You are here: Home The Sustainable Cities & Counties Blog archive 2010 March
Personal tools



Local Action Roundup

by raeschindler Mar 17, 2010

Read more »

Tomorrow: Free Webinar on Boston's Green Building Program

by raeschindler Mar 14, 2010

 Green Buildings on Success Page








Don't forget to join ICLEI and USGBC tomorrow, March 16 at 2 p.m. Eastern for a free webinar on Boston's Green Building Program. This webinar, the third in our six-part webinar series, will highlight leading-edge strategies local governments can employ to reduce energy and water consumption in the built environment.

Tomorrow, join Sarah Zaphiris from the City of Boston as she details Boston's comprehensive Green Building Program. The presentation will highlight Boston's Green Affordable Housing Program, Article 37, which is a zoning amendment that requires private developments to be LEED certifiable, and the City of Boston's efforts to green its own buildings. Ms. Zaphiris will discuss the successes and challenges faced by the City and provide recommendations for how municipalities can replicate the efforts undertaken in Boston.

Register Now green large icon

event password: building

Upcoming Webinars in the Series


Read more »

Tallahassee Hits Its Greenhouse Gas Targets

by Eli Yewdall, Regional Office, Southeast Region Mar 14, 2010

Tallahassee city (credit: reprinted from City of Tallhassee website)

(Image credit: Reprinted from City of Tallahassee website)

New ICLEI member Tallahassee, FL, has rapidly distinguished itself. The municipality is now among the elite number of local governments to have achieved its own greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. Emissions across government operations were reduced 5.3 percent from 2008 to 2009, accomplishing the city's 5 percent reduction goal.

The City, the capital of the state of Florida, is among the municipalities that owns and operates its own electric utility. Through measures described below, the city has reduced greenhouse gas emissions produced by the electric utility in 2009 to 7.5 percent below 1990 levels. Generation and purchase of electricity by the utility represent approximately 98 percent of emissions from City of Tallahassee government operations, and 44 percent of community-wide emissions in Leon and Wakulla counties (which include the City of Tallahassee).

Tallahassee emissions graph

City of Tallahassee electric utility emissions. A significant decrease in CO2 per MWH
(yellow) has allowed a reduction in total emissions (red), even as electric demand
(blue) has increased. The demand curve can be seen to begin bending down in the
last few years.Click to view a larger version of this image.

The Key: Increasing Efficiency at Its Power Plant

Tallahassee’s emissions reductions were achieved primarily by increasing the efficiency of electric generating plants and by switching the primary fuel from oil to natural gas. The emissions reduction was achieved despite a 47 percent increase in electricity use by customers from 1990 to 2009. At the Sam O. Purdom Generating Station, originally built in 1952, two steam boilers were replaced with the 233 megawatt (MW) combined cycle Unit 8 in 2000, increasing efficiency by 30 percent. Unit 2 of the Arvah B. Hopkins Generating Station, built in 1977, was repowered with a 300 MW combined cycle unit completed in mid 2008. In addition to reducing emissions, the Hopkins repowering is expected to save $12-24 million a year in fuel costs which will be passed on to customers as lower bills.

Further Reductions Require Decreased Demand

The City Manager has set a goal to reduce community emissions by an additional 2 percent in 2010. City staff recognize that maintaining emissions reductions will require turning the demand curve downward, and Tallahassee offers electricity customers a variety of loans, grants, and rebates for energy efficiency measures. In a promising trend, electricity use by customers has decreased in each of the past three years, with 2009 consumption one percent lower than in 2008. In 2010 work will begin on additional programs for commercial demand response, residential demand response, demand reduction and energy efficiency, and low-income energy assistance.

While the electric utility represents the vast majority of local government emissions, Tallahassee has not neglected other areas of its operations. A reduction in the number of fleet vehicles, right-sizing policy and minimum mileage standards for new vehicles, and anti-idling policy all contributed to reducing gasoline and diesel use in city vehicles by 6.2 percent and 7.9 percent respectively in 2009. Programs to turn off equipment when not in use and adjust thermostat settings reduced electricity use in city facilities by about one half percent. Tallahassee is also working to address community emissions sources through increasing transit use and educational campaigns.

