Green Umbrella in the News

  • September 13, 2021 12:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Magazine

    From yoga at Rhinegeist’s rooftop to breakfast in the woods, there’s something for everyone at this year’s 18th annual Great Outdoor Weekend.

    Cincinnati is home to an abundance of protected greenspaces, nature preserves, trails, and parks. Most residents live within a 10-minute walk of our city’s parks, and Green Umbrella is here to celebrate with over 100 free events for the whole family. On September 25–26, the 18th annual Great Outdoor Weekend is about making sure that everyone has access to the great outdoors and the best outdoor recreation and nature education programming. The two-day event features activities hosted by dozens of organizations at locations across the Greater Cincinnati area, including Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana. Great Parks of Hamilton County alone has planned concerts, astronomy, paddling, animal experiences, and golfing to do over the weekend. There’s something for everyone—people of all age groups and abilities can join in on the fun, and many activities are transit accessible. Here are some of the highlights.

    Rooftop Yoga at Rhinegeist

    Sunday, September 26

    10–11:30 am

    1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine

    Who says downward dog has to be without a beer in hand? Head up to the rooftop bar for a free 50-person yoga sweat session taught by an instructor from Embra Studios. It’s first-come, first-served, so get there as early as possible. Afterwards, take a growler to go! Rhinegeist is offering half off growler fills, and a portion of the brewery’s proceeds from throughout the day will be donated to Green Umbrella.

    Breakfast in the Woods

    Sunday, September 26

    8–9:30 am

    5330 S. Milford Rd., Milford

    Wake up early for an 8 a.m. hike at Valley View Nature Preserve behind Pattison Elementary School. This family and pet-friendly event is stroller accessible and takes you through the 190-acre forest. Explore the biological diversity that nature has to offer right here in our city’s great parks, and finish out the morning with breakfast at the fire ring.

    Aiken New Tech High School Agricultural Campus

    Saturday, September 25

    9 am–1 pm

    5641 Belmont Ave., College Hill

    Visit this unconventional high school to see how students are contributing to nature and learning about the business side of agriculture, too. From chickens to an orchard, the students are preserving the outdoors and creating a lucrative agribusiness—student-roasted coffee that will be available for purchase by the cup or by the bag.

    The New Whitewater Canal Trail

    Sunday, September 26

    10 am–4 pm

    15040 U.S. 52, Metamora, Indiana

    Celebrate the soft opening of the new Whitewater Canal Trail in Metamora, Indiana. There’s hiking, biking, habitat restoration, plants, history, and a brand new 11-mile section of the trail. The location is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers and open to the whole family.

    Third Annual Run the Riffles

    Saturday, September 25

    9 am–2 pm

    4330 Spring Grove Ave., Spring Grove Village

    Join Mill Creek Alliance for an Urban Stream Adventure on the Mill Creek with the expert guides of the Mill Creek Yacht Club. The day includes a kayak race, an urban hike along the Mill Creek Greenway trail to learn about creek restoration projects, and a BioBlitz walk to identify and count local species.

    Ready to make a plan for the weekend?

    Visit the Great Outdoor Weekend website for more information and the entire schedule of events that is filling up with more things to do weekly.

  • September 12, 2021 12:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Reuters

    By Sarah LaBrecque

    With President Biden’s American Jobs Plan failing to deliver as promised, Sarah LaBrecque reports on how cities like Cincinnati are taking the lead on mitigating and adapting to climate change

    In July this year, Ohio’s Governor, Mike DeWine passed a law preventing cities in the midwestern state from taking steps to ban property owners from installing natural gas or propane in new buildings. It was a reaction to a trend popping up in cities across the country: local action being taken to decarbonise the buildings that people live, work and gather in.

    The trend started in 2019 when Berkeley, California, banned gas hook-ups in all newly constructed residential buildings and most non-residential buildings, on the basis that it gives the fossil fuel an advantage not offered to electricity, and amid health concerns about the combustion of gas in buildings.

    Today, 48 cities in the sunny state have enacted similar bans or limitations, and municipalities across the country from Seattle to New York City have followed suit, or plan to. In Massachusetts, an ongoing battle rages between cities and state legislators, over plans to turn the state electric.

    But Ohio isn’t having it. And neither are 19 other state legislatures. In a land where individual freedoms take priority over almost all else (in this case, the right to heat or cook with gas), it’s a prime example of how political and divisive energy is. And it shows how those working to decarbonise the country’s buildings are caught between a rock and a hard place.

    Over 30% of the U.S.’s total greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to fossil-fuel combustion to heat, cool and power buildings

    The good news is that efficiency gains from measures such as updated standards for appliances and climate-smart building codes in the U.S. have meant that energy intensity decreased by 19% in residential buildings and 15% in commercial buildings between 2007-2017. Less positive, however, is the fact that over 30% of the U.S.’s total greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to fossil-fuel combustion to heat, cool and power buildings. And efficiency gains won’t be enough to avoid total emissions rising, at least in commercial buildings, through to 2050.

    So what’s being done to tackle this, despite the challenging political environment?

    For a start, determined action at city level. In 2020, 157 U.S. cities disclosed their climate and emissions data to CDP, the global non-profit that helps companies, regions and investors manage their environmental impact. These municipalities, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Providence, Rhode Island, represent a significant chunk of all global participating cities: about 20%.

    What’s more, the U.S. contingent is strongly represented in CDP’s A-list, a group of global cities leading on their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, with 25 of the 88 on 2020’s A-list in the U.S. And among the top mitigation efforts reported by these cities, energy efficiency and retrofit measures, plus updated building codes and standards, featured strongly.

    But money for such measures is certainly not flowing. CDP recently identified a $10.6bn funding gap, across 97 participating cities, to implement sustainable infrastructure projects such as building retrofit and energy efficiency upgrades. With nearly 20,000 cities, towns and villages across the U.S., the figure will be far higher. “Budgetary capacity is one of the major challenges for cities,” says Katie Walsh, head of cities, states, and regions for CDP North America.

    Some federal funding would be nice. And things did look promising earlier this year: as part of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, $370bn had been earmarked to help decarbonise the country’s building stock. Through weatherisation programmes, grants for schools and public buildings or tax breaks on efficiency upgrades, such funding would go a long way to help lower energy bills for Americans, create jobs and provide more comfortable living and working spaces. Fast forward to June, however, and that $370bn had shrunk to, astonishingly, zero.

