Green Umbrella in the News

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  • February 23, 2021 11:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Soapbox Cincinnati

    In early 2020, Cincinnati contracted the nation’s largest municipal solar farm as part of its plan to convert the city government’s power usage to 100% renewable energy by 2035. The plan, the third of its kind, acts as the city’s roadmap for climate and environmental action.

    “We’re on the front lines of responding to climate change, climate justice issues, matters of where climate issues intersect with economic issues,” says Carla Walker, climate advisor for the City of Cincinnati.

    A major initiative in the latest Green Cincinnati Plan is an effort to create a 2030 District, or a collection of buildings and neighborhoods committed to reducing energy usage, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 50% by 2030. The project has required collaboration with large corporate and institutional partners.

    To read more, click here.


  • February 12, 2021 11:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Environmental and Energy Study Institute
    By: Joseph Glandorf

    Cincinnati, Ohio, is a midsize city that has attracted attention for its outsized climate action. In early 2020, Cincinnati contracted the nation’s largest municipal solar farm as part of its plan to convert the city government’s power usage to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. The 100 percent renewable energy goal is just one of 80 total recommendations in the 2018 Green Cincinnati Plan, which aims to reduce city carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 and implement a suite of other projects in the fields of environmental sustainability, environmental justice, and climate resilience. The plan, the third of its kind, acts as the city’s roadmap for climate and environmental action.

    According to Carla Walker, Climate Advisor for the City of Cincinnati, the first Green Cincinnati Plan was born out of Cincinnati’s engagement with the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2008. The first plan focused primarily on carbon reduction and sustainability; the second, published in 2013, incorporated climate resilience; and the third and current plan has deepened its engagement with issues of equity and justice.

    Beyond this expansion of focus areas, Oliver Kroner, the Sustainability Coordinator for the city's Office of Environment and Sustainability, says the plan has benefited from major advances in science, policy, and technology over the last 10 years. The city has also worked to create a more robust community engagement process, which is central to the creation of the plans.

    However, plans are only as good as the actions they inspire. So, Cincinnati got to work and is on track to meet its emissions targets. Relative to a 2006 baseline of 9.3 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the city’s emissions have decreased 18.4 percent. Emission reductions have been realized due to trends in population movements, grid decarbonization, and city policies. The city’s Energy Aggregation program, introduced in 2012, provides 100 percent renewable energy or natural gas to tens of thousands of households, abating 250,000 tons of CO2 per year. Over the same period, emissions from municipal government facilities dropped 36.3 percent from about 432,000 tons due to solar installations and efficiency upgrades to the municipal water works and other government systems.

    A major initiative in the latest Green Cincinnati Plan is an effort to create a 2030 District, or a collection of buildings and neighborhoods committed to reducing energy usage, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 50 percent by 2030. The project has required collaboration with large corporate and institutional partners. Though the city had limited experience engaging with such partners on a project of this scale before, Kroner says the District has seen enthusiastic uptake by stakeholders across the city. According to Kroner, the 2030 District has been one of his office’s “faster growing efforts” and now covers around 25 million square feet of property.

    Like cities across the United States, Cincinnati has limited municipal resources at its disposal. While increased federal support would be beneficial, the city has found creative ways to implement its programs. According to Kroner, the Office of Environment and Sustainability (OES) has unlocked resources by winning grants and saving the city money in operations. But one of its most important resources has been the local community itself.

    “We have relied heavily on community support,” Kroner said.

    Indeed, the 2018 plan came about through an extensive community engagement process. The first consultation meeting in 2017 attracted about 350 attendees. From there, the city convened over 30 meetings, resulting in a list of over 1,400 recommendations that were later distilled down to the 80 included in the plan. A wide range of stakeholders, including individuals, businesses, community groups, faith organizations, and nonprofits, all contributed.

    “Anyone who wants to help out with the implementation of the plan, you are more than welcome to do so,” Walker said. “That’s really part of OES’ DNA. We’re always reaching out to partners, not only in the development of programs, but also in the execution of the Green Cincinnati Plan.”

    The city has made strides to center equity for underserved communities in its community engagement process. Savannah Sullivan, Climate and Community Resilience Analyst at OES, says the city is working on “centering equity within the work, not only with outcomes but also with processes.” She cited work with Groundwork USA on the city’s Climate Safe Neighborhoods project, which analyzes the relationship between historical patterns of urban racial segregation and climate risk to inform the development of participatory resilience plans in at-risk communities.

    “This work is focused on developing community engagement structures that are inclusive and center racial equity, and not only learning from the lived experiences of people within climate-impacted neighborhoods, but also creating feedback and connection systems with our office that can then inform our future plans,” Sullivan said.

    One of Walker’s projects is the city’s Energy Equity program, in which the city provides grant funding and educational assistance to low-income tenants of multifamily housing so they can access energy efficiency upgrades. The project emerged from research showing that this population paid a greater share of income towards energy than most other populations in the country. Energy Equity seeks to fill an important gap—programs encouraging energy efficiency upgrades usually focus on homeowners, not renters, reinforcing structures of inequality.

    Another goal at the intersection of environmental justice and climate resilience is to expand urban greenspace by ensuring that every neighborhood has at least 40 percent tree canopy coverage. The city has significant work ahead to achieve this goal. At present, some neighborhoods have as much as 70 percent coverage and others have as little as 10 percent, with sharp divisions along lines of race and income.

    Greenspace reduces the urban heat island effect, whereby sunlight is absorbed by dark surfaces, like asphalt, increasing the air temperature. Urban heat islands are disproportionately common in low-income communities and communities of color. The city’s work in this area dovetails with a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded study on urban heat islands released by the city in fall 2020, which aimed to locate the most heavily impacted areas in Cincinnati.

    Cities are well-positioned to be climate leaders. From the adoption of renewable energy to reducing the urban heat island effect, the work to address climate change impacts is happening first and foremost in municipalities.

