Hark Upon the Green

Sustainability at The College of William and Mary

Go Solar Without Going Broke

~Tricia Brown

Solar panels

Germany has long been the world leader when it comes to solar energy, but the U.S. is steadily gaining ground. An analysis by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that 930 new megawatts of photovoltaic solar energy were installed in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2013. That number represents a 20 percent increase from the second quarter of 2013 and a 35 percent year-to-year increase. Most of these increases were due to large-scale state and municipal projects as opposed to single-family dwellings going solar. Though the price of solar panels has dropped dramatically over the last five years, it’s still a major hurdle for most Americans. If you’re looking to begin your solar journey but costs are holding you back, look into these three budget-friendlier methods:

Build Your Own Panels

Those with a little mechanical inclination and a lot of patience can build solar panels rather cheaply. You’ll need a soldering iron and enough polycrystalline cells to produce your desired amount of power. Each cell should not cost much more than a couple bucks. Tabbing wire, plexiglass, a table saw or jigsaw and plywood round out the essentials.

The process entails gluing down the cells in equally spaced rows with tabbing wire running through each row. The finished product will be sealed in a wooden box with plexiglass covering the cells for protection. You can watch and follow along with any of the video tutorials out there—just do a simple search on Youtube.

Go One Room at a Time

Be it the kitchen or the bedroom, going solar in one room can significantly slash your electric bill. A television, lights, gaming console and a thermoelectric cooler for drinks can conceivably run on a 500-watt solar system. You’ll need a rechargeable 12-volt battery or two 6-volt golf cart batteries run in series. A true sine wave power inverter and charge controller will also be necessary.

The purpose of the solar panels in this scenario is to keep the batteries charged. Depending on the amp-hour rating of the batteries and the total wattage of all the devices, a full charge can potentially get you three days of power without recharging. You can always add more batteries to your bank to power even more equipment. The initial investment should pay for itself within a year.

Lease the System

A typical photovoltaic solar system to power an entire home can cost upwards of $40,000, depending on the size of the house. Most Americans would need to take out a loan or sell their future annuity payments to come up with that kind of money. The alternative is to lease a solar system.

Many of the large solar providers will install the system for free and charge you for usage. The one caveat is that leases can have terms ranging from 10 to 20 years. Some providers will move your system with you to your new home, but others will charge a fee to void the contract.

Solar power does not have to be a drain on your wallet, and you’ll stop draining the traditional power grid. Go solar, go independent, go off-grid.

High School Outreach: Social Media and Sustainability

highschooloutreach2On March 19th and 20th, Maren Hunsberger, the Web Design and Sustainable Communications intern for the College’s Committee on Sustainability (COS), woke up bright and early to attend the environmental science classes at Grafton High School. Calandra Waters-Lake, an associate of COS, is the instructor of this course, and invited Ms. Hunsberger to come into her class to speak to her students about a sustainability related issue. After brainstorming, they decided that social media, a topic which is so salient in the culture today, particularly for youth, could be a great guest lecture for the mix of juniors and seniors who take Mrs. Lake’s class. Maren’s presentation focused on the power of social media to bring people together for a common cause and create change, but also its potential pitfalls as an organizational tool. The teens explored various social media outlets on the topic of the West Virginia chemical spill, tying into their class unit on water pollution, and discussed what worked best, what wasn’t as effective, and why. highschooloutreach2

The overall message that Mrs. Lake and Ms. Hunsberger wanted to communicate to these kids was that they have power. Even though they’re young and may sometimes feel as if they have very little control over what happens in their lives, much less feeling like they are able to contribute to large-scale change on the environmental level, social media provides them with a platform from which they can share their thoughts, spread awareness, and contribute in small ways to big change.highschooloutreach1

Pies AND Sustainable Farming?! Yes, please

—By Maren Hunsbergerbig-sur-coast

Driving down the stunning northern California coast from San Francisco, watching the mist roll in off the rocky ocean shore, one can’t help but lose oneself in the journey. But in this case, the destination is just as remarkable and the drive. Pie Ranch, in Pescadero California, started as a 14 acre triangular piece of property in the hills just off the coast, founded as a center of sustainable food outreach and food system education. It has since grown into two ‘slices’ of land, both triangular, with the points of the pie slices ‘kissing’ one another. In addition to growing all of the ingredients for gorgeously delicious, fresh pies, the ranch also grows a wide variety of seasonal crops, from potatoes and lettuces to orchard fruits. Animals also abound on the ranch’s expanse of alternately mist-covered, alternately sun-soaked terrain. Volunteers can not only help harvest crops or tend to vegetable patches, but can also collect eggs from the warm undersides of some good-natured hens or feed scraps to the goats or the pigs.  11-603-Pie Ranch-01

