Palm Bay, FL, Reaches Out "Down Under" to Share Greener Pasturesby Yvonne Martinez, Palm Bay Public Information Coordinator
Warren Mortlock with Deputy City Manager Chad Shoultz, touring Palm Bay'
new city hall annex.
The two-year-old urban born koala never really had a chance. But the black and white marsupial rescuers called "Pan Da" still managed to capture the hearts and minds of thousands of humans around the globe. In 2008 Pan Da was orphaned when his "mum" was run over and killed by a car. Pan Da was rescued, taken to a wildlife hospital in Redland City, Queensland, Australia and later released into the wild with a tracking device. The Redland City Council created a Facebook page so the public could track the koala's movements and nearly 14,000 fans tuned in. Pan Da later died but not without demonstrating the importance of sustainability. "These koala almost run our lives," Warren Mortlock told the Palm Bay City Council during part of a two-week visit to Palm Bay from his home in Redland City. "They are an important part of our sustainability journey and it really comes down to local government to do something about saving them."
Mortlock sees the fellowship program as a vital exchange of information. "Your city and my city one way or another is contributing to this," he noted. "People from New Zealand, Japan, China, America; we are all trying to see how we are building these communities in different parts of the planet."
A tour of the Palm Bay utilities water treatment plant.
During his two week stay in Palm Bay, Mortlock visited places like Advanced Magnet Labs where he learned how magnet technology is changing the development and use of alternative energy sources such as the powering of offshore wind turbines. Mortlock toured Palm Bay's new City Hall Annex under construction and learned that it is an LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building that promotes sustainability and will cost less to operate and maintain. The construction design specifically addressed improved air quality, water efficiency through controlled plumbing, reduction in CO₂ emissions through reduced energy use and stewardship of resources through promotion of recycling and a long list of other design specification requirements that meet the federal standards for green building certification. But Mortlock was especially impressed with the way Palm Bay handles its waste management including a unique solar powered intelligent waste collection system known as "Big Belly Solar". The bins use solar power to compact waste at the collection points which allows them to hold about 5 times the amount of waste as a typical receptacle. "They tell you wirelessly when they are full so you can come pick them up," Mortlock posted in his blog during his visit. "I was very impressed with the entire Waste Management operation."
Mortlock, who manages the Environmental Protection Unit for his city also provides leadership and strategic advice within the Redland City Council on the issues of environmental protection, climate change and energy transition, planning and management of waterways and coasts, green living and state of the environment reporting. As part of his fellowship experience he joins more than 500 foreign professionals from more than 30 countries worldwide who are engaged in the process. "It's something we take very seriously here," said City Manager Lee Feldman. "We've adopted a sustainability master plan and I think this program is not only good for Warren to take our lessons back to Australia, but for us to learn some of his lessons here." For the 2011 calendar year many more foreign fellows will travel to the United States and approximately 300 American participants will be selected for reciprocal fellowship programs overseas in late 2010 and early 2011.
Redland City is located in South East Queensland, Australia encompassing 207 square miles with a population of more than 140,000 residents. It is part of the fastest growing area in Queensland and one of the fastest growing in Australia. There are no bridges to the mainland and residents must take the ferry to neighboring cities like Brisbane. The economic base is comprised of a range of industries including food and beverage processing, and manufacturing of white goods. In primary production, Redland hosts 30% of Queensland's poultry industry production and produces approximately 19% of its sweet potatoes.
Like Palm Bay, Redland City has adopted a Community Plan that prioritizes sustainability through 2030. Mortlock was a principal advisor in developing the master plan which focuses on environmental protection, managing climate change through responsible use of resources, preserving waterways, and wetlands and dealing with "brown" issues such as noise and dust. In summary Redland City's plan outlines very specific ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from Council's four main corporate buildings have decreased by 16.9% since 2008 as a result of an aggressive and wide ranging approach to energy efficiency.
Under Redland City's Ecobiz program since 2004, council and the State government have successfully encouraged business and industry to improve eco-efficiency through changed practices involving energy, water usage, waste management, resources and greenhouse gas emissions. This program reached 65 homes in the Queensland city in 2006 and continues to expand.
The State government's Climate Smart Home Service was offered in 2009. Under this program, an electrician visits homes and calculates how much power a household is using and installs a wireless power monitor, plus up to 15 power saving light globes and, where suitable, a water and energy efficient showerhead to reduce energy use.
By comparison, in September 2009 Palm Bay received a grant of $904,000 under the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG) to implement projects and other initiatives that reduce total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as stimulate the economy by creating and retaining jobs. Palm Bay is one of several certified Green Local Government municipalities in the state of Florida that is enacting innovative and sustainable policies and practices to benefit the local environment, economy and social fabric. To attain certification, Palm Bay demonstrated it had implemented several environmentally-friendly practices including, for example, traffic signals utilizing Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology and green cleaning and maintenance practices, per the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. "You guys are out there leading the pack," Mortlock said. "We are learning from each other and that is good for everyone."
For Mortlock and the community he represents, the bottom line is the same as it is a world away in Palm Bay Florida. It is about preservation for future generations. Whether it is for clean air and water for future generations or whether it's finding better ways to peacefully coexist with nature's creatures, like Pan Da the koala, and still promote growth and economic development. The challenges are real and can be best met with a global approach to thinking, learning and doing which are, after all, why Palm Bay and Redland City have become partners.