    “We’re on the front lines of responding to climate change, climate justice issues, matters of where climate issues intersect with economic issues,” Walker said.

    Kroner emphasized that while the United States set emissions targets under the Paris Agreement, it did not go into detail on recommending actions to meet those targets. Detailed recommendations to figure out how to reduce emissions are just what the Green Cincinnati Plan process generated. Cities only heightened their ambition to create and deploy specific climate plans in the wake of the executive branch’s announcement of its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2017 (the withdrawal took place in November 2020, but the United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement under the Biden Administration). Along with other cities, Cincinnati has benefited from the funding and technical assistance opportunities created to support the work of sub-national entities, including grants from organizations like Bloomberg Philanthropies and the National League of Cities.

    Cities have also been collaborating with one another to share experiences and relevant policy solutions. In Cincinnati’s case, their climate planning draws lessons from other cities with an industrial legacy. The city participates in regional initiatives like the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments.

    “We learn a lot from peer cities. Cities around the country are all trying to figure this out together, and all of our solutions are open source,” Kroner said.

    City leaders have also shared their work at the global level through the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy, which includes representatives from over 10,000 cities in 138 countries. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley joined the Covenant on the same day that President Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017.

    Walker emphasized that while city and subnational leaders have been drawing more attention for their climate work in recent years, this work is not new, “There have been a number of coalitions that have been working on this over the years, not only the last four years, I mean the last couple of decades. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has been working on these issues since I was in Mayor Mallory’s office [from 2005 to 2010].”

    “We’ve been taking the lead for a while,” Walker said. “It’s not like this is a new phenomenon.” The experience cities have gained leading on climate action is more important than ever in this critical moment in the climate fight.

    The Green Cincinnati Plan in Brief

    The 273-page plan calls for a wide range of investments in environmental protection and sustainability. It includes carbon reduction goals, but also seeks to improve resilience and equity. It is organized into eight main sections:

    The built environment

    Education and outreach

    Energy

    Food

    Natural systems: air quality, water quality, and green space

    Resilience

    Transportation

    Waste

    Each section describes a set of measurable goals and a set of recommendations to meet them. Each recommendation comes with an estimated carbon reduction potential and cost-benefit analysis. The city and its community partners actively work to implement each of the recommendations and track their progress over time.


  • February 08, 2021 11:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WVXU
    By: Michael Monks

    Cincinnati punches above its weight when it comes to cities working on making their built environments more ecologically friendly and sustainable, local experts say.

    What's more, big issues in Cincinnati, like historic preservation and affordable housing, aren't the barriers to developing sustainably you might think they would be. Some of Cincinnati's challenges and strong points are actually a boon for green building and renovation if approached the right way, experts say.

    Joining Cincinnati Edition are Green Umbrella 2030 District Director Elizabeth Rojas, Green Building Consulting President Paul Yankie and SHP Sustainability Director and past Cincinnati AIA President Allison Beer McKenzie.

    Listen: https://www.wvxu.org/post/experts-say-cincinnati-making-strides-sustainable-development-heres-why#stream/0

  • February 07, 2021 11:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
    By: Hannah Sparling

    The phone call came this past March. The woman on the other end of the line was having trouble finding produce. Empty shelves because of the coronavirus pandemic. She wanted to know if April Pandora had any to sell.

    “They needed produce, and we had it,” said Pandora, who owns and operates an organic urban farm in Cincinnati. “That’s what we do.”

    As small businesses around the nation are suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, urban farmers like Pandora are actually seeing a boost in sales as well as heightened interest in their niche part of the region’s agricultural system.

    People are more concerned with their health, so there’s a new demand for fresh, locally grown food.

    And when panic buyers emptied supermarket shelves, it was a wakeup call.

    That’s not to say farmers are not struggling during the pandemic. In fact, some have had to destroy tens of thousands of pounds of fresh food because their usual customers – hotels, schools and restaurants – are doing less business or are shut down completely.

    But for others, like Pandora, who runs the Avondale-based Eden Urban Gardens, LLC, business is booming.

    “People have realized how fragile our food systems really are,” Pandora said. “People got scared. People realized the grocery store only has a two- to three-day supply of food.”

    Owner/farmer April Pandora checks soil around the orchard section at Eden Urban Gardens.

    ‘Running out of food’

    During World War I, the government called on Americans to grow whatever they could in their yards to help combat food scarcity. First called War Gardens and then Victory Gardens, the movement grew so popular during World War II that in 1944, community gardeners produced nearly 40% of all the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S., according to the History channel.

    When the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in 2020, gardening again rose to the fore, with seed companies telling The Enquirer in March they were doing 10 to 15 times their normal amount of business.

    It’s difficult to quantify the boom, but multiple local farmers told The Enquirer business is up as a result of the pandemic. Sharonville urban farmer Andy Gorman, who also manages the Deerfield Farmers’ Market, said every farmer he knows has experienced an uptick in business. If he had to guess, Gorman would say demand for his produce at Cincy Urban Farm is up about 30%.

    Gorman said he specifically got new customers after the first round of stimulus checks. People told him they were intentionally spending the money locally to help support all the small businesses they knew were struggling.

    Owner Andy Gorman looks out over his crops at Cincy Urban Farm in West Chester, Ohio, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.

    Alex Otto, assistant farm manager for Our Harvest Cooperative, which has farms in College Hill and Morrow, Ohio, said he’s noticed a 10% or 15% increase in business over the past year or so, in part because people want control over their food supply and they want that personal connection that comes with shopping local.

    “It’s proved a lot of our theories correct,” Otto said, “that in a crisis, it’s the community that steps in to have your back. The idea that we should have relationships with the people that grow our food just makes so much sense. … If there’s ever issues with food shortage, you literally have the number of the person that’s growing your food.”

    Mary Hutten, who manages the Lettuce Eat Well farmers’ market in Cheviot, said that in 2020, demand was so high that some of her farmers ran out and had nothing left to sell at the market. Hutten attends national market meetings, and that story is common, she said.