Aside from being a great place for city-dwelling locals to spend an afternoon volunteering, Pie Ranch’s mission extends beyond just making great delicious pies. Their motto, “Pie Ranch cultivates a healthy and just food system from seed to table through food education, farmer training, and regional partnerships” sums it up quite nicely, but the roots grow even deeper than that. The ranch has connections with high schools in several local counties, providing programming in schools as well as field trips to pie ranch to plant the seeds for the next generation’s food leaders. These programs hope to further young peoples’ understanding of where food comes from and to provide education about the environmental, social, and economic effect food has, not only on them as individuals but also in their communities. The Ranch’s HomeSlice internship program takes their mission one step further, giving youth a chance to work intensively on the farm and develop skills in sustainable agriculture, food justice organizing, and the culinary arts.

The USDA recently reported that around 125,000 residents of the Bay Area live in what are referred to as ‘food deserts’, or areas where affordable, healthy food is difficult to obtain. For the USDA, areas qualify as food deserts if they are ‘low-income’ (a poverty rate of 20% or greater) and ‘low access’ (at least 33% of the residents live more than one mile from a grocery store). In these areas and others that may qualify for one metric and not the other, liquor stores and gas stations may greatly outnumber grocery stores, and any available produce is lower quality and above the budget of those who may have physical access to it. Food deserts are a central issue being tackled by food justice advocates, who argue that food is the kingpin problem that needs to be tackled when addressing poverty, public health, and a lack of environmental stewardship.

Pie Ranch is an integral part of the food justice movement in the Bay Area not only in their youth education and outreach but also in their regional partnerships, with organizations like the San Mateo Food Alliance and ChangeScale. Together with other such sustainable farming initiatives in the area, Pie Ranch hopes to help San Mateo county and surrounding areas evolve into self-sustaining, healthy, economically viable, and innovative food communities. And as a bonus, on days when members of the public can come volunteer, after a day of tending the fields, you are invited to take part in a potluck and barn dance. Who doesn’t love a barn dance?

PieRanchDance

What Could Be Greener than Water to Fuel Your Next Car?

By Steven Walter

Under evaluation, fuel cell vehicles from Honda and Mercedes delivered 60 and 53 mpg, respectively. Other companies have fuel cell SUVs, like the Hyundai Tucson. A boon for drivers interested in sustainability, this nearly doubles the mpg of a gas car. While hydrogen fuel cell cars have long been called “the car of the future,” automakers hope to have models to market as early as 2015. Learn how these cars use simple hydrogen and oxygen to produce power.

Understanding the Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Though hydrogen fuel cell cars look like a traditional vehicle, much is different underneath the hood. Instead of a gas tank, these vehicles have a large hydrogen storage tank. An electric motor and a high-output battery, which regenerates through braking, utilize similar technology to other hybrids. Electric motors deliver quieter operation, a smoother ride and more efficient performance than internal combustion engines. Through the vehicle lifetime, they tend to require less maintenance as well.

Photo of the 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell via Hyundai Scottsdale

Most importantly, the car’s fuel cell stack converts the stored hydrogen gas to power. In hydrogen fuel cells, the molecules of hydrogen gas, which is stored in the car much like gasoline is presently stored in a traditional car, are split into positive and negative ions. Negative ions are passed through a circuit to a cathode, where they pick up electricity. Then the positive ions combine with the electricity, powering the car and creating only water as a byproduct. Running on a naturally-found element, and emitting only water vapor, the hydrogen fuel cell promises to revolutionize cars.

Hydrogen fuel cells reduce dependence on fossil fuels and emit far fewer gases into the air. While some gases are still emitted when the hydrogen used to power these vehicles is produced, the overall figure is low.