    For those keeping a careful eye on the climate-centred aspects of Biden’s flagship proposal – the American Jobs Plan is part two of the President’s “Build Back Better” agenda – seeing that money disappear from the books was incredibly disappointing. “This is what keeps folks like me up at night,” says Jillian Neuberger, a U.S. legislative engagement expert at the World Resources Institute. “Buildings are everything. They’re where you grow up, where you live, where you go to school, where you work, where you go when you’re sick. It’s important to make sure that we get the full scale of funding that buildings really require.”

    At the time of writing, some proposed funding had been reinstated, for example $500m over fiscal years 2022-26 in grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements at public school facilities, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (a new proposal that has evolved out of the American Jobs Plan).

    But negotiations continue and the final package may not land on the president’s desk for several months, if it does at all. In any case, what has snuck back onto the balance sheet so far is still “a far cry from the scale and ambition of the $370bn in the American Jobs Plan, for energy efficiency and buildings”, says Neuberger.

    Without federal funding, cities may struggle to play their part in a goal Biden himself has set: to halve emissions across the country by 2030. But places like Cincinnati are ploughing ahead, despite the odds. Ohio’s third most populated municipality, with around 300,000 inhabitants in the city proper, has set its own local goal that mirrors Biden’s: a commitment to reduce buildings’ energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 50% by 2030.

    The goal was set as part of the City of Cincinnati’s involvement with the 2030 Districts Network, an organisation founded by the non-profit Architecture 2030. Across North America, 23 “urban building districts” have formed their own chapters, “in order to drastically improve buildings’ environmental impact by 2030”. The Cincinnati chapter, which collectively includes over 300 buildings, is run by non-profit Green Umbrella. Alongside the city, participating members include the Port of Greater Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati.

    In a state that is the sixth highest in the U.S. for CO2 emissions, a 50% emissions reduction target in less than nine years is perhaps ambitious. In terms of electricity, 24% of Ohio is powered by natural gas, 58% by coal and 14% by nuclear. Oil, wind and other sources make up the remainder (2017 figures). So what to do when you’re a green city in, as Walsh delicately puts it, “a state that doesn't have the same targets and ambitions”?

    Get creative. From increasing tree canopy cover to counter the urban heat island effect, to contracting out the largest municipally run solar farm in the country, Cincinnati is not letting state or federal support (or lack thereof) stand in its way. And neither, it seems, are Ohio’s other leading cities. Interestingly, three of the state’s cities or counties appeared on CDP’s A-list: Cleveland, Columbus and Cuyahoga County.

    Michael Forrester, director of the office of environment and sustainability for the City of Cincinnati, rattles off an extensive list of ways the city is decarbonising its buildings. Programmes include tax breaks on the incremental costs of building improvements in order to achieve LEED status, discounted rates on green energy achieved through “aggregating” all their customers, and grants for rental property owners to install energy efficiency upgrades.

    After the record-breaking heatwaves that blasted through the north-west this summer, measures that not only relieve pressure on building’s cooling systems but also build climate resilience into a city’s structural fabric are needed more than ever. According to nonprofit Climate Central, Ohio averages about five “dangerous” heat days a year. By 2050, the state could see 30. In Cincinnati, increasing tree canopy coverage to at least 40% in every neighbourhood – a figure that impresses CDP’s Walsh – should bring myriad benefits.

    Currently some neighbourhoods have 70% cover, while others have only 10%.

    Forrester says the city has done temperature-mapping studies and found that areas with the least tree cover were, unsurprisingly, the hottest. “Cities can often be 10-20[F] degrees hotter than the surrounding areas,” he says, explaining that night-time temperatures are rising, particularly in areas with lots of pavement and buildings, but few trees. “Preventing heat-retention is very important for buildings’ overall performance and overall [energy] consumption,” he asserts.

    Add in the benefits to air quality, mental wellbeing and stormwater retention that trees can provide, and it’s a no brainer. “It's also, frankly, an equity issue. Because a lot of our hotter areas are in our poor and minority neighbourhoods,” says Forrester.

    Just as the natural world relies on a plethora of complex systems and networks to thrive – climate conditions, soil health, plant and animal interactions – achieving carbon neutrality in buildings will require a coordinated and complementary web of actions. With only 4% of a city’s carbon footprint falling under mayoral control, it may seem like the cards are stacked against municipalities. In terms of buildings, indirect emissions from embodied carbon, and fossil-fuel powered electricity grids and heating networks, as well as state-managed building codes, have a lot to answer for.

    Cincinnati has benefited from some grants and technical assistance from the likes of Bloomberg Philanthropy and the National League of Cities to help its green transition. Its mayor, John Cranley, also joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, which includes representatives from over 10,000 cities in 138 countries, on the same day that President Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017.

    Forrester says Cincinnati has one of the highest per capita number of LEED buildings in the U.S., which he attributes to municipal tax incentives. And the city is active in discussions with state partners around updating energy codes.

    Together with other U.S. cities, Cincinnati is determined to show that local action by its leaders can create meaningful change to the built environment, regardless of what is happening in Washington D.C.

  • August 19, 2021 12:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
    By Chris Mayhew

    Part of the first railroad line to enter Cincinnati prior to the Civil War is closer to becoming a biking and walking path tying into a web of urban and rural trails connecting all the way to Lake Erie.

    The framework to construct a final agreement was agreed upon in March by the city, the line's owners, and the railroad that has rights to operate on it.

    The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority owns the unused north track and a south track used by the railroad for freight operations and for a seasonal passenger dinner train operation. The city, cyclists and railroad officials all refer to the trail path and tracks as part of the Oasis Line, a name that dates back to a former brick railroad switching station built in the 1960s near where the trail will begin.

    Cleveland cycling attorney and cyclist Ken Knabe has ridden the entire 336-mile trail network south to dip his tires in the Ohio River after starting on the shore of Lake Erie.

    Cyclists have a tradition of dipping their bike's front tire in the water to ceremoniously mark the start and the end of the trip on traveling all of the Ohio to Erie trail.

    The last leg of the journey, now completed by riding on Riverside Drive in Cincinnati, will be safer when the Oasis trail opens than having cars pass close by at 25 mph or more, Knabe said.

    Knabe said the cycling trip south took three days with stops in hotels in Millersburg, Columbus and Yellow Springs before arriving in Cincinnati.

    "It creates a lifelong connection and friendship of the people that you ride with and then you have the historic towns along the way," he said of the journey.

