Cities across the United States are taking unique and innovative approaches to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions proving that there is not one clear-cut way to reduce your carbon footprint.

The one thing all four of these cities have in common is a commitment to the environment and a healthy future. Check out what they’re doing to make a difference.

1. Arvada, Colorado

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Arvada is making a splash on the solar energy scene with the installation of 3,300 solar panels on the city’s water treatment facility. The panels will provide 88 percent of the water treatment plant’s energy, which has historically been fueled by coal. This conversion to solar energy was made possible through a partnership with SunEdison and will make the Arvada Colorado’s first city to run a system of this size on solar energy.

SunEdison’s solar system will save between $10,000 and $15,000 the first year alone and will eliminate 39.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions during 20 years.

In May 2013, Arvada was recognized as a Solar Friendly Community because of the ease and availabilty of solar installation. To this end, because of Arvada’s membership in COSEIA (Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association), residents can receive a $500 cash discount for use in solar installation.

Arvada is making a name for itself with solar energy and it has committed to reducing landfill waste by offering recycling for normal household waste, as well as Christmas trees and leaves. And to ensure that Arvada residents catch the sustainability bug, the city kicked off its first annual Sustain Arvada Festival in 2013. The festival provides a way for residents to learn sustainability practices through informative demonstrations, games and activities, all while enjoying great food, music and entertainment free of charge.

2. Babylon, New York

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Babylon is positioning itself to be a leader in clean energy solutions and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. In October 2008, the Long Island Green Homes program was started in Babylon which allows residents to retrofit homes with little or no out-of-pocket expense.

Through the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, loans up to $12,000 for energy efficiency projects ranging from new insulation to new furnaces. The loans are structured to ensure that residents never pay back more than they are saving on utility bills through a process that relies on energy audits before and after the retrofitting occur. The program is estimated to save the average Babylon home about $948 annually and reduce almost 10 pounds of carbon emissions daily.

Through participation in the Long Island Green Homes program, the average Babylon home is estimated to reduce five to ten pounds of carbon emissions per day and lower their energy use by 20-40 percent, experiencing an average homeowner savings of about $984 per year. In addition to savings for homeowners, the long-term goals of the program are to create 6,600 new green jobs and decrease carbon emissions by 65,000 to 130,000 tons annually by 2020.

3. Fort Collins, Colorado

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While there is no key indicator as to why Fort Collins is so determined to become carbon neutral by 2020, having a well-educated and progressive citizenry and being home to Colorado State University could have something to do with it. More than 100 professors and researchers from the university are striving to make Fort Collins a green energy leader and their plan is already beginning to come to fruition.

Fort Collins purchases its power from Platte River Power Authority which procures its energy from high-carbon emission coal-fired power. While PRPA uses modern technologies to reduce emissions, Fort Collins knew its first step towards a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was to reduce the amount of energy the city used. The city identified new objectives that focused on energy efficiency programs and Fort Collins saved 83,000 megawatt hours of electricity – or enough to power 10,000 homes for a year – between 2002 and 2011. To help residents monitor their energy consumption, Fort Collins provides “smart meters” which allows them to know how much energy they are using so they can curtail wasteful usage. This super-efficient city also has some of the lowest utility rates in the state.

In addition to reducing the amount of energy residents and businesses consume in Fort Collins, the city has created a ClimateWise program that offers businesses free services aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Through the ClimateWise program businesses can receive technical assessments, recognition, education, and networking opportunities. The program seems to be working and in 2012, businesses involved in ClimateWise have saved $14 million dollars by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 163,000 metric tons.

4. Long Beach, California

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If someone said Long Beach’s clean energy initiative has gone to the dogs, city officials would take that as a compliment. Long Beach has one park – a dog park – that is officially 100 percent off the grid. This park is evidence of the city’s commitment to securing renewable clean energy. The dog park has six solar panels that fuel 24 high efficiency LED (light emitting diode) bulbs and can burn 6 hours past dusk. The city isn’t stopping its solar energy initiatives at the dog park; it plans to have 10 megawatts of solar power capacity by 2020.

In addition to harvesting solar energy for lights, the city debuted solar power trash compactors in July. The trash compactors are replacing the normal city trash cans and are capable of compacting 150 gallons of waste into a 32 gallon space with the help of solar power. This will equate to big savings for the city because the city won’t have to empty trash receptacles as frequently as with the standard trash cans and the waste won’t take up as much landfill space.

What are these cities doing that you’d like to see implemented where you live?

Written by Elaine Thompson

Elaine is a freelance writer for multiple publications and specializes in the environmental and tech realm. When she's not busy writing or falling down internet rabbit holes, Elaine spends time planning her next globe-trotting adventure. Learn more

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