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April 20, 2016 5:25 PM
Source: City Beat
This year marks the 46th-annual Earth Day celebration, which started in the United States in the spring of 1970. The holiday has since become an international movement aimed at building a healthy, sustainable environment, addressing climate change and protecting the Earth for future generations.
Locally, the nonprofit Green Umbrella, the region’s environmental sustainability alliance, is working with businesses, universities, individuals and local governments — including the city of Cincinnati’s Office of Environment & Sustainability — to make Greater Cincinnati one of the most sustainable U.S. cities by 2020.
Oliver Kroner, sustainability coordinator for the city, helps lead local government and the community toward the practice of good environmental stewardship. “Broadly speaking, my role is to identify and help implement measures that improve our environment, our economy and quality of life for Cincinnati residents,” Kroner says.
Founded in 1993 as the Office of Environmental Management, the scope of Cincinnati’s environmental program has grown to include sustainability — hence the name change — and is now active in air quality, climate protection, energy management, environmental justice, urban agriculture, recycling and waste reduction.
At the moment, I am focused on developing a ‘dashboard’ to track progress on the 60-plus sustainability initiatives established in the Green Cincinnati Plan,” Kroner says. “The plan lays out goals for everything from energy to food, transportation, water, land use, etc. The dashboard will help the city decide where to invest energy and resources.”
Established in 2008 and reworked in 2013, the Green Cincinnati Plan, developed in partnership with Green Umbrella, is considered a roadmap of recommendations to make the city a leader in addressing global climate change, as well as a healthier place to live.
The five-year 2013 update called for revisions to renewable energy recommendations and a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below the 2006 levels by the year 2028, according to Kroner.
“Cincinnati is now among only a few cities in the country that made a commitment to 100-percent renewable energy,” Kroner says.
“We now have solar installed on 24 city facilities around town.”
The city of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance have also teamed up to offer incentives to homeowners to help them move to solar power; based on the size of the solar system you install, you can earn up to $1,500. (Learn more about the rules for installation credits at greatercea.org.)
The 2013 Green Cincinnati Plan also re-energized a focus on bicycle transportation, helping lead to the creation of Red Bike in 2014.
“In the last year, of the top 100 cities, Cincinnati was ranked No. 3 in fastest bike-commuting growth, according to the League of American Bicyclists,” says Kristin Weiss, executive director of Green Umbrella, a Red Bike partner. “We’re really excited about this because bike commuting helps us reach our regional sustainability goals around reduced gasoline consumption and increased participation in activities that get people outdoors.”
Another eco update both Green Umbrella and the city are touting is the net-zero District 3 Police station headquarters.
“Not only is the building beautiful, but it uses cutting-edge technologies like geothermal and solar to generate more energy than the station consumes,” Kroner says.
And when asked what he’s currently most excited about, Kroner says, “poop!”
We are getting ready to make some major advancements in how we handle the city’s sewer sludge,” he says. “The Metropolitan Sewer District has presented a forward-thinking plan to install a biodigester to use microbes to convert the region’s sewer sludge into energy and fertilizer. From a cost perspective, a sustainability perspective and a quality-of-life perspective, biodigestion would be a major step forward.”
Green Umbrella | 5030 Oaklawn Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45227 | (513) 541-1538