The Future of Hydrogen-powered Vehicles

Photo by ideowl via Flickr

Hydrogen itself is a renewable and abundant resource, and one that can be produced in part from renewable energy. At present, hydrogen is made from non-renewable resources, creating CO2 gas in the process. To really become a viable solution, automakers must develop an infrastructure and supply-chain mechanism that will support alternative energy drivers. Plus, consumers will need to be educated on the advantages of renewable energy, the reliability and performance of these cars and the specifics of using a new fuel type. Cars powered by a hydrogen fuel cell will not become widespread until several challenges are met. These include:

  • Infrastructure - At present, no network of hydrogen refueling stations exists. Until the underlying infrastructure of refueling stations and fuel providers develops, there is limited potential for these vehicles.
  • Cost - While automakers have made strides toward creating an affordable hydrogen-powered car, cost estimates for most of the first-generation hydrogen cars are above the $50,000 mark. According to Hyundai Scottsdale, Hyundai is hoping to release their first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle for under $50,000, helping to break this barrier.
  • Fuel cell reliability - As automakers prepare hydrogen fuel cell cars for the market, they must address the underlying reliability of hydrogen fuel cells. At present, fuel cell engines underperform internal combustion engines in humid climates and in temperature extremes. Additionally, fuel cells are unlikely to be commercially viable unless they can last for up to 150,000 miles. At present, they last approximately 75,000 miles.

What is Composting…and Why Do We Do It at W&M?

 

By Maren Hunsberger

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Composting is one of those things, like veganism or a hybrid car, that’s used in skits on SNL to identify the hippie environmentalists in the group. You know, “Oh you just have to meet Carol, she brought the vegan pesto quinoa to the potluck and she and Steve have the most amazing compost in their garden, you just have to talk to them about it”. But chances are, most people are seriously confused about what compost is and why anyone would do it. It involves worms?!? Gross!! But what people don’t know is that, despite what your taste for quinoa or your opinion on hybrid cars may be, composting can be incredibly beneficial for the environment, your health, your carbon footprint, and it’s even…fun!

You start with the waste you naturally produce in your kitchen. Your eggshells, unused vegetables, old leftovers, tea bags. You can use newspaper clippings, sawdust shavings, dryer lint, flower or garden clippings, even chicken droppings (y’know, if you happen to have any of those lying around). Just start throwing any of these you have onto a pile of dirt—you can use topsoil from a bag if you like. Once you start adding your own organic material to the mix, you’ll need to turn it. This means you can have it in a big pile outside and just poke it with a shovel every once in a while or, if you really want to get fancy, buy a compost keeper that has a handle you can turn when you dump stuff into it. If you’re not into giving your compost much attention, you can fix this issue by adding lots of aerating material, like straw, so the turning part becomes unnecessary.

That’s pretty much it! Simple enough right? “But wait, what about the worms?”, you ask. Ah yes—you can add worms to your compost to increase the nutrient richness. (Plus they’re friendly and cute). So what can you use it for? Most people who compost use it on their gardens or lawns as fertilizer—if you get really good at it you can start giving/selling it to friends and neighbors. It serves quite a few eco-friendly purposes: it keeps a serious amount of waste out of landfills, which are filling too fast to keep up with America’s trash production and as it so happens, one third of the waste that makes it to a landfill is compostable. By keeping it at home, you’re preventing the landfills from filling up with waste that could be put to a better use. When you use compost to fertilize your veggies or your grass, you’re adding beneficial microorganisms to the soil (healthier for the things you’re growing and for you when you consume them) AND you’re keeping the chemicals used in generic fertilizers out of the soil waterways—excess nitrogen and phosphorus can do some serious damage to ecosystem function.

In 2010 we started composting on a large scale here at W&M. Thanks to some awesome Committee on Sustainability Interns and our great Dining Staff, all organic wastes from the Commons, Sadler, Marketplace, and Miller Hall are separated out and given to a third party company to make compost to sell as organic fertilizer. The Student Environmental Action Coalition’s gardening committee also only uses their own compost to tend the campus gardens! It’s easy, it’s hands-on or low maintenance, and it’s great for the environment. The only question left is…why not?

 

 

The Power Shift Experience

By Maren Hunsberger

The weekend of October 18th, a group of William and Mary students made the trek up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a little something called Power Shift. This biennial conference is geared toward environmentally-minded young people all across the country—it serves as an opportunity to attend trainings and workshops while offering the chance to hear distinguished speakers on subjects ranging from clean energy to policy making. The purpose on this particularly chilly October weekend? To empower young leaders, to promote a sustainable future, and to bring young people together and forward their progress in the environmental movement. There were an estimated 8,000 plus people in attendance, including students from Virginia Tech, JMU, Mary Washington, and W&M—Virginia was well represented by its student population. Speakers at the conference included 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Dream Defender founder Phillip Agnew, and the director of the acclaimed documentary Gas Land, Josh Fox, all inspiring students in fields as diverse as nonprofit entrepreneurism and the arts. There were also a plethora of panels to choose from, focusing on topics such as homeowners in fracking territory, and an even wider variety of workshops on everything from divestment, sustainable gardening, and environmental leadership.