    “We’re running out of food,” she said. “But I don’t want that to be alarming – I think this is a good thing to happen. People are doing what I’ve wanted them to do for years. I wanted them to take responsibility for their food supply.”

    Not your typical farm

    If you’re picturing a traditional farm with expansive fields, rolling hills, tractors, combines, grain silos and barns, you are way off. Eden Urban Gardens is set on a regular Cincinnati street, just like any other in the city. There are houses and apartments and then, on one plot of land, Eden Urban Gardens.

    On this plot, instead of a manicured front lawn with flowers and bushes, there are long garden beds with spearmint, oregano, lettuce and radishes.

    Instead of a house, there’s a high tunnel, a 30-foot by 48-foot enclosure that protects plants from the elements and helps extend the growing season.

    Part of the calling of urban farming is to turn otherwise-unwanted land into productive space. This plot of land was vacant until Pandora bought it at auction. Now, with this plot plus one other and a small garden at her house, Pandora is farming just over half an acre.

    In 2020, Eden Urban Gardens grew about 1,575 pounds of produce. And that was before the high tunnel, which was just installed in December and will allow an extra 2,000 pounds every year.

    For context, 2,000 pounds is one ton.

    “Are we going to feed 20,000 people with our farm? No, but we’re not trying to,” Pandora said. “We are partners and part of the local food system.”

    The USDA estimates that worldwide, about 15% of food is grown in urban areas. USDA service centers across the country are hearing from people who are starting to grow their own food because of the pandemic, according to a spokesperson, but it's unclear how many of those new growers are in urban areas. In general, the spokesperson said, the percentage of urban-grown food is expected to increase as most of the world's population resides in cities.

    April Pandora connects irrigation hoses with her daughter, Petra, inside the high tunnel at Eden Urban Gardens.

    The benefits of urban farming, according to local farmers, include more nutrient-rich food, more money circulating in the local economy and more stability in the local food system. If there’s a disruption in the national or global supply chains – a threat that came up during the coronavirus pandemic – local farmers would still be able to provide food for local residents.

    The ideal solution is to have a balance of local, national and international food sources, said Michaela Oldfield, director of the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council for Green Umbrella. Green Umbrella is a collaborative organization focused on sustainability in the Cincinnati region.

    With a mix of sources, there’s plenty of variety in what’s available, Oldfield said, and if there’s a problem with any one source of food, the region will still be well supplied by the other sources.

    ‘Standard suburban kid’

    Gorman, the Sharonville farmer, said he didn’t even have a garden as a child. He grew up in Springdale and was a “standard suburban kid.”

    Then in 2012, he switched to a plant-based diet, and he started to get more interested in where his food was coming from. He built one raised garden bed in his front yard, then he built a couple more. Fast forward to today, and Gorman’s entire yard is covered with garden beds. He bought a small strip of empty land next to his house, and he uses two small patches of space at a local farm just up the road in West Chester.

    Gorman’s home/farm is right across the street from Sharonville Elementary School, and he loves that young students see him out working. He loves when they stop and ask him questions and he gets to teach them a little bit about gardening.

    He builds his beds right up to the edge of his property and lets people pick tomatoes from the sidewalk.

    “My whole thing is to inspire people, whether it’s just to grow one tomato plant or to add a raised bed to their landscaping,” he said. “I just want people to get their hands dirty. If I can inspire one person a year, I’m happy.”

    Pandora started her farm in 2016 with a spade, a trowel, a hoe and a 20-year-old truck, she said. It’s hard work, physically exhausting, and for as many as there are who support her mission, she also runs into opposition. There are people who don’t like the way it looks to have a farm in the middle of a residential street, she said, or who think the food should be free, like a community garden, even though the farm is how Pandora supports her family.

    More than once, Pandora said, people have called the city to report her for farming her land, thinking she’s breaking the law.

    But those troubles pale in comparison to the satisfaction Pandora gets from farming her land and providing fresh food for her family and her Cincinnati neighbors.

    And little by little, especially lately, Eden Urban Gardens and other farms like it are growing and gaining support.

    Interested in starting your own garden or farm?

    Cincinnati's city code allows gardens – less than 20,000 square feet of land – in all zoning districts.

    Farms – 20,000 square feet or more of cultivated land – are also allowed with "conditional use approval" according to the code. That approval is designed to address any potential adverse effects a farm might have on the immediate neighborhood.

    Raising farm animals is subject to different rules governing the number of animals and their various shelters.

    It's important to note this code only applies to the city of Cincinnati. If you live elsewhere, check the zoning rules for your specific jurisdiction. Urban farmers also have to follow any state/federal laws.

    The Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati can be a starting point for new gardeners, with classes and a horticultural library. More information is available online at civicgardencenter.org.

    About the farms:

    Eden Urban Gardens, LLC is a certified organic farm with small plots in Avondale, North Avondale and Pleasant Ridge. The farm grows and sells herbs, shoots, vegetables and fruits.

    Eden Urban Gardens sells at local farmers’ markets and also has a subscription service for regular produce deliveries in select Cincinnati neighborhoods. For more information, visit the farm’s Facebook page.

    Cincy Urban Farm is based in Sharonville. The farm specializes in fruits and vegetables and also has a subscription service. Cincy Urban Farm is not certified organic, but owner/farmer Andy Gorman said he only uses organic methods, with no GMOs, toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizer.

    For more information or to sign up for Cincy Urban Farm's subscription service, visit cincyurbanfarm.com.

    Lettuce Eat Well is a year-round farmers’ market in Cheviot on Cincinnati’s West Side. The market is currently on its winter schedule, which means it is open the first and third Friday of each month. Lettuce Eat Well is pre-order only, which means buyers put in their order ahead of time via email and pick it up the day of the market. For more information, visit lewfm.org.

