Local initiatives

Lumber waste, hazelnut shells and oyster shells hold big promise

Read the full story in the Portland Business Journal.

A fresh investment in a Portland environmental startup will help confirm whether its mix of lumber waste, hazelnut shells and other materials effectively removes toxic metals from stormwater.

The Portland Development Commission and Oregon BEST are investing $136,000 so Sunmark Environmental can work with an Oregon State University research team to confirm its product, EarthLite Stormwater Filter Media, removes 80 percent to 100 percent of the toxic metals that leach off of metal roofs and from brake linings, brake fluid and other sources and reach the water system.

IOBY: Crowdfunding for neighborhood projects

ioby is a crowd-resourcing platform for citizen-led neighbor-funded projects. The name is derived from the opposite of NIMBY. Their mission is to strengthen neighborhoods by supporting the leaders in them who want to make positive change, engaging their neighbors, one block at a time.


A technology park bets big on energy innovation

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

What would you do with 12 contiguous acres of underused land, smack dab in the middle of a bustling downtown?

Once part of the reputed largest furniture manufacturer in the world (Showers Brothers Furniture), and later owned by nearby Indiana University for decades, such a parcel was acquired by the City of Bloomington, Ind., in 2009.

The easy thing to do would have been to divide the land and sell it to the bevy of developers cashing in on Bloomington’s robust student housing market who are hungry for more downtown land. Instead, the city decided to transform the land into the beating heart of Bloomington’s tech sector and a model of sustainable urban redevelopment.

First Colorado “Bee Safe” Neighborhood Established

Read the full story from Beyond Pesticides.

Just in time for Pollinator Week, the Melody-Catalpa neighborhood of Boulder has become the first “bee-safe” locality in Colorado that has pledged to not use neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides in the community, in an effort to protect bees and other pollinators, and provide safe forage and habitat.

Hudson Yards: A connected neighborhood grows in Manhattan

Read the full post in GreenBiz.

The much-ballyhooed Hudson Yards project in New York isn’t just remarkable for being the largest private real estate development in U.S. history, it’s also the nation’s first “Quantified Community” — one in which data will be collected about almost every physical and environmental nuance of the neighborhood.

The information measured by sensors and other instruments installed throughout the community — which will cost $20 billion to build — will be used for everything from controlling air quality to predicting traffic flow to modeling energy production and usage. The infrastructure is being designed by New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress along with the developers Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group.

Georgetown University Energy Efficiency Prize Offering $5 Million to a Sustainable Community: Deadline June 30

The Georgetown University Energy Prize competition is offering a $5 million prize to a local community that can come up with the best long-term energy efficiency plan for “innovative, replicable, scalable and continual reductions in the per capita energy consumed from local natural gas and electric utilities.” Ultimately, the award aims to create new ways for counties and local communities to think about how and why they use energy, with a focus on the role of energy reduction in tackling the energy and environmental challenges they face.

Who can compete?

The competition is open to any county, city or town with a population between 5,000 and 250,000. All told, there are some 8,892 eligible communities, which represent nearly two-thirds of all the communities in the nation. Is your county eligible to compete? Click here to find out.

How will plans be judged?

Participating counties will be required to create a long-term plan for energy reduction, as well as demonstrate their plan’s preliminary effectiveness for two years. Plans will be judged on a number of factors, including how well they:

  • Create innovative approaches and techniques for reducing per-capita energy use,
  • Develop best practices to unite citizens, local governments, businesses, and electric utilities,
  • Educate the public, especially students, on energy efficiency issues and the benefits of reducing energy use, and
  • Increase the visibility of the work that Georgetown University and the prize’s sponsors are doing to develop new strategies for reducing energy usage and increasing energy efficiency.

When can you start?

Applications are accepted until June 30, 2014. To review the full timeline of the competition, click here.​

Chicago Receives Two U.S. EPA Grants to Improve Lake Michigan Water Quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the award of two Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants totaling $1 million to fund green infrastructure projects in Chicago. The projects will improve water quality in Lake Michigan. EPA Region 5 Administrator / Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman was joined today by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky to announce the grants.

