Two years ago, btw brought you some facts about the history of Earth Day. This year, we recognize the holiday with a look at the efforts of some cities across the country toward becoming more environmentally conscious while keeping costs (to both businesses and taxpayers) reasonable.
San Francisco, California
As a large coastal city, San Francisco is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In response, the city recently passed an ordinance (law) requiring all new buildings ten stories or shorter to be constructed with rooftop solar electrical or heating systems. The local ordinance builds on an existing California state law that requires all new buildings to be “solar ready.” Response has been mixed. Those in favor call the action a significant step toward using 100 percent renewable energy sources by the year 2020. Those opposed say that the requirement is another complication in an already complicated construction process. The new law will go into effect January 2017.
As a desert city, conserving and recycling water is of great importance in Chandler. To help residents, the city offers programs and workshops on topics such as irrigation. The city’s Green Team works to find ways to continually improve energy efficiency by implementing solar energy and encouraging local businesses to operate with sustainability and conservation in mind. For older commercial buildings, there is the Infill Incentive Program that invests in appropriate renovations.
Rochester, New York
This upstate New York city that typically spends a few months of the year blanketed in several feet of snow, is committed to becoming a “city in a forest.” To accomplish this, it plants and maintains nearly 70,000 trees and converts abandoned urban spaces into community gardens and parks. The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Institute for Sustainability has proved a great partner for the city. It works with community organizations through a sustainability outreach project called the Clean Energy Incubator.
Vernon County, Wisconsin
This area has the most organic farms than any other country in the United States. A town named La Farge is located there, and boasts the largest organic farming co-op in the country. Funded by a combination of federal, state and private dollars, Organic Valley is made up of a 45,000 square foot barn that was designed for optimum growing conditions. In addition to the food it provides, the farm offsets 66 percent of the electricity it consumes and diverts up to 92 percent of its total waste from landfills.
In 2009, the City of Brotherly Love launched a citywide initiative called Greenworks. The plan identified 15 measurable targets, including lowering government energy consumption, diverting 70 percent of solid waste from landfills, and providing walkable access to affordable, healthy foods. At the end of six years, the city announced that it met or exceeded five of the goals and are continually working toward the others. One of the biggest successes of the initiative was the reduction of vehicle miles traveled by ten percent. This was done by creating more bike access and encouraging more transit ridership aboard hybrid buses.