    Our Harvest Cooperative has two farms, one in College Hill and the other in Morrow, Ohio. It’s a worker-owned cooperative whose mission is to give people access to healthy, local food grown by fairly compensated workers.

    Our Harvest Cooperative has a food subscription service, with pickup sites throughout the city plus one in Newport. For more information, visit ourharvest.coop.


  • February 04, 2021 11:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Journal-News
    By: Mike Rutledge

    Hamilton should become an easier place for bicycling and walking along sidewalks because of two actions the city took last week, officials said.

    City Council incorporated the city’s new Active Transportation Plan into the city’s overall strategic plan for improvement, called Plan Hamilton.

    “It’s focused on pedestrian and bike improvements, and especially with the streets levy and the increase in doing road-paving projects, it will serve as a road map, every time we identify a stretch of road, we have this very thoughtful document that was put together with the help of a really talented consulting firm,” said city Planning Director Liz Hayden.

    City staff and officials can ask themselves, “As we fix this road, should we also add a bike lane?”

    The plan is also expected to help the city win grants from the state and elsewhere, Hayden said.

    It was only because the city was working on the active transportation plan that Hamilton was eligible for the $367,000-plus Safe Routes to School grant that provided sidewalks for students who walk to Linden Elementary School.

    The plan also will help Hamilton win additional grants for the Beltline biking and walking path that will work its way through the city’s West Side, for the Miami-to-Miami biking trail that will link the Great Miami and Little Miami rivers.

    “We’re really chugging along with the Beltline,” Hayden said. “I feel that will come together sooner rather than later.”

    Work has started on the first segment of the Beltline, with grants awarded for two other sections of it, including along the Great Miami’s western shoreline, past the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill indoor sports complex to Main Street.

    Although the city already knew where significant sidewalk gaps were, such as along Main Street in the large retail area near the western edge of the city, “this formalizes the need to complete our sidewalk system,” Hayden said.

    “We’ve been lucky enough to have positive development momentum in that area along the Chipotle, and so we have this opportunity to put sidewalks in, in the short-term,” she said. “Pretty soon, the sidewalks on the other side of the street from Kroger will be almost complete.”

    Better bicycling possibilities

    In another move, the council last week authorized an application for a $187,290.00 grant from Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Clean Ohio Trail Fund to help build 1½ miles of the Miami to Miami bike trail that will link the Great Miami River and its bike paths with those along the Little Miami River.

    “This is a vision to connect the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Warren County around the Mason-Lebanon area to the Great Miami River Trail in Hamilton,” said Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails, a bicycle-trail advocacy organization that has worked with governments and other organizations in a 10-county area.

    The Miami to Miami Action Plan, finished in 2018, prioritized a route that followed part of the old Miami & Erie Canal corridor. Following that, Hamilton and MetroParks of Butler County received a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant through the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments that will pay up to $510,064 of the estimated $744,176 cost.

    The ODNR grant would reduce Hamilton’s local-share payment from $423,112, to $46,822.

    The trail ends now near Gilmore MetroPark, “and Hamilton and MetroParks are working to extend that trail west through that park, and that’ll get it closer to the city of Hamilton,” Johnston said. “The goal is to eventually link that all the way up into downtown Hamilton and connect to the Great Miami River Trail. One mile at a time, through.”

    The segment for which Hamilton is seeking more money would link into an existing 3 miles of trail and would be “the first step toward completing the connection between the Little Miami trail and the Great Miami trail,” Hayden said.


  • January 26, 2021 11:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WVXU
    By: Ann Thompson

    With nine years to go, Cincinnati's 2030 District reports its participating companies have reduced energy usage by 21%, just ahead of where they should be, according to the group's director.

    The national organization and its local affiliates have a goal of reducing energy-, water- and transportation-related emissions by 50% by 2030.

    Cincinnati's 2030 Director Elizabeth Rojas says this is all voluntary since there isn't a benchmarking ordinance.

    She realizes the energy consumption part can be complicated and expensive. "If you've done all the low-hanging fruit, such as changing your LED lighting, making sure that things are insulated well and that you are really buttoned up in your building, then you move to more aggressive measures."

    That could take the form of building automation systems.

    Some partners are already taking an extra step, outside of the 2030 goals, by committing to go to net zero. Here are links to their individual news releases: Fifth Third Bank, Procter and Gamble, the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Zoo, Northern Kentucky University, and Xavier University.

    There are smaller partners, and Rojas says Our Lady of Grace, Sleepy Bee Cafe, the Cincinnati Art Museum and The Mercantile were awarded grants to go green.

    The next step is getting water data and surveying the companies on how to reduce transportation for building occupants.

    Cincinnati 2030 is also collaborating with The Health Collaborative and the International WELL Building Institute to make sure the buildings are healthy for employees.


  • January 13, 2021 4:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    January 13, 2021
    CONTACT: Rob Reiman, CEO, T
    he Giving Grove
    (913) 486-2340
    rob@givinggrove.org
     

    NATIONAL NONPROFIT ESTABLISHES AFFILIATE IN CINCINNATI

    Giving Grove orchards provide free fruits, nuts and berries for neighborhoods facing food insecurity 

    Cincinnati -- The Giving Grove, a Kansas City-based nonprofit serving food insecure communities, announces today it will expand to Cincinnati through a partnership with Green Umbrella and the Common Orchard Project. 

    Launched in 2013, The Giving Grove has 273 orchards across the U.S. that provide free, holistically-grown fruits, nuts and berries for neighborhoods with high rates of food insecurity. After finding success with its model in Kansas City, The Giving Grove began expanding to other cities with high food insecurity rates, launching affiliate programs in St. Louis and Omaha in 2017, and Memphis, Louisville, and rural Kansas in 2020. Giving Grove’s expansion plans include launching affiliates in 14 more U.S. cities by 2025. 

