How Smaller Cities are Taking the Lead in Sustainability Innovation
The cat has long been out of the bag: If we’re serious about not driving the planet (with ourselves on it) off the climate cliff, we better do something about our cities. With 70% of the world’s population projected to be living, consuming and emitting in urban areas by 2050, it has dawned on pretty much anyone who is not a resident of Denial Delta that the road to a sustainable future must go through the world’s cities and human settlements. It’s a pretty simple equation — each structural improvement that positively affects the collective ecological footprint of a densely populated area yields a disproportionately large return on investment, from energy savings to air quality to carbon reductions.
- Babylon, NY leveraged its solid waste fund for residential energy efficiency retrofits, by expanding the definition of solid waste to include carbon emissions.
- Bellingham, WA launched a successful local business energy efficiency program to help businesses complete improvements from lighting retrofits to solar.
- Boulder, CO published a trio of ordinances for building safety and energy efficiency and implemented a multi-jurisdictional Energy Smart program to help builders meet the higher bar set by the ordinances.
- Eugene, OR set a goal of housing 90 percent of its residents in compact communities, in which all amenities would be accessible within a 20-minute auto-free trip.
- Fort Collins, CO has set out to create the first net-zero district in the country based on a robust partnership of public and private entities, leveraging business community leadership and making the most of a significant federal investment in smart grid technology.
- Jackson, WY created a formal governance partnership between the town, the county and the local utility to drive and oversee projects related to energy efficiency and clean energy.
- Knoxville, TN has laid critical groundwork for clean energy economic development through a federal grant to build 2 megawatts of solar electricity capacity, an educational program about solar installations for contractors and permitting officials, and investment in 10 electric vehicle charging stations powered by solar energy.
- Oberlin, OH set a goal of going beyond carbon neutral by generating 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources and offsetting additional greenhouse gas emissions in the surrounding areas.