The conference has previously been held in DC but took place this year in Pittsburgh, PA. Once the steel capital of the world, Pittsburgh has made great leaps to clean up the city and is the first municipality to ban fracking. The city is an exemplary prototype of an urban center in the post-industrial age cleaning up its act and becoming an environmental leader, mostly for the sake of the health of its citizens. 102_0070 Another big change in this year’s conference was the new focus on environmental justice.

Environmental justice, commonly referred to as EJ, centers around the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies”, according to the EPA. EJ focuses on grassroots solutions to environmental issues, mostly by ensuring equal protection from environmental health hazards. However EJ is a broad field of study and practice that can also include access to healthy food and the availability of environmental advocacy. There were several workshop and seminar opportunities at Power Shift 2013 that offered anti-oppression training to help participants recognize where one is in a position of privilege and power and to identify and understand different perspectives when addressing environmental degradation.

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Sophomore Anne Davis reflected on this aspect  of the conference, saying that “it was at Power Shift that…[I realized] how fortunate I am to come from a stable, middle-class upbringing and to be getting a college education and that I don’t have to worry on a daily basis whether I’m going to get sick from the air I breathe or the water I drink”.

Most of William and Mary’s attendees are also members of SEAC, the Student Environmental Action Coalition. Student environmental organizations from across the country can stay in contact with one another and share their work after the conference on Power Shift’s website. Check it out and join the conversation at http://www.wearepowershift.org    (above, William and Mary’s Power Shift attendees)

If you have any questions or comments about Power Shift, environmental justice, or sustainable initiatives at William and Mary, please connect with us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

–Maren Hunsberger

 

Sources: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/ej/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/10/26/2841841/15-million-americans-live-near-fracking/

Photos courtesy of Anne Davis

 

5 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

By Steven Walter

Decorations, gifts, trees, cards, parties, cooking — it seems like every day near the holidays is a party. While making new memories and enjoying the season, Mother Earth should be in the back of your mind. Approximately 25 percent more trash is thrown away during the holiday season, which amounts to around 1 million tons of extra waste per week, Stanford reports. Here are five simple ways to do your part to reduce holiday waste and still enjoy the season:

LED Lights

Photo by Robert.Montalvo via Flickr

Everyone loves to hang lights around the holidays. Lights are strung around trees and draped on our homes. There are even light-up decorations and lawn ornaments. Try using LED lights, as opposed to incandescent lights. LED lights use less energy, which is better for our environment and your wallet. Lighting a tall tree with LED lights approximately 12 hours a day for over a month will only cost you around $0.27, while a tree lit with incandescent lights would cost around $10 for the same duration. LED lights are also safer for kids and pets as they stay much cooler than incandescent lights and are shatter-proof.

Up-cycled Decorations

Photo by various brennemans via Flickr

Rather than going out and buying decorations, try making some from items no longer used around the house. Old light bulbs can be painted and strung on a tree. Use reclaimed wood or metal pieces to cut out decorations for doors and walkways. Stockings can be made out of old holiday sweaters. Make garland out of cranberries and popcorn, which can be eaten by birds outside when you’re done with it.

Holiday Cards

Photo by Grissom7 via Wikimedia Commons

Americans purchase around 6.5 billion greeting cards per year. Of that number, 1.6 billion — including boxes of cards — are for the holiday season. Some say that sending ecards online is a great way to save on waste. While that is true, it isn’t the same as mailing a person a physical card. Send your loved ones holiday cards using recycled paper. Photo postcards from companies like Minted can be printed on 100% recycled paper, so you’re sending out an adorable holiday photo and giving back to the environment at the same time.

Alternative Gifts

Photo by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Have you ever received a sweater as a gift that collected dust in your home until you threw it out? Don’t be one of those people. Get creative with your gift giving this holiday season. Give the gift of travel — plane tickets, an outing, zoo memberships, and much more. Gift certificates or tickets are also a great gift that takes up minimal space in the trash. Find out your recipients’ favorite sports team or restaurant, or purchase a subscription to a movie streaming service or book club.