    The typical Giving Grove orchard will produce more than 10,570 servings of free, healthy foods worth nearly $9,000 each year. With a 50-60+ year lifespan, each orchard will produce over its lifetime more than 232,000 servings of food for people in need while sequestering carbon, reducing stormwater runoff and providing urban tree canopy.

    Giving Grove co-founder Kevin Birzer, CEO of TortoiseEcofin and Giving Grove Board Chair, noted that the national Board sought partners for expansion that operate well-run organizations with proven track records of successfully serving their communities. Green Umbrella, in partnership with Common Orchard Project, fit the model well.

    “We are delighted to partner with Green Umbrella and the Common Orchard Project to bring Giving Grove orchards to neighborhoods throughout Cincinnati,” Birzer said. “Green Umbrella’s commitment to vibrant, sustainable communities makes them a strong partner in our work.”

    Green Umbrella executive director Ryan Mooney-Bullock sees the alignment between the Common Orchard Project and the organization’s existing efforts. “We are excited to support this simple yet elegant solution of transforming vacant lots in food-insecure neighborhoods into sources of greenspace, healthy food and community connection.”

    The Common Orchard Project works to install and maintain hundreds of small orchard plantings across Greater Cincinnati and grows “commonly held” resources by educating communities on fresh food and urban land management. Founded in 2017 by Chris Smyth, the effort has since planted 10 orchards across Cincinnati and three in Cleveland. Smyth will continue to serve as the director of the project as it incubates within Green Umbrella and will plant more orchards each year thanks to Giving Grove’s support. Learn more about Common Orchard at www.commonorchard.com.

         #####

    Giving Grove’s vision is thousands of little orchards in food insecure urban neighborhoods across the nation, creating a local food production system that feeds people for decades. Learn more at www.givinggrove.org      


  • January 13, 2021 11:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: World Wildlife Fund
    By: Mackenzie Manley

    Those outside Cincinnati, a mid-sized city of hills and valleys, might not readily see the metropolis as one of the country’s leaders in tackling climate change. Yet, grassroots organizations and community leaders have been addressing the crisis for years through on-the-ground efforts, policy, and investing in green innovation.

    Amid a global pandemic that has exacerbated existing socio-economic inequities and climate injustices, the fight continues.

    And while the most visible consequences of climate change often relate to melting ice caps, rising sea levels, forest fires, and an uptick in devastating storms, Midwestern cities like Cincinnati are already experiencing rippling effects.

    If humans are unable to limit carbon pollution, Cincinnati’s average temperature could climb by as much as seven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

    Changes will be seen across the city and region but neighborhoods won’t be impacted equally. Vulnerable populations—lower-income communities of color—have disproportionately felt the effects of climate change and will continue to suffer with greater severity unless action is taken.

    “When we think about climate disruption, in many ways, it’s a risk multiplier. It takes existing problems and makes them worse,” said Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability (OES) Coordinator Oliver Kroner. “I think you could say the same thing about the pandemic. If you’re on the brink before catastrophe you’re more likely to face hardship.

    “When you talk about resilience planning, and how we endure these changes ahead, I think some climate planners see this as an opportunity to learn about future stressors in our communities.”

    The Green Cincinnati Plan, a 273-page document released by OES that includes 80 recommendations for reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, outlines an aim for the city government to run solely on renewable energy by 2035. Adopted by the City Council as a 5-year outline, their plan is currently on track; 28 municipal facilities already run entirely on renewables and the construction of what will be the largest city-led array of solar panels in the country is underway.

    This is work that Cincinnati’s current mayor, John Cranley, has supported. When the US announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, an extensive plan aimed at keeping the global temperature rise in this century well below 2° C (3.6° F) —or even 1.5° C (2.7° F)—Cranley condemned the action and signed on to become one of nearly 4,000 CEOS, mayors, governors, tribal leaders, college presidents, faith leaders and other officials to declare support for climate action as part of the We Are Still In (WASI) movement.

    On a local level, organizers have been working toward a greener Cincinnati for decades. When Cranley joined WASI—an initiative administered by World Wildlife Fund, Climate Nexus, and Ceres—the framework to meet such goals was, in many ways, already there. As local governments tackle climate and the pandemic, a resilient support system is vital.

    “Cincinnati was one of those early signatories, and has been, I think, a strong leader from the start,” said Kevin Taylor, WWF’s senior program officer for cities and climate. “From the perspective of that initiative, We Are Still In, Cincinnati is a really good example that other cities in the country can follow in taking up the mantle of leadership that's been lacking both at the federal level, and in some ways, there in the state of Ohio as well.

    “We see a mix of ambition and commitment from state governments around the country, but cities have been strong. Cincinnati is certainly one of those.”

    One such organization is Groundwork Ohio River Valley (Groundwork ORV), an environmental nonprofit that is part of a national network, Groundwork USA, that centers on racial environmental justice work.

    Groundwork ORV’s co-executive director Tanner Yess says that as a young person of color who grew up around the outdoor recreation science and environmental sustainability world, he feels that his field chose him. “I'm lucky enough to have had the privilege to parlay that into community-based conservation efforts,” Yess said. “(It’s) sustainability work with a different angle, which is connecting all that jargon to real world quality of life issues, especially to neighborhoods that have been left behind by the environmental movement.”

    Cultivating a movement

    A group of youth employees converged in Lower Price Hill, a Cincinnati neighborhood that is more susceptible to a changing climate, to install green infrastructure, beautify the community, and plant fruit trees in what was a vacant lot.

    It was an overcast, chilly afternoon and the sound of their shovels hitting rock and soil filled the air, joined by conversation and the occasional shuffle or question of passers-by. They’re part of Groundwork Ohio River Valley’s Green Team, one of the nonprofit’s many initiatives.

    Made up of high school students, the program is designed to cultivate job skills in youth and a better understanding of the environment they live in.

    The youth working on this particular project are mostly residents of Lower Price Hill and attending the neighborhood’s public school, Oyler. The fruit trees, once mature, are meant to help provide the community, a food desert, with access to fresh food at no cost; residents will be able to pluck pawpaws, peaches, and apples while enjoying the green space.

