By: Rebecca Saltman Issue: Energy & The Environment Section: Collaborator Profile
Helping Build A Sustainable City One Collaboration at a Time
Through the inspiring leadership of Mayor John Hickenlooper, the City of Denver has long been a front-runner in developing sustainability techniques. In 2006 Greenprint Denver was introduced. Greenprint is defined as “an action agenda for sustainable development for the City and County of Denver that demonstrates local government can be an effective force for innovation and leadership to improve the environment.” Mayor Hickenlooper explains this collaborative agenda from a more personal viewpoint: “As an exploration geologist-turned-small businessman, I have always maintained what I considered a healthy perspective on the need to balance environmental and economic considerations in my decisions. I learned early on in my career in business that the best solutions often combine economic, social and environmental considerations.”
Greenprint outlines an aggressive mission and principles to accomplish this balance to which the mayor refers. Greenprint Denver sees its mission as a collaboration providing leadership and solutions that ensures a prosperous community, where both people and nature thrive symbiotically. At the Mayor’s office of sustainability, the initiative was formed to create innovative programs and tools, as well as to provide resources to citizens that allows them to make smart, sustainable choices in their lives.
Communicate sustainability as a public value and expand the concept of the city as a steward of public resources.
Denver utilizes goat herds to help eliminate invasive weeds and manage brush in natural areas in a cost-effective, non-polluting manner. By grazing on vegetation and trampling plants with their hooves, the goats create natural mulch, add organic matter to the soil, and distribute seeds. The innovative program has received worldwide attention as an environmentally-friendly alternative to mowing and pesticides.
Support sustainability as a core business value to improve efficiencies in resource use, reduce environmental impact, and invoke broad cultural changes.
The city’s use of 420,000 gallons of B20 biodiesel fuel in a pilot study in 2005 supported local economies and reduced air pollution and dependence on foreign oil. In 2007, all diesel-powered fleet vehicles began running on the cleaner-burning fuel.
Incorporate “triple bottom line” analysis (seeking to balance economic, social and environmental considerations) into all city policy and program decisions. Clear metrics are then set to report on their progress moving forward through annual report cards.
Denver was honored as one of the Top Green Cities in the United States in 2006 by The Green Guide. The magazine scored cities on 11 criteria, including air quality, electricity use and production, environmental perspective, environmental policy, green design, green space, public health, recycling, socioeconomic factors, transportation, and water quality. Partner with community organizations, cultural institutions and businesses to achieve broad impact.
Greenprint continues to build on its initial partnership with the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation to interest regional businesses in energy efficiency measures. Their current collaborative efforts include identifying ways to engage businesses in new strategies and then quantifying their progress (i.e. membership/awards program).
In 2007, Mayor Hickenlooper announced the city’s first Climate Action Plan, which included the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent – taking the entire Denver community to 1990 levels by 2020.
In 2009, Greenprint will focus its attention on a number of issues: energy and water conservation, implementing a bike share program, expanded recycling, solar installations, and neighborhood outreach.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Greenprint has already participated in some incredibly innovative activities. For example, if you were in Denver during the Democratic National Convention, you probably heard about the Freewheelin’ bike share program. Throughout the downtown area, bicycles were available to check out from several kiosks as an alternate transportation option. Given Freewheelin’s success (over 26,000 miles ridden in just four days), this innovation left a legacy imprinted on the minds of many Denverites and visitors alike.
Beginning this summer, Denver will become one of the first cities nationwide to launch a comprehensive, citywide bike sharing program called Denver B-cycle. 500 bikes will be available to the public at 30 stations throughout the city. The program is expected to double in size by spring 2010.
“The positive feedback we received from the bike sharing program during the DNC was remarkable,” Mayor Hickenlooper said. “We are confident Denver B-cycle will prove equally popular while improving our fitness levels and our environment. Our 358 miles of bike routes and trails combined with our 300 days of sunshine make Denver the perfect city in which to launch a citywide bike sharing system.”
Access to Denver B-cycle will be made through annual memberships sold to residents and frequent users, while daily, weekly and short-term usage for visitors and tourists will be enabled through credit card transactions. While not finalized, the current model proposes that the system allow the first half hour of Denver B-cycle use to at no charge, with nominal charges thereafter.
Greenprint continues to develop innovative ways to support the city’s recycling programs and waste reduction, and this year will work to ensure that all city events will have recycle bins available for the public. In addition, Greenprint will continue to work with the local business districts to increase the number of on-street recycling bins.
Another component of waste reduction includes the elimination of plastic bag use, and replacing them with reusable bags. In December 2008, the Denver Public Library joined this effort by eliminating plastic at all library branches. This bold yet simple move has been a huge success with citizens in general and patrons in particular. Grocers King Soopers, Safeway, Vitamin Cottage, and WalMart have committed to the city that they will make reusable bags available in their stores with the hope of dramatically reducing the use of plastic.
As a recipient of a Solar America Cities grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Greenprint plans to capitalize on Colorado’s progressive government programs and tremendous solar potential by establishing solar as a mainstream energy resource option. Greenprint is committed to developing programs which remove the two largest barriers to solar market penetration: the high upfront cost and a lack of public awareness regarding the inherent benefits of solar technology.
The City of Denver is taking a leadership role in this commitment by increasing the number of solar installations on City buildings.
Denver International Airport is home to the nation’s most visible airport solar photovoltaic system, while the Colorado Convention Center, the Museum of Nature and Science, and the Denver Human Services buildings are also equipped with significant solar arrays.
Given that the citizens of Denver are the true foundation of the city, outreach is an important component of Greenprint’s programs. Through the collaborative partnership of several city and non-profit agencies, Greenprint is coordinating a grassroots approach to improve energy efficiency in Denver neighborhoods.
Launched in October 2008 in Sunnyside, the Neighborhood Weatherization Collaborative (with partners including the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO), Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), Sun Power, Mile High Youth Corps, Groundwork Denver, LEAP, and the Departments of Environmental Health, Economic Development and Denver’s Office of Strategic Partnerships) began canvassing the neighborhood offering immediate upgrades with CFLs, free recycling registration, reduction of junk mail, and the offer of a free energy audit to every household. GEO also provides funding for income-qualified residents to receive weatherization at no cost, and non-income qualified households receive significant rebates. Initial data indicates that residents are receiving up to $600 savings in utility costs with proper weatherization upgrades. width=
In this uncertain economic climate, this program directly improves the neighborhood’s quality of life while showing an immediate impact on the city’s carbon reduction goals.
These are just a few examples of the city’s commitment to improving our quality of life and balanced environment. To learn more about the Greenprint programs and about how you can get involved, please visit www.greenprintdenver.org.
Rebecca Saltman is a social entrepreneur and the President and Founder of a Foot in the Door Productions an independent collaboration building firm designed to bridge business, government, non-profits and education.