    In Cleveland, it took three phases to create a seamless trail that isn't on roads. The last portion required building a bridge for the trail over an active rail line to get to Wendy Park. It opened in June.

    About 12% of the 326 miles of trail still require going over a street or road, he said. The rest are paved or crushed gravel trails restricted to pedestrians and cyclists.

    One of the not-to-miss features of the trail system on the northern end is the journey on the former canal towpath through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, he said.

    "My ride of choice is the towpath because every time I go on it I see a heron, I see a huge turtle, It’s just relaxing," Knabe said.

    Genesee and Wyoming Inc., through its property Indiana and Ohio Railway, owns rights to use the tree stump- and weed-filled north track from the transit authority that will become a trail. The section of the northernmost part of the former Little Miami Railroad tracks will join much of the other parts of the former railroad line that are already a bike and walking trail.

    The five-mile multi-use path will start near the Montgomery Inn Boathouse and stretch east to Carrel Street to connect to trails around Lunken Airport.

    Bike-trail advocates credit Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley with brokering the agreement the city has in place now with Genesee and Wyoming Inc. The transit authority owns the north track.

    The city's agreement promises $3 million through the authority to the railroad company to buy its rights to use the north track. A provision in the agreement to erect a chain-link fence or another barrier between the eventual path and remaining active tracks is one of the key reasons city and trail officials say the railroad relented on earlier objections to the trail. The freight railroad continues to serve Cincinnati Barge and Rail Terminal just east of T.M. Berry International Friendship Park, and part of the seasonal Cincinnati Dinner Train uses the south Oasis Line track that will remain after the trail is created.

    "First, as safety is our first priority, it’s always our goal to keep people and rail lines as far apart and physically separated as is feasible," said Michael E. Williams, a spokesman for Genessee & Wyoming Railroad Services. "That’s always our position on the subject of trails."

    All parties in the ongoing discussions with the city and railroad are working well together, Williams said. The discussions remain active, he said.

    "This has been the breakthrough we’ve been waiting to happen for 10 to 15 years," said Wade Johnston, a cyclist and director of Tri-State Trails for Green Umbrella. "The mayor made this a priority."

    This will be a continuation of the experience people have on the existing Little Miami Scenic Trail, Johnston said. People can bicycle on Riverside Drive, but it's not ideal for novice cyclists or families with small children, he said.

    The ongoing Beechmont Bridge Connection Project scheduled to open in summer 2022, will connect the existing Little Miami Scenic Trail to trails around Lunken Airport.

  • August 04, 2021 12:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WYSO
    By Kristin Stratman

    Attendees worked on laptops, drawing maps of their communities with the online program DistrictR. As people drew their maps, they included details about some of the assets and issues they see in their neighborhoods.

    Researchers at The Ohio State University’s Kerwan Institute will aggregate and analyze the information in order to generate sample district maps. Then they’ll submit the maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission before it votes on new congressional and state legislative district maps later this year.

    Jeniece Brock is the Policy & Advocacy Director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. At the event, she said community members need to be involved in their state’s mapmaking process for the maps to be fair.

    “A lot of times folks are left out of the process whether they’re missed because they’re not counted in the census or maybe they don’t feel like they’ve been represented when the lines have been drawn in the past," said Brock, "We’re hoping to make sure that people’s voices are heard and that they have a seat at the table.”

    Dan Dusa came to the event with his wife. Together, they drew maps of their community in Greenhills, Ohio. Dusa says gerrymandered legislative maps in the past have left him feeling like he wasn’t being represented fairly in his district.

    “It’s so overly partisan that it’s, it's undemocratic," said Dusa, "I would just like it to be a little more representative of the actual community instead of just a partisan puzzle.”

    Rashida Manuel, the Director of Public Engagement at Green Umbrella, says unfair districts can lead to environmental injustices as certain groups are exposed to higher levels of pollution and the impacts of climate change. She says this can lead to higher rates of health disparities like asthma and diabetes.

    "The thing is that folks know that they’re experiencing all of these things but they’re not necessarily tying it to environmental degradation and climate change," said Manuel, "And if we want to start to address those issues we need to make sure that their voices and their votes count.”

    So far, almost 2,000 Ohioans have created community maps across the state.

  • July 23, 2021 12:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Highland County Press

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $12 million in Farm to School Grants this year, announcing awards to 176 grantees, the most projects funded since the program began in 2013.

    The department is also releasing new data demonstrating the recent growth of farm to school efforts nationwide. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of school districts and/or local entities responsible for school meals participated in farm to school activities during school year 2018-2019, more than half (57 percent) of which began within the past three years.

    “Helping schools expand access to healthy, locally grown produce through these grants is just one of the many ways USDA is transforming America’s food system,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Not only will this give children more nutritious food options in school, it supports local agriculture economies, while connecting them to the farms and farmers that grow the food we all depend on.”

    “The record-breaking Farm to School Grants and new data release today both reflect USDA’s commitment to supporting farm to school efforts as a win-win for all involved,” said Stacy Dean, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. “We’re excited about the growth in farm to school activity across the country and look forward to seeing the impact of this latest round of grants on children, schools, farmers and the economy alike.”

    This year’s Farm to School Grants will help expand the access to fresh, local foods and hands-on agricultural learning for children across 45 states and the District of Columbia. The awarded projects will serve more than 1.4 million students at more than 6,800 schools.

    Grantees include schools, state agencies, non-profits, tribal nations, agricultural producers and groups, and – for the first time ever – institutions participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program.

    Ohio grantees include:

    • Spice Field Kitchen, Inc. - $36,400
    Grant Type: Turnkey

    • The PAST Foundation - $98,606
    Grant Type: Implementation

    • Clermont Northeastern Local Schools - $45,910
    Grant Type: Turnkey

    • Graham Local School District - $100,000
    Saint Paris
    Grant Type: Implementation

    • Green Umbrella - $96,524
    Grant Type: Implementation

    • MyWhy - $96,536
    Grant Type: Implementation

    • Reynoldsburg City School District - $91,180
    Grant Type: Implementation

    • Saint Stephen Community Services, Inc. - $96,460
    Grant Type: Implementation.

    The latest data from the 2019 Farm to School Census highlight the impact of farm to school efforts on local communities. In school year 2018-2019, school districts purchased nearly $1.3 billion in local fruits, vegetables and other foods, totaling approximately 20 percent of all school food purchases. The newly updated Farm to School Census website features state and local breakdowns of participation and spending.