    “By planting an orchard, the work provides value to the lot and makes it more interesting and beautiful for the neighborhood,” Sophie Revis, the program’s manager, said. “And we'll add more trees to Lower Price Hill. As the climate continues to change, Lower Price Hill is poised to get hotter, wetter, and have even worse air quality. By adding these few trees, it'll help a lot to reduce the heat and make the air better to breathe.”

    This work is in collaboration with the Common Orchard Project, a program incubated by the Green Umbrella alliance that works with the Port Authority/Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority to take vacant land, which is often seen as a blight, and reclaim it as a community asset that provides nourishment and beauty.

    Studies have shown that such vacancies significantly affect the health, both physically and mentally, and the safety of residents, whose neighborhoods already lack in resources.

    Founded in 2017, the Common Orchard Project has planted 10 orchards in Cincinnati so far, , says Chris Smyth, the program’s director. Sixteen more orchards are planned by the end of 2021—and they’ll keep going until they reach 100. The project has also been brought to other areas, including Cleveland, Ohio’s second most populous city.

    Smyth, who has studied permaculture design for over a decade, also runs a two-acre farm in Camp Washington, a densely urban neighborhood similar to Lower Price Hill. He noted that Camp Washington is only covered by 8% tree canopy.

    “How can we not just plant wonderful things (on vacant land) but also productive things to add value to neighborhoods that are in some ways rapidly gentrifying? It gives neighbors an additional way to add value instead of, ‘Well, you can either add a home here or a business,’” Smyth said. “I think that perennial agriculture stands enough to fill some of the gaps in our Midwestern Rust Belt cities.”

    As the hole-digging neared completion, Smyth called the group over for a lesson in how to plant young fruit trees.

    One of the listening workers was 16-year-old Mohagany Wooten. She worked with the Green Team over the summer on another project, a trail across the city in Madisonville.

    Before she entered the program, Wooten said she knew little about environmental justice. Through the Green Team, she has been able to learn about not only broad issues like climate change, but also how the environment relates to barriers faced by her own community.

    “Lower Price Hill really doesn't have a lot of open green space. But we do have certain little patches. There was this one patch by the bus stop,” Wooten said, adding that she thought the space could be used as a community garden. Instead, she learned there were plans of putting an apartment complex there.

    “It threw me off and put me in the environmental injustice spot because instead of them trying to put vegetables or something healthy there, they just wanted to put a building there,” Wooten said. “There's a lot of abandoned buildings in Lower Price Hill and I feel that they should probably try to fix them to be better instead of taking away the green spaces.”

    Many kids in her school, Wooten said, get their work done, try to graduate and either go to college or get a job—that’s the basic plan. But this program instills in students a desire to learn about their environment and apply that knowledge into changing their communities for the better.

    Groundwork’s Yess said that one of the best parts of the program is seeing where students go after their time with Groundwork is done. One Green-Teamer, now in his early 20s, moved on to run one of their Green Corp Young Adult workforce groups. Other now-adults work in fields such as the forest service.

    Of course, not everyone who leaves the Green Team goes on to an environment-adjacent career. But that’s not really the point, Yess said. Rather, it’s that they understand the impact the work has on their communities and how to direct that knowledge into action.

    Climate safe neighborhoods

    Climate change means a less healthy and prosperous Cincinnati—but the city’s neighborhoods won’t suffer the social, health, and financial consequences equally.

    With an old building stock and high renter population, Cincinnati is the US city where low-income residents paid the eighth-highest energy burden, according to a 2016 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

    And neighborhoods subject to government-sanctioned racist housing practices in the 1930s and ‘40s are at higher risk to experience extreme heat and flooding today due to more heat-retaining surfaces, such as highways and lack of green spaces.

    The effects of a smaller tree canopy coverage are already being felt, from higher rates of asthma, worse air quality, increased flooding, and more mold—lower-income communities and neighborhoods with large Black populations experience them at higher rates.

    According to Yess, Cincinnati neighborhoods with higher percentages of tree canopy coverage are 10 to 12 degrees cooler than highly urbanized neighborhoods, which are disproportionately made up of low income residents and/or people of color.

    Parts of the city are hotter than others. But what to do about it?

    “We're arming ourselves and citizens with the language that policymakers use so that they can advocate for themselves,” Yess said. “We’re doing short- and medium-term action mitigation strategies, everything from projects as simple as planting trees to more intensive green infrastructure policy work.”

    Kroner said that maps of temperature differences can be used to help inform where Cincinnati focuses its tree-planting efforts. Another slice of the pie, he said, is private land or other areas that require planting.

    That’s where partnerships like the one OES has with Groundwork are crucial. Beyond “greening” spaces, the work is focused on connecting people with land and democratizing data. The latter helps people better understand what’s happening in their own communities and the policies that affect them.

    OES also looks at energy burden, or the percentage of income a household spends on utility bills. Because tenants often foot the utility bill, there’s no economic force that incentivizes landlords to make energy improvements.

    “We're trying to insert our policy, our programs, our resources, into that intersection,” Kroner said, “to try and deliver energy efficiency to these households that are really paying exorbitant amounts of money just to heat their homes.”

    According to Kroner, approximately 60% of Cincinnati’s carbon emission comes from its built environment—the city’s buildings and how they’re powered, heated, and cooled. Another 30% comes from transportation and fuel.

    “A number of our strategies focus on making buildings more efficient, powering them with renewable energy, and then electrifying transportation and improving transportation choices,” Kroner said.

    Greener, more accessible transportation

    With transportation accounting for a big chunk of the city’s carbon emissions, increasing passenger miles travelled via public transit ridership by 25% by 2035 is also a goal of the Green Cincinnati Plan.

    A recently passed 0.8% sales tax to fund a more robust transit system will help the city achieve this. Cincinnati also aims to double the lane miles of bike trails, improve walkability and pedestrian safety, and encourage the transition to electric vehicles.