“The city of Chicago will use these EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities grants for green infrastructure projects to prevent stormwater from carrying contamination into Lake Michigan,” Hedman said. “Green infrastructure also helps to prevent flooding, which is occurring more often as a result of the increasingly frequent extreme precipitation events that have hit the Midwest in recent years – a pattern that may intensify as the result of climate change.”

“We are pleased to receive funding from the EPA under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for green infrastructure improvements that directly benefit residents, businesses and the environment,” Emanuel said. “These two grants will help us to enhance Chicago’s overall Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, which we launched last year to improve our water and sewer infrastructure, reduce flooding and enhance our city’s overall sustainability.”

“Lake Michigan is one of Chicago’s greatest assets, but it faces many challenges – from contaminated sediment to industrial pollutants to invasive species,” Durbin said. “The Environmental Protection Agency has invested more than $70 million to ensure the lake stays beautiful and clean for years to come, and today’s announcement is the latest example of the federal government’s commitment to the lake. These grants will help stop almost 5 million gallons of untreated stormwater from running into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, great news for the millions of Chicagoans who rely on the lake for drinking water or fishing. I’m proud to be a part of the efforts to preserve and restore Chicago’s shoreline.”

The city will use one Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant ($812,000) to install bioswales and permeable pavement in a parking area at Montrose Beach. This project will filter over 4 million gallons of stormwater each year, greatly reducing the amount of contamination that would otherwise end up in Lake Michigan. The city will use the other Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant ($188,000) to install green infrastructure along Leland Avenue, a street that runs through Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood toward the lakefront. This project will prevent almost 900,000 gallons of untreated stormwater from entering the City’s combined sewer system each year and will help prevent basement flooding in nearby homes.

“These innovative green infrastructure projects at Montrose Beach and along Leland Avenue will greatly reduce the amount of contamination that would otherwise end up in Lake Michigan,” Schakowsky said.

“Sustainable infrastructure solutions are key to our long-term environmental health,” Quigley said. “The projects supported by the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities grants will help reduce the risk of flooding and improve the ability to treat stormwater and urban runoff at its source, ensuring millions of Chicagoans and the broader Great Lakes community can continue to rely on the Great Lakes as a vital source of fresh water.”

Chicago is among 16 cities to receive funding in the initial round of EPA’s new GLRI Shoreline Cities grant program. These grants can be used to fund up to 50 percent of the cost of green infrastructure projects on public property. Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soil and natural processes to hold and filter stormwater and melting snow. This prevents flooding and keeps contamination from reaching surface water and groundwater resources. The first round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities projects includes rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, porous pavement, greenways, constructed wetlands, stormwater tree trenches and other measures to improve water quality in the Great Lakes basin.

For more information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative or Shoreline Cities Green Infrastructure grants, visit www.epa.gov/grtlakes/fund/shoreline/index.html.

Why public places are the key to transforming our communities

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Each day, numerous cities and neighborhoods across America continue to struggle as a result of economic instability, diminishing resources, unemployment, demographic shifts and political complexities. In many neighborhoods, social bonds among neighbors are under stress and in many communities, a sense of community is severely lacking.

While there may not be a magic bullet to solve our communities’ complex social, economic and environmental challenges, there is promising potential in a seemingly unexpected spot: public places. By taking a people-centric approach to creating and revitalizing our public places – neighborhood parks, community markets and downtown squares- we have the potential to truly transform the hearts of our local communities.

Want a Healthier City? Prescribe Biking

Read the full story in Atlantic Cities.

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, how much health can riding a bicycle deliver?

A program just launched by Boston is betting it’s a significant amount. Prescribe-a-Bike, as it’s being called, will allow doctors at Boston Medical Center to write low-income patients prescriptions for a one-year membership to Hubway, the city’s bike-sharing system, for just $5. That’s $80 less than the usual charge for an annual subscription to the service.

Coffee Recycling Keeps Community Grounded

Read the full story from Texas AgriLife Research.

More than eight tons a month. That’s how much organic material in the form of spent coffee grounds the Austin-based Ground to Ground program diverts from area landfills and makes available to people in the community as compost.

Since its inception last year, the not-for-profit, volunteer-based program established by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Travis County and Compost Coalition, has been recruiting businesses to provide free used coffee grounds to Austin residents.