bold revitalization plans for the area’s other aging corridors, Fairfax is taking action. It has the potential to set a pivotal example for other jurisdictions across Virginia, the region, and even the nation.

Northern Virginia’s Future Sustainability 

It’s a critical time for the environment of Northern Virginia and focusing on smarter growth to reduce water and air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and habitat losses is more vital than ever before. For any significant reversal of damage, the time left is short for the region’s communities to come together and act.

Thankfully, the CFNOVA and the tireless efforts and generous donations made by its members and friends is helping to strengthen and support CSG and the groups that are dedicated to work on the front lines of our environmental and sustainability efforts.

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