    This October saw the unveiling of the city’s latest Metro bus transit hub in Northside, the city’s second busiest transfer location. For residents, it’s a community asset that has been years in the making. Features include eight sheltered boarding stops, electronic signage that gives real-time bus arrival time updates, and a lot for drivers using park and ride services complete with charging stations for electric vehicles.

    One grassroots organization is Better Bus Coalition, led by lifelong bus rider and Cincinnatian Cam Hardy. A resident of Northside, Hardy said he was “extremely happy” to see the hub come to fruition. “I would like to see this at a lot of our bus stops, actually,” Hardy said. “This is excellent. This has been great for the community. And it's been great for the city overall.” He’s excited for other neighborhoods to open similar hubs. It’s advocacy like the coalition’s that has made such improvements possible.

    For Hardy, it started with him getting fed up with buses that continuously broke down or were late. One night, he took to Facebook Live and asked: “Why is this acceptable?” That led him to being invited on a bus ride with Metro’s then-CEO. After learning about how policy affected the bus system and joining forces with other riders, Hardy officially formed the coalition in 2017.

    “We looked at it as a way to take ownership and have some pride about our transportation system because we weren’t seeing that from anywhere else,” Hardy said. It’s a volunteer gig for Hardy and other coalition members.

    Hardy said buses lacked investment because bus ridership was looked down on as a poverty issue. But transit should be seen broader than that. As Hardy described: “It’s not just about moving poor people around. It’s for the greater good."

    Looking forward, part of their advocacy includes adding cleaner, more fuel-efficient buses to Metro’s fleet. For Hardy, a stronger Metro is integral to a more sustainable Cincinnati. He hopes that, as the city recovers from COVID-19, transit can be a part of the rebuild by giving citizens a safer, more effective means of returning to work.

    More food, less waste

    Rebuilding efforts after COVID-19 will reach far beyond just transportation. The pandemic also highlighted and exacerbated existing stressors on the national and global food system.

    Despite as many as 1 in 6 Americans experiencing hunger, according to Feeding America, an estimated 30% to 40% of food produced in the US is thrown away. Back in 2017, Cincinnati-based supermarket retailer Kroger launched its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social impact plan that aims to address this absurdity in the US food system. In line with that mission to help create communities free of hunger and waste, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is a supporter of WWF’s Food Waste Warriors conservation curriculum.

    Last year, the program audited school cafeteria plate waste in 46 schools across nine US cities, including Cincinnati. WWF’s Amanda Stone, director of engagement and communications for markets and food issues, noted that there are multiple ways climate change is tied to food waste. For one, all of the water, land, and resources that go into producing food are wasted when food is tossed. From the farm and all the way through the supply chain to the point it arrives to the consumer, any given product comes with its share of emissions. “If the product is wasted, the emissions are for naught, and then methane, another climate change pollutant occurs as food rots in landfill,” Stone said.

    The pandemic has had an enormous impact on schools writ large. As Stone said, that also means food in schools. As districts move between in-person and remote schooling, Food Waste Warriors’ primary focus has been finding ways to support schools through initiatives like redeveloping their virtual curriculum and making it accessible to teachers.

    “The most important part for the school nutrition directors and educators is getting nutritious school meals into the hands of students through a variety of superhero strategies—from more packaged in-classroom meals, to curbside pickup and bus-based delivery routes—all of which might need to change on a day-to-day basis,” Stone said. “Our work with The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation and the Food Waste Warrior program has shifted to support teachers and education groups on the ground that want to integrate these concepts into their virtual learning environments. We’ve found teachers are eager to help kids explore how food and nature are connected, and how the need to address waste is more important than ever, even from the space of their kitchens at home.”

    Ryan Mooney-Bullock, the executive director of Green Umbrella, the regional sustainability alliance of Greater Cincinnati, said that the pandemic has, in many ways, increased a sense of urgency around addressing local food system security.

    “People are seeing how important it is to have a diverse and flexible food supply chain that includes farms and processing operations of many scales,” Mooney-Bullock said. “In 2020, local farmers struggled to get their excess produce to the consumers who needed it most, while food banks struggled to meet increased demand for food. By working to solve disconnections in the food system, we can make sure our region is prepared for future disruptions, whether they are caused by pandemics, natural disasters or the effects of climate change.”

    There are multiple programs that are attempting to make better use of the food available and get it to the plates of people who need it. But it’s an area where the city is still learning.

    Mooney-Bullock said that if 10% of the region’s population shifted their food budget to local foods, $67 million would go back into the local economy.

    But many areas may lack access to a grocery, more so a reliable place to buy local food.

    Mooney-Bullock said one of Green Umbrella’s current projects—Community Voices for Food Movement—is aimed at incorporating the perspectives of the population that experiences food insecurity in designing solutions to food access and nutrition education.

    “We are also looking at how we can create better access to local food, and just healthy food in general, in communities that are currently underserved by a full-service supermarket,” Mooney-Bullock said. “That might look like increased farmer's markets in those places, or some way to effectively distribute fresh food to the corner store or other hubs where people could pick it up.”

    In this together

    From planting orchards to building better bus benches to rain gardens and river cleanup—each piece from hundreds of regional organizations adds up to Cincinnati striving to be a more sustainable, equitable city.

    “One of my worst fears,” Yess said, “and what Groundwork does so well, is: I’m so scared that there’s a little brown or black girl or boy or other out there in some neighborhood that does not have access to green amenities, parks, education or recreation and they could have been the next great conservationist.”

    That’s why they work with hundreds of youths a year through education and workforce programs.

    Currently, Groundwork Ohio River Valley has 12 staff, dozens of youth employees all over the tristate area, and many partnerships. And their work hasn’t slowed due to the pandemic. On the contrary, Yess said their work, which for the most part takes place outside in small groups, has exploded.