Tallahassee has reached the limit of efficiency possible with fossil-fuel generation, and further emissions reductions will have to come from encouraging customers to reduce electric usage and from developing renewable energy sources. Tallahassee became an ICLEI member in January 2010 and has completed ICLEI Milestone One and Milestone Two -- completion of a baseline inventory and setting a reduction goal -- in ICLEI’s Five Milestones for Climate Mitigation process. With the support of the ICLEI Network, the City of Tallahassee is creating a climate action plan that will allow it to continue the impressive progress it has already made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more »

Local Action Roundup

by raeschindler Mar 11, 2010


Read more »

Obama's Visit Spotlights Savannah's Energy Action

by Eli Yewdall, Southeast Regional Associate Mar 09, 2010

Savannah old street (flickr rights via gobucks2)

Photo credit: gobucks2 via Flickr Creative Commons

After visiting Tampa, FL, last month to announce the federal government’s funding for high-speed rail, on March 2 President Obama chose another ICLEI member, Savannah, GA, to announce the latest sustainability-related Federal program, called HOMESTAR, which would provide rebates of up to $3,000 for home energy efficiency upgrades.

Local Savannah business leaders and green contractors joined President Obama for this announcement, and when you learn more about Savannah's energy goals and accomplishments, it's no wonder the president chose the city for his announcement. In fact, Savannah, surrounding Chatham County, and the neighboring small city of Tybee Island all have significant local efforts for sustainability underway.

All three jurisdictions participate in the Chatham Environmental Forum, which has created the JoinIn plan with a goal to reduce county-wide greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2020. Both Chatham County and Savannah have completed inventories of government operations emissions. A few specific emissions-reduction measures:

  • The Savannah Housing Authority in conjunction with private partners has made a big commitment to green affordable housing with the LEED Neighborhood and EarthCraft Coastal Communities certified Sustainable Fellwood development. The first phase of Sustainable Fellwood, completed in 2009, comprises 110 affordable apartments and five affordable single-family homes, each using 20 to 30 percent less energy than conventionally-built counterparts. An additional 210 apartments and eight single-family homes will be completed in phases II and III, while another green housing development at Savannah Gardens will have 550 mixed-income housing units as well as neighborhood retail.
  • Savannah recently completed relocating and upgrading their information technology data center. The upgrades include a high-efficiency chilled water air handling system for IT equipment and new hardware for the computers which will result in a dramatic jump in efficiency rating from 35.6 rating to a 73.7 percent rating. $353,000 of the $970,000 cost of this project was paid for through the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program. In addition to generating considerable savings for the city on energy bills, the project was estimated to create 45 jobs.
  • Tybee Island councilperson Paul Wolff has been a longtime advocate for wind power off the Georgia coast. The city with a population just under four thousand has applied for stimulus funds to power most government buildings with renewable energy after maximizing energy efficiency, and would place the energy cost savings into a fund that would be loaned to businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Read more »

Recorded Webinar on HUD's Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program

by Don Knapp Mar 08, 2010

People Walking Sidewalk

Hundreds of people joined ICLEI for our March 4 webinar, but were you one of those who were unable to attend? You can access the same indispensable information by watching the recorded version or downloading the Powerpoint slides.

small green arrow icon View the Recorded Webinar

small green arrow icon Download the Powerpoint Slides


For the webinar, ICLEI brought together HUD staff and a panel of urban experts to discuss the formation of HUD’s new $100 million Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program. 

The webinar:

  • Outlined the basics of the grant program
  • Explored the key questions on which HUD is soliciting feedback
  • Allowed participants (local government staff, regional planners, etc.) to interact with panelists, offering comments and asking questions with the overall goal of allowing local governments to help shape the program and ultimately design proposals.

