Cities across the U.S. are making reducing their carbon footprints the mainstay of how they operate. These cities are finding that the costs associated with implementing green policies are well worth it both because there is a great return on their investment as well as an improved way of life for residents.
Here are four cities working to make sure their impact on the environment is a positive one.
1. Denton, Texas
Denton is so committed to protecting the environment that its police department has a full-time environmental crimes officer as well as an in-house urban forester on staff. But the green police aren’t the only effort the city is exerting toward being responsible stewards of the environment; it is also a national leader in wind energy.
Denton, which is home to the University of North Texas and Texas Women’s University, currently procures 40 percent of the city’s annual energy needs from wind generated energy. Denton Municipal Electric passes this renewable energy along to its customers without increasing rates. For Denton residents who are striving to reduce their carbon footprint, the city has established the GreenSense Program, which is an exclusively renewable energy program.
Not only does Denton utilize wind energy for power needs, but it also harvests gas from solid waste from landfills for energy. The city produces 1.6 megawatts of energy – or enough of power approximately 1,600 homes annually – from landfill gases. This progressive Texas city knows the importance of recycling and reusing and offers residents curbside removal of appliances, hazardous waste and even picks up yard waste, which it composts with wastewater to create “Dyno Dirt” for citizens to use as fertilizer.
2. Dubuque, Iowa
Dubuque leadership and residents are committing to not falling to the same fate as other Rust Belt cities and discovered the key to prosperity lies in its ability to be sustainable. In 2006, this Iowa city implemented a citizen-created Sustainable Dubuque Task Force with the direction of Mayor Ray Buol. The task force identified 11 key components that lead the city to a sustainable future and earned it the distinction of being named the most livable small city in America by the U.S Council of Mayors. “Forbes” magazine said Dubuque is the leader amongst small cities for projected job growth. The city’s leaders believe sustainability isn’t just about reducing its carbon footprint, but that sustainability will lead to job growth and ultimately lead to economic prosperity.
The 11 key elements identified by the Sustainable Dubuque Task Force are regional economy, smart energy use, resource management, community design, green buildings, healthy local foods, community knowledge, reasonable mobility, healthy air, clean water, and native plants and animals. In effort to focus on energy use, the city partnered with IBM through the company’s Smart Cities program to install sensors that allow consumers to monitor energy and water consumption, helping residents and businesses know how to modify the way they use water and energy.
3. Santa Cruz, California
In 1996, Santa Cruz leaders decided it was time for the city to commit to becoming a green leader in the state and its efforts are paying off. Between 1996 and 2005, the city and its inhabitants decreased their carbon footprint by 11 percent, but that is just a starting point. Santa Cruz officially declared a commitment to decrease emissions 30 percent by 2020 based on its 1990 numbers. It also adopted the state’s goal of an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
While the city is making environmental improvements in everything from green building to transportation, the bulk of the improvements that led to this sharp decline in emissions can be credited to the city’s reduction in landfill waste. Since 1993, the city has reduced the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from landfills by about a third. This drastic reduction in emissions was accomplished by offering more recycling, composting and even by encouraging residents to buy local and seasonal, which drastically reduces the amount of waste ending up in landfills.
4. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Like many other newly-dedicated green communities, Albuquerque committed to a green environment at the turn of the 21st Century and adopted an initiative to drastically reduce carbon emissions in the region.
To accomplish the emissions reduction goal, Albuquerque, under the direction of Mayor Richard J. Berry, allocates 3 percent of its annual budget toward green ventures and has completed 80 energy efficiency projects. Some the most significant gains have been made in the city’s recycling program which is 17 times larger than it was prior to Mayor Berry’s administration. Since 2010, Albuquerque has gone from 10,000 recycling bins to 178,500 recycling bins. In addition, the city’s vehicle fleet is comprised of alternative energy vehicles. These practices have not only reduced the city’s carbon footprint by more than 7,000 metric tons, but Albuquerque has also received $160,000 in PNM rebates.
Are there any initiatives these four cities have implemented that you’d like to see happening where you live?