    “We've expanded and…it's a testament to the fact our work has always been rooted in racial justice and environmental issues, and we're ready to go,” Yess said. “We've grown rapidly because the need is so great.”

    The hope is to build the organization to 200 youth employees, or as Yess puts it: “a small army of green workers across the city” doing work from trail building to green infrastructure in communities.

    Yess said that the word that best evokes what Groundwork does is restoration.

    “And I'm not talking about just land, right? It's heart, mind, body, soul,” he said. “It's the process of people and the land connecting. And if you have that connection, the climate change discussion is not an issue.”



  • January 08, 2021 10:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Press Release For Immediate Release  

    For more information contact:

    Elizabeth Rojas, elizabeth@greenumbrella.org 513.633.5823
    Director, Cincinnati 2030 District

    Cincinnati 2030 District Releases Building Progress Report and Grants Funds to Member Upgrades

    Cincinnati -- The buildings in Cincinnati’s central business district and uptown areas are making better-than-expected progress toward measuring and reducing their carbon footprint, according to the Cincinnati 2030 District’s first-ever building Progress Report.

    The Cincinnati 2030 District 2019 Progress Report includes aggregated energy data from participating member buildings falling within the Central Business District and Uptown, the District’s defined geographic boundaries. The District, which supports building owners and managers in making bold reductions to their buildings’ carbon footprint, aggregates and uses the data as a benchmark for cutting emissions by 50 percent by 2030. Across the Greater Cincinnati region, property owners and managers from 197 buildings voluntarily reported their building’s energy data as part of their commitment to make the needed reductions.

    “This is significant,” said Elizabeth Rojas, Director of the Cincinnati 2030 District, “because our members and leaders are committed to making these reductions. This is evident not only by the high percentage of organizations sharing their data, but also that we are on track to achieving our energy goal, even as a fairly new district. This showcases Greater Cincinnati as a leader in sustainability.”

    According to Architecture 2030, the urban built environment is responsible for 75% of annual global GHG emissions. Buildings alone account for 39%, and in Cincinnati, that number is nearing 60% according to the City’s Office of Environment and Sustainability. Ohio’s carbon dioxide emissions rank 6th in the U.S. because of reliance on coal and natural gas. Reducing energy use in buildings decreases carbon dioxide emissions by lessening our need to burn carbon-emitting fuel sources.

    Measuring energy usage of the nearly 300 properties committed to the District is the first step toward reaching the goal of a 50 percent reduction in emissions. Armed with usage data, building members and partners collaborate to design and implement creative strategies, best practices and verification methods for measuring progress towards a common goal. Professional and Community Partners in the areas of engineering, design, construction, building analytics, transportation, renewables, EV charging, water conservation and building health all support building members in reaching their goals.

    In addition to benchmarking member performance, the District will fund member projects that increase their energy efficiency. Leveraging funds from the Duke Class Benefit Fund, the District announced four winners of its Business Incentive grant. Selected through a request for proposal process, awarded business owners received a combined $65,000 in 1:1 matching grants for energy efficiency upgrades. Projects were selected based on the percentage of energy reductions anticipated and contract value awarded to the District professional partners contracted for the work. The recipients and partners selected are:

    ● Cincinnati Art Museum with CMTA and Siemens

    ● Mercantile Center with Johnson Electric

    ● Our Lady of Grace with PRO Lighting and Solar, and Paff Electric

    ● Sleepy Bee Cafe with Melink Corp.

    Both the District Progress Report and the Business Incentive grants support the 2018 Green Cincinnati Plan, which found that the two largest sources of emissions in the region are in the commercial building and transportation sectors. Establishing a 2030 District was a key goal set forth in the Green Cincinnati Plan because it had the highest potential for emissions reductions. The 2030 District name stems from the belief that drastic changes to the sources and methods of our energy consumption are required by 2030 to stave off the worst possible effects of climate change. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 212 is a proud sponsor and a trusted partner of the 2030 District.

    To learn more about becoming part of the solution to decrease our region’s carbon emissions and secure a sustainable future for all our community members, visit 2030districts.org/cincinnati or email Elizabeth Rojas.

    ###

    Green Umbrella leads collaboration, incubates ideas and catalyzes solutions to create a resilient, sustainable region for all.


  • January 01, 2021 11:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Local 12
    By: Jenna Cisneros

    Wasson Way's trails connect communities once divided by a major roadway, and leaders behind the project are asking for community support and input in the New Year.

    The Wasson Way Trail network creates a ladder to opportunity for 83,000 people living in eight Cincinnati neighborhoods and three municipalities along the trail.

    “CROWN stands for the Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network. It's going to be a network of 34-mile urban loop of multipurpose trail that goes around the city of Cincinnati, and Wasson Way is the first major leg of it that's being completed right now,” Sean McGrory, board president for Wasson Way, said.

    The biking and walking path helps connect many of the east side communities, from Xavier University through Hyde Park.

    “2021 is really going to be a breakout year for the CROWN. In a strange way, the pandemic and everything that's accompanied it has really shone a light on why a project like this is so vital to the city. With adversity comes opportunity, and this is an opportunity to really bring the city together,” McGrory said.

    Phase 3 connecting Madison Road to Marburg Avenue was completed this past November, but the work to reach the end goal is far from over.

    “We want to do landscaping. We want to plant probably 100 trees along Wasson Road. We want to put in some bushes and some other landscaping to make it more attractive,” Jay Andress, co-founder of Wasson Way, said.

    “Phase 4 is going to start in the spring, and it’s going to connect going...east to Ault Park, so it'll connect one of the great assets to the city, Ault Park, and ultimately in 2022, then we're going to go west and connect up to the Uptown Innovation District and the University of Cincinnati,” McGrory said.

    As we enter 2021, the organization is asking for more community input.

    “Come out, share your voices, let us know how you're using the trail, what you'd like to see and join us on this journey,” McGrory said.

    Click here for a closer look at the timeline.

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