The webinar's expert panel included the following professionals:

  • Salin Geevarghese, Senior Advisor, HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, who gave an overview of the grant program
  • Shannon Menard, Policy Manager, National Association of Regional Councils, who discussed regional planning and environmental sustainability
  • Dana Bourland, Vice President, Green Initiatives for Enterprise Community Partners, who discussed affordable housing and economic sustainability
  • Radhika Fox, Federal Policy Director, Policy Link, who discussed social equity issues


Reminder: Submit your comments on the program structure to HUD by March 12. To learn more about the Sustainable Communities Initiative, view ICLEI's webpage


Read more »

Local Action Roundup

by raeschindler Mar 07, 2010

Read more »

Local Action Roundup

by raeschindler Mar 02, 2010

Read more »

Baltimore and Annapolis Reach Climate and Sustainability Milestones

by Megan Wu, ICLEI Regional Officer, Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Region Mar 02, 2010

Baltimore Inner Harbor (Flickr Creative Commons)









Baltimore Inner Harbor. Photo credit: Kevin Labianco via Flickr Creative Commons.

One is a small coastal city with population less than 50,000, while the other is the hub of a bustling metropolitan area. So what do Annapolis and Baltimore have in common, besides being located in Maryland? They both share a clear vision for climate protection and sustainability, and have recently achieved ICLEI milestones in their efforts.


Baltimore Completes GHG Inventory, Adopts Sustainability Plan

  • After joining ICLEI in 2007, Baltimore wasted no time in moving through ICLEI's Five Milestones for Climate Mitigation process. The City hired an intern and completed greenhouse gas emissions inventories for both government operations and its entire community in 2009. (Milestone One)
  • In the meantime, the City completed and adopted its Sustainability Plan that addresses all three sectors of a sustainable community: Planet, People and Prosperity. The Sustainability Plan gives special emphasis on climate protection by adopting a GHG emissions reduction target of 15 percent by 2015 against the 2007 baseline. (Milestone Two)
  • Baltimore will soon embark on the creation of a Community Climate Action Plan, which involves an extensive community outreach process (Milestone Three).

Annapolis harbor (Flickr Creative Commons

Annapolis harbor. Photo credit: Mr. T in DC via Flickr Creative Commons

Annapolis Completes GHG Inventory, Sets Targets, Approves Plan

  • Annapolis joined ICLEI in 2003, not long after hurricane Isabel visited the City. Seeing the critical role a city can play in reducing and eventually reversing the consequences of climate change, Annapolis followed ICLEI’s Five Milestones for Climate Mitigation, and completed both its government operations and community greenhouse gas emissions inventories in 2008. (Milestone One)
  • The City set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 2006 levels by 2010, 50 percent by 2025, and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. (Milestone Two)
  • In 2009, the City launched the Sustainable Annapolis Program, which kicked off a six-month public outreach initiative to help the City complete its Community Action Plan. The plan was adopted by the City Council in the same year and became the guiding document on the City’s climate and sustainability path. (Milestone Three)
  • Congratulations to the City staff who have achieved an incredible amount of work within two short years!

In early 2010, both Baltimore and Annapolis have welcomed new Mayors, who have shown strong interest and leadership in climate and sustainability initiatives, and I'm sure they will lead the two cities to even greater successes. As an ICLEI staff member supporting these two cities and other members in the Mid-Atlantic Region, I feel truly inspired by Baltimore's and Annapolis' leadership, and sincerely congratulate them on these achievement, for which they will receive ICLEI milestone awards.


>> View Annapolis' Climate Action Plan

>> View Baltimore's Sustainability Plan


Read more »

Chavez: Local Innovation Can Lead Climate Fight

by Don Knapp Feb 28, 2010

New York Skyline









As Martin Chavez formally takes the reins of ICLEI USA today, has posted a story on the former Albuquerque mayor's climate leadership, his lessons learned about sustainability, and his firm belief: that local innovation is a key to successful climate action.

Reporter Stacy Morford's article, "New ICLEI Director to Washington: Cities Need Freedom to Innovate," is reposted below:


SolveClimate logo

The real action on climate change isn’t in Congress or UN meetings.

It’s in places like Chula Vista, Calif., where the city’s offer to provide free energy evaluations identified over 5 million kWh in savings in municipal and private buildings over two years — and saw about 3.8 million kWh of savings implemented.

And Denver, where a decision to replace more than 48,000 traffic light bulbs and pedestrian signals with LEDs is saving more than $800,000 per year in energy, labor and material costs.

