by Sandra Sleight-Brennan
Going Green Producer
Over the past few months our occasional series on Ohio's environment, Going Green, has traveled all over the state to look at people and businesses who are working on greening' Ohio's environment. People all over Ohio are realizing that to help with climate change issues they need to pitch in at all levels. So far, 17 of Ohio's cities and towns have signed on to the Cool Cities Program. They've joined the almost 800 mayors around the country who have signed the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement to put cut greenhouse gas emissions in their own communities. The City of Cleveland is one of them.
According to David Beach, the Director of the Center for Regional Sustainability formerly known as EcoCity Cleveland, America has not done a good job taking care of its cities. He says that "cities, when they are great cities, they are what leads the economy forward. Great cities are really the centers of our civilization. If we turn our backs on them and let them decay, we are not only crippling our civilization."
Cleveland has decayed over the past few decades. In the 1970's it became an environmental icon when its river, the Cuyahoga, caught on fire. It became a symbol of the environmental problems our country was facing then. Today it's trying to turn around that image and retool its crumbling infrastructure and industries. In 2005,the city started a Sustainability Program. Andrew Watterson is the Program Director. They started with three goals; to save the city money and reduce the ecological footprint, to use sustainability tools for economic development, and to educate the city of Cleveland employees around the principals of sustainability.
A community is sustainable when it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To be sustainable is to find a balance between people, economic viability, and the environmental health of a community. Cleveland's Sustainability Program is designed to guide the City on projects related to energy, buildings, fleet, and purchasing.
When they started Watterson had two years to save enough money to build a budget and save his job. In the second year the program saved the city over a hundred thousand dollars just by making operational changes at a water treatment plant. Today the department has saved enough money to hire two additional employees.
Watterson says that they are broadened their goals, says Andrew Watterson. "We have four principal areas; green building, health and the environment, waste reduction and recycling, and energy conservation and efficiency. We really are taking those focus areas and working with the community to make this a better community. Our tagline is building a green city on a blue lake and helping make Cleveland a city of choice."
The program has been so successful that Cuyahoga County has started its own office of sustainability to review the environmental impact of current operations and coordinate green development across the region. Because , as David Beach says, "Our economy is regional, our housing is regional, so we need to start designing solutions at that level as well."