    Farm to school efforts introduce more locally grown produce into school cafeterias and expose children to agriculture and nutrition education through hands-on learning. They also provide reliable revenue for American farmers, directly boosting the local economy.

    USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit

  • July 19, 2021 2:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: CityBeat
    By Katie Griffith

    All it needs is $2 million — and you can help by drinking local beer.

    The Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network (CROWN) surpassed a major milestone in June when it secured $6 million of an $8 million goal to complete segments of a 34-mile mixed-use walking/biking path.

    Led by Tri-State Trails (an initiative of regional sustainability alliance Green Umbrella), Wasson Way, Ohio River Way and a public-private partnership, CROWN aims to connect over 100 miles of pre-existing and to-be-constructed trail systems while boosting economic development, improving transportation options, stimulating businesses and promoting healthy activities. 

    CROWN launched in August 2020 and has broken a lot of ground since. As it stands, 17 of the 34 miles are complete, five additional miles are completely funded and 12 miles await funding, says Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston. A number of public and private partnerships have come together to support CROWN, most notably United Dairy Farmers and Kroger Health (each contributing $1 million) and a capital campaign cabinet co-chaired by Wym and Jan Portman. 

    “We’ve been interested for decades in connecting people to the outdoors,” says Jan Portman. “Not only for physical, but mental health. We have dreamed about this kind of urban loop in this city. It’s such a great idea; it connects with so many priorities for so many groups of people, like transportation. But I think most importantly, the CROWN is going to connect people to places that they care about and places that can improve their lives, like universities and grocery stores and parks and the arts and healthcare centers.” 

    Currently mid-construction with various segments complete and open for recreation, Cincinnati’s first urban trail loop will enclose and connect more than 50 communities — that’s more than 356,000 people, according to CROWN’s website. 

    It’s also notable that CROWN will serve as a “hub,” Johnston says, to access the Little Miami Scenic Trail, Ohio River Trail, Mill Creek Greenway, Wasson Way and Murray Path. It also will include downtown’s Smale Riverfront Park, which was named one of USA Today’s top 10 river walks in 2021, and Riverfront Commons in Northern Kentucky.

    “The CROWN loop will take advantage of some of the great things in Cincinnati that are unique to the Midwest,” says Wym Portman. “We have a beautiful river, we are connecting to one of the best park systems in America, and we have arts and culture connections to the art museum and Cincinnati Ballet and more.”

    As more segments begin to open for recreation, the benefits are revealing themselves. Jan and Wym Portman attribute the opening of a walk-up window at Busken Bakery along Wasson Way to the development of the trail, as well as a recently announced apartment project by PLK Communities LLC. 

    “We call that ‘bikenomics,’ where we are seeing the economics of how much people care about trails and want to be close to them and are willing to support businesses along the way,” Jan Portman says.

    At about $1.5 million per mile (excluding bridges or retaining walls) Tri-State Trails’ Johnston says CROWN is a $50 million project that will leverage $42 million in federal funding in addition to the $8 million target in private donations. 

    CROWN now needs to secure the remaining $2 million of that $8 million and has launched promotional programs such as July’s Ales for Trails to help.

    In July, a visit to MadTree Brewing Company, Fifty West Brewing Company, Streetside Brewing, Listermann Brewing Trail House, Big Ash Brewing, Dead Low Brewing or North High Brewing Company can benefit CROWN. Each brewery — all located along existing and planned parts of the path — paid CROWN a fee to participate. Ales for Trails offers a Trail Hop Card (like a passport) that can be obtained at one of the breweries or downloaded on CROWN’s website. Buy a beer, get a stamp. Get stamps from all seven breweries by July 31 to get a free Ales for Trails T-shirt and a chance to win a grand prize raffle.

    Johnston sees Ales for Trails as a part of CROWN’s goal coming to life, as it benefits both patrons and trail-adjacent businesses. He also notes countless coffee shops, ice cream parlors, restaurants and retail spots that exist on the path as possible participants in similar programs in the future. 

    “This is what I envision will be the first of many types of programs like this that celebrate what is connected by the trail,” he says. “One of the things I’ve thought about is how along the Ohio River Trail there’s like five different local barbecue joints like Montgomery Inn Boathouse or Eli’s BBQ.”  

    He says it’s especially important that anyone can participate in these initiatives by walking or biking instead of driving, which positively impacts the environment as well as individual health.

    “One of the coolest things about the trail network in my opinion is just seeing our city from a different perspective that you cannot see from your car,” Johnston says. 

    Part of the trail that’s currently walkable is the portion of Wasson Way from Marburg Avenue in Hyde Park to Montgomery Road at the edge of Xavier University’s campus. ArtWorks’ 300-foot mural “Electric Avenue” dances along a portion of the path on the Duke Energy complex beside Montgomery Road. It colorfully celebrates sustainability, energy, movement and nature and was unveiled in summer 2020. 

    While parts of the trail will highlight recreation, others — like the connection to the Uptown Innovation Corridor when Wasson Way is fully complete — highlight one of CROWN’s most pivotal benefits: equitable transportation options. 

    “The connection to Uptown is going to touch Avondale, Evanston, Walnut Hills, and it’s going to link the trail into the Uptown Innovation Corridor, and that to me is a game changer,” Johnston says. “Because all of a sudden, the trail will connect to our region’s second largest employment hub, and you have all these densely populated residential areas along Wasson Way that are now going to be connected to the hospitals and the university and all the job opportunities in that area.”

    Specifically, according to Wasson Way’s website, 83,000 residents can benefit from this specific segment of CROWN plus gain walkable access to the 70 shops and restaurants in Rookwood. As of press time, three of the six phases of Wasson Way are finished, with phases four and five (1.25 miles, beginning at Marburg Avenue and ending at Old Red Bank Road) scheduled to be completed by winter and phase six (0.8 miles, beginning at Woodburn Avenue and ending at Blair Court) by 2024. 

    The goal is to have the trail completed by 2025. 

    “There are all kinds of destinations along the trail that are a part of our park system and all these different business districts that will be close by to the trail network,” says Johnston. “It’s such a cool way to celebrate the history and culture of our city.”

    To learn more about CROWN’s progress or to donate, visit

  • July 12, 2021 1:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier
    By Chris Wetterich

    In 2018, the city and major business leaders unveiled a public-private effort to reduce the environmental impact and energy consumption of buildings centered in downtown and Uptown, known as a 2030 District, with the goal being to reduce their carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

    Currently, officials are ahead of schedule, reducing emissions by 21% in participating buildings so far, a $2.5 million savings.