Parties

Photo by COLORED PENCIL magazine

Keep holiday parties fun and eco-friendly by using washable dishes and silverware. After gift opening, be sure to collect paper to reuse or recycle, and make it easy for party attendees to do so. Instead of buying artificial decorations and centerpieces, use colorful fruits and vegetables. It can be as simple as filling large vases with Granny Smith apples or Hershey’s Kisses.

Beyond Switching the Light Bulbs

Wise words from The College’s Sustainability Fellow Patrick Foley, ’12

I was recently asked by a friend what advice I would offer to new students on campus interested in sustainability. I’ve been involved in the environmental movement on campus for a while, so I wanted to share some thoughts. Working to improve sustainability on campus at William and Mary over the past four years, both as a student and the College’s Sustainability Fellow, has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have witnessed so many positive changes on campus as a result of enthusiasm from students, faculty, and staff. We increased access to recycling, built LEED certified buildings, and funded environmental research. We even laid the groundwork for a state of the art EcoVillage that will establish William & Mary as a leader of sustainability in higher education. However, I think we have a lot of work left to do.

So here is my advice: We need more environmental stewards. We have become so ingrained with familiar advice that it has almost lost meaning: “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” There needs to be more. You should expect more. There is a world of difference between supporting environmental causes and being an environmental steward. An environmental steward is not passive. We need people looking to take meaningful action and who motivate others to raise their expectations. You are responsible for your own behavior, but you should also call upon your leaders (be it the campus administration or your political representatives) to enact effective policies that promote sustainability.

Education and outreach are vital components of improving sustainability on campus. Environmental groups should certainly ask individual students to make changes in their daily lives. I would encourage you to join these groups—I can personally attest to the great relationships I have developed through many of these organizations. You’ll begin to understand the issues, and awareness is undoubtedly important. However, after you attend enough documentary screenings and panel discussions to inform yourself on these issues you begin to ask yourself a question: where is the real change?

I am skeptical about the prospects for really changing things on campus without a renewed spirit of enthusiasm from students and faculty. Yet I am not cynical. When people stand up for the courage of their convictions and voice their concerns real change can take place. I saw this determination when we stopped a coal plant in Surry County. I saw this determination when students elected to assess a ‘green fee’ to create a permanent fund for supporting sustainable projects on campus. Students must demand large scale change. Incremental change simply isn’t enough.

Granted you should recycle. You should attempt to conserve electricity. You should take a shorter shower. We need to hold ourselves accountable, but we must also demand that our leaders make sustainability a priority. Macro-policy is every bit as important as individual action. Without efforts from the top to change behavior we will only have a façade of sustainability—it makes for a good admissions’ catalogue, but ultimately we are not moving forward. Be an environmental steward and never lower your expectations. Voice your opinion and demand leaders listen to your concerns. I think you will be surprised by how much you can accomplish with enough determination.

The First Annual Sustainability Summit

By Maren Hunsberger

When Saturday arrived, warm and cloudy, all I wanted to do was stay in bed. At 8 a.m. however, my alarm insisted on doing its job and getting me out of my inimitably comfortable bed to attend the College’s First Annual Sustainability Summit. As much as I had resisted getting up, I was greeted on arrival by busy friends and hot coffee–and the day only got better from there. After breakfast and coffee were enjoyed by all, Professor Emeritus Dennis Taylor gave a few opening remarks that set the tone for the rest of the Summit. He touched on the progress the College has made in the realm of sustainability, running the gamut from dining services to energy conservation, encompassing almost every department and staff on campus. He emphasized the role of students in beginning these initiatives, even those who devoted just a few hours every week to a green project on campus. Students who have started small have made huge progress, step-by-step–like making the heating/cooling system in Swem more energy efficient. His remarks particularly resonated with the students in the crowd when he concluded, speaking about the changes that still need to be made. “All the easy stuff is already done”, he quipped, urging students to look for solutions to the difficult green initiatives and to not be intimidated by their scale: “The beauty of this school is what drew you to it, and it’s your ideas, volunteerism, and long-term support of green initiatives that will keep it that way”.

