From Philadelphia's commitment to hit aggressive environmental goals in six years to Corpus Christi's cutting-edge wind energy plan, Recyclebank revealed 10 American initiatives it is recognizing for setting the bar for urban sustainability and environmental practices.
Working with more than 300 municipalities across the United States to educate and reward residents for taking more sustainable actions, like recycling, Recyclebank has a unique insight into sustainable programs implemented across the country. This list, developed by the company's community specialists and environmental researchers, highlights 10 of the most inspiring and/or effective programs, and the cities they call home.
"We have watched many communities significantly reduce their negative impact on the environment; be it by reducing waste with the help of programs like Recyclebank, educating residents on sustainable practices through community volunteers, or growing food in a community garden that can be eaten for lunch at the local school," said Javier Flaim, CEO of Recyclebank. "All of these practices are taking place in cities across the U.S and can be replicated in other communities. With this list, we hope to make positive examples out of programs and communities that are taking steps, big and small, to change America's environmental path."
Below is Recyclebank's list of 10 inspiring U.S. sustainability programs and the cities they're impacting:
1. Green Building- Chicago, Ill. In 2002, Chicago became the epicenter for LEED certified buildings following the opening of the Chicago Center for Green Technology. Home to a green building resource center, it was the first remodeled municipal building in the U.S. to be granted a LEED platinum rating. Since then, the city has taken its commitment to eco-conscious architecture further with the implementation of the Green Permit Program which offers qualified projects an expedited permit process and the possibility of reduced fees. The combination of access to LEED education and governmental incentives has led Chicago to top the list of most LEED certified projects in the U.S. with 295. Other cities are already following suit.
2. Wind Energy - Corpus Christi, TX The Port of Corpus Christi may only be the fifth largest port in size, but it's number one when it comes to the transport and storage of wind energy components. Acquiring the name America's Wind Power Port, it also houses North America's first on-port wind farm. Understanding the environmental need for alternative energy as well as the economic advantages to wind energy, Corpus has invested in the port, developing the strongest shipping dock on the Gulf of Mexico to welcome energy imports. America's Wind Port isn't the city's only inspiring program; Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has made waves housing 11 vertical-axis wind turbines producing 92 kilowatts, which makes it the largest installation of its kind in the nation.
3. Xeriscaping- Denver, Colo. Denver pioneered a type of landscaping designed to conserve water, now known globally as xeriscaping. Nearly thirty years after its initial introduction the method continues to be inspiring. Besides spreading the idea to nearby "dry" climate states like Arizona and Nevada, Denver created a program to make it easier than ever for residents to xeriscape around their homes. Denver Water, the city's water board, has developed easy-to-follow downloadable plans and resources so that every resident can remodel their yards. Denver also has a xeriscape demonstration garden that is open daily for residents that appreciate a hands-on tutorial.
4. Organic Food- La Farge, Wis. La Farge is home to Organic Valley, the largest organic farming co-op in North America. A product of state, village, federal and private funding, Organic Valley has helped turn La Farge into a sustainable dream. Not only does the co-op produce sustainable food products, but the 45,000 square foot barn where the company is housed was built with locally sourced materials (many recycled) in a way that optimizes natural light and minimizes heat. And, 100 percent of the construction waste was recycled when it was built. The farm also plays host to the Kickapoo County Fair, which hosts sustainability workshops and rural heritage exhibits, ensuring that the entire community stays educated. The surrounding area of Vernon County, also boasts more organic farms that any other county in the nation.
5. Renewable/Solar Energy- Long Beach, Calif. Long Beach contributes greatly to California's status as the number one state in solar photovoltaic capacity with several solar energy projects, including photovoltaic systems on the Long Beach Convention Center and Long Beach Airport. The Convention Center houses one of the largest public-facility solar installations on the West Coast, generating 1 million Kilowatt-hours of pollution-free electricity. On the residential side, the Long Beach government has set up an easy to follow manual helping residents apply for the "Residential Renewable Tax Credit," which offers a credit of 30 percent of qualified expenditures for a solar system from the federal government.
6. Landfill Rehabilitation- New York, N.Y. Fresh Kills, formerly known as the world's largest landfill at 2,200 acres, is being turned into a park with advanced landfill engineering techniques. Three times the size of New York's Central Park, Fresh Kills Public Park represents the ability to revitalize even in the most polluted areas. Once accepting more than 29,000 tons of trash per day, the landfill mounds have been capped through a special process that will alleviate toxic fumes and the soil has been treated to promote proper drainage and ensure public health and safety regulations are not only met, but surpassed.
7. Climate Positive Community- Oberlin, Ohio. Oberlin is one of only three U.S. cities in the Climate Positive Development Program which works to revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture, food supply and forestry and create a sustainable base for communities. The Oberlin Project has developed five overarching goals to work toward including reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2015 and developing local food sources to meet 70 percent of consumption. Additionally, Oberlin College's Ecolympics, an energy reduction competition, was the precursor to the Campus Conservation Nationals, a national energy reduction competition. The well rounded program in Oberlin, a combination of city, college and private partners is one we can all aspire to.
8. Sustainable Engagement- Philadelphia, Pa. In 2009, Mayor Michael A. Nutter developed the Greenworks initiative, which considered sustainability through five lenses-- energy, environment, equity, economy and engagement. Goals were set in each category to be achieved by 2015. With one year to go, Philadelphia has made significant progress. Since the start of the program, the city has expanded recycling options at events and in public spaces, added additional types of plastics to the list of recyclable materials in Philadelphia, and instituted e-waste drop-off centers to reduce the amount of waste entering landfills and engage residents in sustainable action. The city has also increased the percentage of electricity garnered from alternative energy sources, planted more than 89,000 new trees and retrofitted more than 5,500 homes with insulation, air sealing and cool roofs.
9. Alternative Transportation- Portland, Ore. Portland is consistently named one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. The Portland Bureau of Transportation works to make bicycling an easy transportation alternative for residents by adding new and carefully maintaining current bike routes, providing secure bicycle parking and educating residents on the role that bicycling transportation plays in keeping our communities livable. Portland is also home to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance whose mission is to create healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, convenient and accessible.
10. Organic Recycling- Wilmington, Del. The Wilmington Organic Recycling Center is the largest composting facility in North America, sitting on 27 acres and accepting 160,000 tons of organic waste per year. In operation since 2009, the plant reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the "equivalent of removing 8,800 cars from area roads, per year." The center also lowers the cost of organic waste disposal by 20 to 50 percent, making it possible for more residents and businesses to participate in the program. Wilmington has brought light to organic waste, a problem that many have ignored for some time. To view detailed information about these inspiring U.S. sustainability programs, visit https://livegreen.recyclebank.com/earn/madeintheusa. Registered Recyclebank members can earn points by taking interactive quizzes, flipping through educational slideshows and sharing these inspirational programs with others.