    “We needed to be at 20% in 2020,” said Elizabeth Rojas, executive director of the Cincinnati 2030 District, which falls under Green Umbrella, a local environmental group and sustainability alliance. The district serves as a resource and connector as building owners and companies strive to meet goals. “We were encouraged by that.”

    Cincinnati has the sixth-largest of such districts in the United States, encompassing more than 300 buildings and 27 million square feet of space. There are 23 2030 Districts across North America, including regional peers like Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

    In addition to reducing energy use, organizers are also trying to reduce water and transportation emissions associated with the people who live or work in a building. The Cincinnati 2030 District is compiling water usage statistics now and is surveying members on transportation, with an eye toward figuring out how to incentivize the use of public transportation, van pooling, electric vehicles and bicycles. Transportation is the region’s second-largest source of emissions.

    Within the city, buildings account for 60% of carbon dioxide emissions, the emission scientists say is responsible for global climate change.

    The Cincinnati district’s goals are aggregated; in other words, individual building data generally is not shared but everyone works together to meet the goal. Some buildings might be able to greatly exceed the goals because of their design or other features, while others will fall short.

    “You work toward net zero in an existing office building, but we do see that there’s a point where you take a building to a point of its maximum efficiency,” Rojas said.

    Key strategies used to reduce emissions include retrofitting buildings with LED lighting, onsite solar panels and building automated systems.

    One building where some data is available is the Cincinnati Art Museum in Mount Adams. The museum used Ohio Energy Program grants and has a five-year plan to find savings in their heat, ventilation and air conditioning systems and a major lighting project, saving 51% of its annual $583,488 costs annually on a $1.7 million project budget. The expenses would be paid back in about five years.

    Other members include 84.51, Kroger, Procter & Gamble, Fifth Third, Cincinnati Bell and City Club Apartments.

  • July 02, 2021 1:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Magazine
    By Cedric Rose

    Bike advocates see decades of work finally bear fruit with Wasson Way, the Beechmont Connector, a breakthrough on the riverfront Oasis Line, and development of the CROWN.

    I’m standing over my bike, breathing hard, just a few hundred feet from where the Beechmont Levee crosses the Little Miami River. I’ve ridden here with Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails. With his soccer player’s build, he set a pace around the Lunken Airport bike path to this spot that my desk-set physique struggled to match.

    We’re here to see construction on a new bike and pedestrian bridge, dubbed the Beechmont Connector, which broke ground in early March and is slated for completion by fall 2022. It will connect the 78-mile Little Miami Scenic Trail with a growing network of urban bike trails around Cincinnati.

    It’s been an exciting year of progress on bike trails across the region, which is serendipitous given the surge in interest in bicycling and walking generated by the pandemic.

    The city’s first ever two-way protected bike lane was installed in March along Clifton Avenue near the University of Cincinnati. The temporary pilot lane is expected to become permanent. The Ohio River Trail was extended both up and down river, with a half-mile section opening in Price Hill in August 2020 and a two-mile extension from Lunken Airport out to the California neighborhood this spring. To the north, crucial segments of trail in Hamilton and Metroparks that will link the Great Miami Bikeway with the Little Miami Scenic Trail were also announced. And progress on the much-lauded Wasson Way project continues full steam ahead.

    But the biggest local bike trail news this spring was Mayor John Cranley’s March 30 announcement that the city has come to an agreement with the owners of the “Oasis Line” railway along the Ohio River, allowing the city to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to build a dedicated bike/hike path from downtown to Lunken Airport.

    This leg of bike trail along the river has been in urban planners’ sights for over a decade. The Beechmont Connector, Wasson Way, and the new rail trail along the river are all part of a grand vision for a truly connected system of trails around Cincinnati, dubbed the CROWN—Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network. The CROWN loop will touch 54 communities, running from Northside to Madisonville, down to Lunken, then west along the Ohio River to downtown and on to Lower Price Hill. The loop would then be closed by the forthcoming north-south Mill Creek Greenway trail.

    This environmentally friendly dynamo will attract billions in development dollars and make our city healthier, safer, more fun, and more attractive as a destination or a place to live. And there are more hopes hidden in the CROWN. Some see it as a way to reconnect neighborhoods and residents who have been cut off by a century of car-centric urban planning and design.

    Both Wade Johnston and I live in Mt. Washington, just across the river from where we’re watching a bulldozer push dirt down a former access road. As cyclists, we’ve used the access road as a somewhat perilous shortcut. If you bombed down Beechmont Avenue past ramps to and from State Route 32 and across the narrow levee road bridge, then played Frogger across four lanes of traffic, this access road got you to peaceful, green miles of bike trail.

    I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 30, so bikes have always been part of my life. That includes bike commuting when possible for the better part of several decades. I’ve watched the slow growth of Cincinnati’s cycling infrastructure and benefited from using it. But progress can seem fragmented. Johnston and I talk about the relative merits of on-road vs. off-road riding, “protected” bike trails like the CROWN, and Cincinnati’s recent progress on bike infrastructure.

    In many cases, on-road bike infrastructure has been laid down where road rehabs are happening, he says, because that’s the cheapest time to do it. “And you can get a little piece, but maybe it doesn’t connect. So people are confused, Why doesn’t it connect? What the CROWN is doing is building the network.” Johnston nods to where the new Beechmont Connector trail bridge will be built beside the levee. “And connections like this in particular are going to be a huge catalyst.”

    So what? you ask. Trails are great for a Saturday walk or ride where you’re occasionally passed by a peloton of Lycra-clad dudes racing to the next trail-side brewery. What’s the big deal?

    First of all, even if you never set foot or tire on the CROWN, urban bike infrastructure makes everyone safer on roads. A 2019 study published in Journal of Transport & Health analyzed traffic crash data over a 13-year period in cities that added “protected” bike lanes to streets. It found that these separate lanes resulted in 44 percent fewer deaths and 50 percent fewer serious injuries. The reason? In the parlance of planners, protected bike paths “calmed” traffic. Cars travelled slightly more slowly, and more cyclists and walkers meant more bikes everywhere, plus drivers who themselves enjoyed those activities, which encourages alertness.

    Bike infrastructure also drives development and economic growth and raises real estate values. Johnston cites the Indianapolis Cultural Trail as an example. A 2015 economic impact report found that property values within one block of the 8.1-mile multi-use trail increased just over $1 billion. The CROWN will be more than four times longer.