After Professor Taylor’s opening remarks, the room was palpably energized, students and faculty buzzing with an energy that defied the early hour. The panel that followed, ‘Sustainability in Practice’, furthered this enthusiasm. Panel members introduced themselves and their participation in green initiatives on campus, most with very impressive accomplishments to bring to light. Faren Alston, with Dining Services, brought up the fact the W&M has been 1st in a recycling competition among Virginia public universities for 3 years in a row (Go Tribe!). She also spoke about the wildly popular Farm to Fork Night, the annual sustainable, local food dinner. The panelists, who included Alston, Bob Avalle (Facilities Management), Patrick Foley (Sustainability Fellow), and Michael Curcio (Dining Intern), discussed the eco-initiatives they had been most excited about seeing put into practice and their dream sustainability projects. Hearing a group of driven people speak about their sustainable work created a moment where attendees of the Summit looked around at the room and seemed to think, ‘We are all working toward the same goal. We are making real progress. And I think we can take this even farther.’

Two other panels followed, one on ‘Sustainability in research and Academics’ and ‘Sustainability in Service’ (this last panel was made up entirely of students!). After absorbing such rich, diverse perspectives and hearing about exciting but perhaps little known sustainability projects, attendees mingled to discover mutual interests and goals. Even as a bystander it was gratifying to watch connections being made, and as a student I can say that I met people who changed my perspective on the nature of sustainability at the College. I made contacts I will certainly be using in the future, especially with possible projects in mind (and did I mention making new friends?).  While I and other planners certainly identified aspects of the Summit that will be improved upon for years to come, the ultimate goal of the Summit was fulfilled. Students and teachers from all backgrounds came together to celebrate William and Mary’s green achievements and used communal brainstorming to plan for new goals. So, to all you sustainably minded people out there on campus–here’s to next year.

 

Wondering Where to Move After College?

Check out 4 of America’s Greenest Cities!

Did you know that living by green spaces can improve your health? According to Washington.edu, parks and other green spaces encourage more physical activity, as people living in communities with an abundance of greenery enjoy improved health, compared to those who don’t.

Beyond the physical benefits environmentally-friendly areas afford to residents, many cities across the U.S. have also implemented green initiatives, ranging from making their communities more bike-friendly, to using eco-friendly energy sources. One consideration today for some movers is whether or not the destination city responds to environmental impact studies with innovative solutions that promote change without increasing costs to taxpayers. No matter where you move, a comparison tool for electric suppliers such ashttp://www.electric.com/energy-prices-and-products.html can show you how to optimize your energy consumption. Here are four green cities to consider if living in an earth-friendly place is important to you:

Boulder, Colo. boulder

According to the official city website, Boulder, Colo. entered an Energy Performance Contract with McKinstry, a building efficiency upgrade company, to reduce water and energy usage at 66 of its city facilities. Boulder is among only five cities to receive the new American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) exceptional energy efficiency program awards, which were announced in January 2013.

The EPC allowed Boulder to implement a two-fold efficiency program that includes lease purchase financing that, without increasing taxpayer burden and guaranteed realized savings, will generate enough to pay for the upgrades. The program also reduces utility maintenance costs and usage bills, city-wide.

Raleigh, N.C.

The Public Technology Institute (PTI) recently recognized Raleigh, North Carolina with six awards for outstanding innovative solutions, according to PTI.org. The projects included collaborative efforts between the Raleigh Police Department and the city’s Office of Sustainability. The city converted 20 patrol cars from gasoline to a propane-hybrid model to reduce carbon emissions. This program increased vehicle efficiency during emergencies while improving cost efficiency, saving the city $80,400 over a 12-month period.

New York City, N.Y.green new york city

NYC’s Zone Green received the 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Environmental Planning, the American Planning Association (Planning.org) reports. The NYC plan is an initiative for building owners and managers to make sustainable changes in both new and existing buildings, allowing them to generate renewable, clean energy and save on energy costs. It will also help reduce carbon emissions (30 percent by 2030), manage storm water, reduce urban heat island effects, and grow more local, fresh food.

Portland, Ore.

If you love recycling, you’ll love Portland. The city recycles more than 60 percent of their waste, one of the highest percentages in the nation, reports Cereplast. There are also more than 700 miles of bike paths around the city, and Portland, along with all Oregon cities, has a required urban growth boundary, which prevents urban development beyond certain areas. These boundaries preserve all the wondrous greenery Oregon has to offer, while fostering an urban environment conducive to foot and bike transportation.