Martin ChavezAnd Boston, the first major U.S. city to change its zoning code to require all construction of large private buildings to meet high LEED standards for energy efficiency. By one projection, the first 48 building projects under review could eventually see $4 million a year in energy savings.

The key selling point in all of these cities — for the mayors and residents alike — is just how much money they can save with innovative energy and resource efficiency steps that limit their impact on climate change at the same time.

Martin Chavez saw first hand the benefits and challenges of turning a city green during 16 years as mayor of Albuquerque, N.M. He led the city as it cut its water use by one-third to avoid with the danger of its aquifer running dry and as it implemented green building standards and targets for energy efficiency.

He also butted heads with the federal government, particularly when parts of the city’s green building code were put on hold by a federal district judge in late 2008, in part because they were preempted by federal law.

With that experience fresh in his mind, Chavez takes over today as the new executive director of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA, a 20-year-old network of more than 600 local governments in the United States focused on sustainability. The U.S. arm of the international organization is based in Boston, but Chavez will be spending most of his time in Washington, D.C., with a goal of making sure the federal government supports cities rather than getting in their way.

“When it comes to addressing climate change, ICLEI is the most important environmental organization in the country because local governments are leading the fight,” Chavez says. “We want to make sure the local governments are at the table as federal legislation is crafted — make sure we’re calling the shots, or it’s a chunk out of our hides.”

Chavez is already working with Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, to ensure that any climate and energy legislation will increase standards for efficiency but also allow for more experimentation at the local level — including higher standards like Albuquerque’s building codes.

The former mayor comes from a perspective that the marketplace is the strongest agent of change, and the marketplace in this case is the cities where innovation is already under way.

“The government ought not to be dictating the technology but dictating the outcome and letting the market determine the technology,” he says. “If legislation discourages innovation, that’s short-sighted.”

It’s All About the Benjamins

Chavez says he came to sustainability because it made fiscal sense for Albuquerque. Innovations in energy efficient lighting and fuel-efficient vehicle fleets that save money are appealing to many cities, particularly those already aware that climate change has passed the point of simply mitigating the damage and reached a stage of adaptation.

“At every level of government, we all got thrown a real curve with the recession,” he says. “That’s had a tremendous adverse impact on progress in these areas. It’s certainly diverted national attention. Environmentalism is just not up there right now.

“But the innovative elected officials are finding the financial models of sustainability. Yes, some cost more upfront — converting traffic signals to led — but the payback is there. You end up saving money.

“It’s incredibly palatable to a public whose pocket books are at the forefront.”

ICLEI assists local governments as an advisor on energy and climate change with knowledge of the latest research, technology and adaptable tools, such as emissions inventories and program structures for climate action plans that can help local governments realize those savings.

The organization was looking for a leader with a strong record in environment, social justice and economic development, and found that in Chavez, says North Little Rock, Ark., Mayor Patrick Hays, the president and board chairman of ICLEI USA.

Lessons in Sustainability

Chavez has learned some valuable lessons about improving energy efficiency and lowering emissions over his 16 years as a mayor at the forefront of sustainability efforts. Like this one: “Always crunch your numbers and substantiate every single number you put out.” In one case, his staff discovered that the outcomes estimated by an equipment manufacturer were very different in a city a mile high, like Albuquerque, as opposed to one at sea level.

Another lesson: Saving money isn’t difficult, but hitting emissions targets can be. Albuquerque is about a year and half behind schedule on its emissions goal. It aimed for 20 percent below 2000 levels by 2010 and 30 percent by 2020.

So what should cities be doing now?

Buildings codes. Immediately, Chavez says. Cities also need to launch reviews of how their energy is acquired and used.

The most important step is for the local governments themselves — starting with their government buildings and vehicle fleets — to lead by example, he says. As that happens, the debate over the details is played out in public, so the public learns and sees the savings. They see that buses are hybrid electric and realize that what can work for buses can easily work for cars.

“I don’t get into the debate over whether climate change is real or not," Chavez says. "There’s not time for that. They all realize the value of creating wealth in the community and weaning the nation off foreign oil.”


Read more »