    Leaning against his black Surly Cross-Check with a rear rack kiddie-seat adaptor, Johnston outlines the complicated ballet of getting bike infrastructure built in this region. Bicycle infrastructure groups and advocates have shown up at thousands of meetings to push for bike lanes over parking lanes. Great Parks of Hamilton County, Anderson Township, and the city of Cincinnati have all been big leaders, Johnston says, in pushing for trail infrastructure and pedestrian connectivity. “But having an independent third party like Tri-State Trails and Green Umbrella coordinating behind the scenes for these collaborations is the encouragement that communities need to connect,” he says.

    Johnston is one of only two full-time employees at Tri-State Trails, the brainchild of local sustainability nonprofit Green Umbrella. With financial support from the Haile Foundation and the Good Devou Foundation, it works to connect the dots of a regional trail network. A nine-county Regional Trails Plan was completed in 2014, and from that the CROWN emerged.

    Tri-State Trails helps communities navigate the complexities of funding, including grants through OKI (Ohio- Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments) and ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources). For example, when the city of Cincinnati couldn’t afford the local match on a transportation grant for an extension of the Ohio River Trail in 2017, city planners almost returned the money. Tri-State Trails sought a to­tal of $500,000 from Anderson Township, Hamilton County, and Interact for Health, Johnston says, which allowed the city to find the remaining funds to extend the path. It’s a public-private partnership, he says, for which he’s able to act as quarterback.

    Safety, economic value, and good clean fun; what’s not to love? When I Zoom-chat with Jan and Wym Portman, the CROWN’s most prominent supporters and fund-raisers, they bring home what makes this project even more vital to the here and now.

    Since 2006 Wym has served on the board of the Ohio River Way, one of the CROWN’s partner organizations. It’s long pushed for a trail linking Lunken Airport and downtown, but, he says, “As a nonprofit, it’s difficult to get the railroad’s at­tention.” He credits Cranley’s leadership with closing the deal to acquire the riverfront right of way.

    The Portmans enjoy walking, running, and cycling and are passionate about the outdoors and conservation causes. One of the first boards Wym served on locally was Camp Joy, where he saw that many city kids lacked outdoor experience and confidence. That’s still in the back of his mind, he says, when he speaks with people from neighborhoods like Avondale about the CROWN. He hears from parents, he says, “about the importance of this trail for their kids, to be able to get on a bike and ride from Avondale to Hyde Park or Avondale to downtown.”

    Jan’s training as a geologist and a geography teacher influences her thinking about a project woven from the landscape. “When we mobilize ourselves in the world, cycle, or connect with terra firma rather than drive a car, our experience is very different,” she says. “One of my favorite things is walking on the trail with people who have not been there, maybe walking from Hyde Park through a park to Red Bank Road. And there’s just an amazing sense of discovery that those two places are close by. They’re surprised and delighted to make that connection between places and to each other.”

    Side-by-side neighborhoods often contrast sharply—and quite literally—with “the other side of the tracks,” so it feels elegant to turn railroad tracks back into a means of human connection. “We have the geography, a great river, and the best park system of any U.S. city our size,” says Wym. “The CROWN takes advantage of all that. And we need this more than ever in our civilization today, too, because of all the divisions in our society.”

    To get a sense of when you might expect to ride the CROWN’s entire 34-mile loop, I speak with John Brazina, director of Cincinnati’s department of transportation and engineering. He used to commute on his Trek road bike from Blue Ash to City Hall and back, so he gets how bike infrastructure can transform the urban cycling experience. “Where there’s a sharrow or a bike lane or just a simple pavement marking to delin­eate between a driving lane and a bicycle-use lane,” he says, “it helps both me as a rider and me as a driver know where I’m supposed to be.”

    Brazina can’t say exactly when the CROWN will be complete, but he points to the rate of progress on Wasson Way as a good indicator that we won’t have to wait long. Wasson Way currently runs from Evanston to Oakley, and ongoing work will take it to Ault Park later this year, with final phases funded through OKI. “So we’re talking maybe three years,” he says, “and you have a complete trail that gets you from the University of Cincinnati all the way to Ault Park.”

    So three years could be the time frame for nearing completion of the CROWN’s northern and eastern sides. Cranley’s agreement on the rail trail linking Lunken to downtown allows two years for parties to work out the legalities, gain regulatory approval, and raise funds, but also underscores the intent to move quickly. That said, City Hall leadership will change this fall, so getting the work done soon will depend on whether the next mayor prioritizes this project. But if he does, we could see completion of the riverside corridor in just a few years. That leaves the north-south Mill Creek Greenway to complete the CROWN.

    While the Greenway is still in planning stages, you can already ride from downtown to Northside on a mixture of on-road bike lanes and small sections of protected bike path.

    sit in on an online meeting, organized by Johnston, to gather local cyclists’ input for a new “low stress” Cincinnati bike map modeled on a similar project in Denver. So often, biking really is lower stress than driving—until it isn’t.

    Johnston opens the meeting by explaining that the map is meant to get more people out on bikes because “if you equip a human with a bicycle, they are the most efficient mode of travel on the planet by energy consumed. So if we want to convince people not to drive a car for every trip, we think a bike is a great way to do it.”

    Johnston listens to local riders on the Zoom call and displays their favorite routes in real time with Geographic Information System mapping software. The meeting is a show-and-tell of shortcuts, tree-shaded scenic routes, and potential trouble areas to warn new cyclists about. It shows how bicycles fit into the larger fabric of transportation options, where infrastructure is—but mostly isn’t—used. The Central Parkway bike lane, a key route for heading out of Over-the-Rhine, is much appreciated by local cyclists, but when busy it can be dangerous as cars pull into and out of Findlay Market from behind a row of parked vehicles. There’s also discussion of areas of downtown near highway on- and off-ramps where cyclists can get caught off-guard by motorists still moving at highway speeds.

    That last point is raised by Joe Humpert, president of Queen City Bike, a nonprofit dedicated to making Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky “a great bicycling region.” He organizes group rides that explore the area by bike and stop to socialize, brew up coffee outdoors, and take in the landscape as part of his local #coffeeoutside movement.

    Bike infrastructure is all about providing options “for people who either can’t afford a car or choose to not operate an automobile,” says Humpert when I reach him later by telephone. While on-road infrastructure can occasionally act as a lightning rod in the sometimes fraught relationship between drivers and cyclists, he says, it’s an important part of a larger functional network.

    He sees access to good infrastructure two ways. First, can everyone get from their personal point A to point B easily and safely? “We want people of all economic statuses and colors and abilities to be able to get from wherever they are to wherever they need to go,” he says. That’s why Queen City Bike, Tri-State Trails, RedBike, and Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance all maintain ties with the Metro and TANK bus systems, he says, “because multimodal transportation is so important to folks.” Multimodal, in this case, includes using a bike for a piece of their trip—tossing a bike on the front of a bus to get up a hill, for example.

    Humpert’s second goal is the idea of comfort, by which he means safety. “You have this perception, sometimes quite real, that you’re putting your life at risk when riding a bike in the city,” he says. “Some folks can be drawn into the sport and can come to a better understanding of cyclists as a group if they’re given the opportunity to participate on things like the Little Miami Trail and Wasson Way, where you almost never encounter an automobile or, if you do, it’s in a very controlled setting. That enables everyone to utilize their bikes for recreation and exercise.”

    Beyond planning meetings and mapping software, local bike organizations are also trying to spread the gospel of multimodal transportation on a person-to-person level. They want to make the network work for everyone in the region, especially those who’ve gotten so used to being left out that when they see a new trailhead or RedBike station they automatically think Not for me.

    The nonprofit bike share Cincy RedBike is working to change that perception. It recently won a $200,000 Living Lab Grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership to build inclusivity into its fleet of 442 bikes and 100 e-bikes parked at 57 stations throughout the urban basin, suburbs, and Northern Kentucky.

    RedBike’s education and outreach manager, Elese Daniel, plays bike polo, writes poetry, and even owns a bike with a typewriter attached to it, the “Story Bike.” She also manages RedBike’s “Go” program, which offers $5 monthly passes to households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

    Her role at RedBike is to encourage more lower income individuals and people of color to feel inclined to use the service. Some of that’s just getting out in communities and talking to people or holding pop-up events where they can try bikes and e-bikes to “remind people that bikes are fun, that they’re potentially a tool, that they can be a fun date night,” Daniel says. The national grant supports RedBike’s reach into new neighborhoods with “single-serve” bike docks.

    “We have our different roles to play in advocacy and in supporting more bicycling for all the benefits that it can offer people,” she says. “But the question is who’s going to use this infrastructure and how will people feel about it. So it feels really important to make sure people are given opportunities to try biking on different trails and deciding where bike infrastructure goes themselves.”

    Bellevue resident Caitlin Sparks calls herself a “vehicular cyclist” and encourages other cyclists to ride in the road and take the entire lane to increase visibility both for themselves and for cyclists as a group. Which, she admits, can be a big ask. Sparks is on the board of the Northside-based MoBo Bicycle Co-op and volunteers in their “open shop,” where participants learn how to repair their own bikes or even build one. MoBo recently partnered with RedBike to create a shared Youth Programs Coordinator position.

    Sparks also puts in shop time at Newport-based Reser Outfitters, where she often gets to ask people where they’re going to ride their brand new bike. A lot of people—armed with stimulus checks and going stir crazy under lockdown—bought new bikes during the pandemic, and many tell her, I’m going to stick with the trails for now. “And that’s an entryway, the first step,” she says. “Because once they get out there and the wind blows in their face and they’re having an awesome time, they’ll want to keep doing it. And they’ll go a little further each time.”

    Do you remember when you got your first bike? If that never happened for you, it still can. For me, because I’m a new parent and grew up being ridden around on my dad’s bike, making our city bike-friendly is really about making our city a fun place to be a kid. Or to be a kid again.

    There’s that other cycle the CROWN is hoping to support: our life cycle. As Wym and Jan Portman say, a biking and hiking trail is for every kid to ride and explore and for old friends to walk. Above all, it’s a shared path where you get to know your neighbors and where communities can connect.

  • June 25, 2021 1:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Energy News Network
    By Kathiann M. Kowalski

    Steps to improve commercial building ventilation often use more energy, but experts say energy efficiency work can offset added savings.

    As business as usual resumes in the wake of COVID-19, energy conservation experts are urging commercial building owners to pair efficiency upgrades with healthy building projects. When done well, those improvements can reduce extra energy costs and in some cases even cancel them out.

    COVID-19 is an airborne disease, and healthcare experts remain concerned about transmission. Ohio lifted mandatory mask requirements for most places on June 2. Yet only 45% in the state had started COVID-19 vaccinations as of May 31. That means risks for catching and spreading the virus continue, especially among unvaccinated people.

    Enactment of Ohio House Bill 606 and some other states’ laws shield employers from liability for various claims relating to transmission of COVID-19. However, efforts to incorporate a shield provision into a federal relief bill failed last year

    On June 10, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated its guidance for employers on reducing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 among at-risk persons and unvaccinated people. That guidance is separate from OSHA’s June 21 rule for healthcare workers

    “The pandemic has raised questions about airborne pathogens” and other health concerns, said Cynthia Cicigoi, executive director at Cleveland 2030 District. “I think there will be a greater emphasis placed on health and safety in commercial spaces — and balancing that with energy efficiency.”

    2030 Districts are a network of urban groups that help commercial building owners focus on energy efficiency, water use, transportation emissions and other aspects of sustainability. Building members report on energy use, water use and other criteria. 2030 districts also connect them with service company members, if desired.

    Consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this spring, OSHA advises employers to use multiple protective measures, including maintaining or improving ventilation in buildings to increase the delivery of clean air. 

    Both agencies refer to ventilation and filtration standards from ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Scientists also are calling for the development of enforceable international standards for building ventilation.

    “Everyone is much more aware of the space around them,” said Cincinnati 2030 District Director Elizabeth Rojas. Even before the pandemic, her organization began work on healthy building issues. That new aspect of its programs debuts this summer, she said.

    Guidance from OSHA and the CDC has been used in the past to set minimum standards for negligence cases, lawyers at Huntons Andrews Kurth wrote in the National Law Review this month. State shield laws might affect liability for COVID-19 cases. Yet updated versions of the recommendations may well set standards for reducing other airborne illnesses even after the pandemic, especially as scientists focus on future epidemics and pandemics

    Sales pitches for work to improve air quality have become more common in the wake of COVID-19.

    “A lot of our clients got approached by different vendors with new technologies,” said Peter Kleinhenz, an energy efficiency consultant with Go Sustainable Energy in Columbus. In some cases, the pandemic has been the first time many companies have thought about ventilation and filtration systems, he noted.

    Striking a balance

    Projects to increase ventilation or filtration often increase energy use. Bringing in more outside air typically requires heating or cooling systems to run more often. Similarly, increased filtration generally makes blowers work harder to push air through.

    Yet attention to energy efficiency can offset some or even all of the extra energy costs. 

    Rojas noted one building owner in her area who thought increased venting would increase total energy use and raise energy costs. In fact, usage “stayed the same, because they had optimized their system [for energy efficiency] at the same time,” she said.

    “Any time a building is starting to consider capital improvements to their system, that opens the door for them to also look at how should they improve energy efficiency,” Kleinhenz said. Companies also can benefit by minimizing business interruptions.

    “As you are getting crews in the building, are there other things you want to do to reduce energy costs and improve operations to increase comfort in the building?” said Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “You should think about what are some of the other things that could be done at modest additional cost that could really help the building function better.”

    Good ventilation “means having enough ventilation, but not too much,” Nadel said. “Too much ventilation doesn’t help at all in terms of getting buildings drafty.”

    Redoing work to commission a building’s HVAC systems is one basic and relatively inexpensive step, Nadel and Kleinhenz said. Basically, engineers make sure all equipment is at the right settings, that controls work properly, and that other equipment functions as designed. Something as simple as stuck air intake or exhaust vents or dysfunctional dampers can cause both ventilation problems and energy waste. Getting everything back in shape improves air quality and comfort while saving money, they said.

    Another step is to adjust energy and ventilation controls for different occupancy levels. Cicigoi saw wide variability during the pandemic, with some workplaces shutting down, others having all employees come in, and still others working on shifts or other hybrid schedules.

    Starting this summer, more businesses’ occupancy levels will be closer to normal — or whatever new normal levels companies adopt after months of people working remotely. Even then, however, many buildings will have times with few or no workers there, especially at night.

    Adjusting controls to reduce air exchanges or modify other settings at those times “can save a lot of energy, as long as they bring it back up when the building is occupied again,” Kleinhenz said. “Things like this can actually help save energy in the building, while still meeting the different code requirements for the building’s health purposes.”

    “You need an expert to figure out what you can do reasonably,” Nadel said. Owners need to make sure that even minor steps will work properly with the rest of a building’s systems.

    Nadel gave an example of one office building where better filters have improved air quality. But going to the next level of filters would require more powerful motors for the building’s blowers, and those aren’t due for replacement yet. Checking air circulation and filtration again is on the list for when that replacement happens in a few years.

    Pairing energy efficiency with ventilation improvements becomes even more important for larger projects. In one study, Italian researchers calculated that combining an energy efficient heat exchanger and heat pump with increased school ventilation can offset extra energy consumption between 60% and 72%. The report was in Energy and Buildings on June 1.

    A good investment

    Creative tools like PACE financing and pass-through loans arranged through the Ohio Air Quality Development Agency can help companies come up with the upfront money needed for larger energy efficiency projects.

    Payback periods vary. Building owners often recoup the costs for commissioning and other relatively inexpensive energy efficiency measures within a year or less, Kleinhenz said. More major work, such as replacing systems, can have payback periods of up to 10 years.

    One major benefit of Ohio’s energy efficiency standard had been to shorten that payback time, thus encouraging investments. That standard was frozen from 2015 to 2016 and then gutted by House Bill 6.

    Nonetheless, many energy efficiency investments still “will have a return on investment of 20% or better,” Nadel said. At that rate, companies earn back their investment in roughly five years. Even a return of 10% is as good as or better than the rate of return many businesses get in a year, he said.

  • June 20, 2021 12:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
    By Michaela Oldfield, Director, Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council 

    The Enquirer’s recent profile of area farmers markets is a helpful guide to where and when people can buy locally grown produce and other fare. We’d like to add a little bit about why farmers markets are an important component of the local food scene and some important context about their role in feeding our region.

    Farmers markets saw record numbers and sales last year, a trend that’s continued into 2021. This is obviously a welcome development, but as with so many other industries, the increased interest is also posing some challenges. Farms may not have enough product, given vagaries in weather and other factors. Meat has been particularly difficult. With consumer demand surging, a preexisting bottleneck in meat processing has worsened, with slaughterhouses booked out through 2022.

    Consumers can help farms buffer against variable demand by buying Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, which allow consumers to invest in a farm at the beginning of the season and receive a box of the product the farm produces each week. It also helps when shoppers come to the market with an open mind and a willingness to try what’s available, rather than having a set list of items to purchase. This approach can also lead to new discoveries, as you can always find recipes for whatever unusual vegetable you might pick up. We highly recommend starting with Edible Ohio Valley, which is a regional publication that offers great stories and recipes on what's local and in season.

    In addition to farmers markets, resources like Local Food Connection also allow consumers to tap into local farmers and their products. Local Food Connection is a Cincinnati-based food hub that aggregates from small farms and makes their offerings conveniently available to institutions and restaurants. As restaurants reopen and ramp up their offerings, seeking out and eating at businesses that support small, local farmers is an additional boost to our local economy, as dollars stay here instead of being funneled elsewhere. Prioritizing locally grown food also yields more nutritious offerings and decreases the carbon footprint of our meals.

    It is not just home-cooked and restaurant meals that benefit from a local approach to food purchasing. Parents of Cincinnati Public Schools students are supporting the local food system because the district is a statewide leader in buying food from local farmers. CPS is also a national leader through their adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Program, which directs some of the district’s multi-million dollar food budget back into the regional economy, creating jobs that stay in the community, promoting humane farming and using healthy local food in cafeterias.

    Farmers markets, with their artisanal bread and organic eggs, have a reputation for luxury and affluence, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Markets throughout the region reflect their communities, with many working to expand access to all residents, no matter what their income level is. Organizations like Produce Perks Midwest also run programs that subsidize farmers market purchases for low income consumers, helping consumers’ dollars go even further when they shop local.

    At the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, we’re committed to expanding access to local foods for everyone in the region. The Enquirer’s listing of farmers markets is an important guide, and resources like the Central Ohio River Valley Food Guide and Edible Ohio Valley also provide extensive information on where to shop for food locally, from CSAs and farmers markets to restaurants that prioritize local ingredients. It’s an exciting time to be part of the regional food scene, and there’s no better time than the height of this growing season to take advantage of all our local farmers have to offer.

    Michaela Oldfield is director of the Greater Cincinnati Local Food Policy Council.

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