1. Sustainable Lawn Care Requires Locally-Tailored Solutions

    MILLBROOK, N.Y. - What do people living in Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, and Los Angeles have in common? From coast to coast, prairie to desert – residential lawns reign.But, according to a new study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, beneath this sea of green lie unexpected differences in fertilization and irrigation practices. Understanding urban lawn care is vital to sustainability planning, more than 80 percent of Americans live in cities and their suburbs, and these numbers continue to grow.
  2. Providing Fresh Produce to Urban Food Deserts

    Through a variety of methods that range from inexpensive carts to converted school buses, food security advocates in many cities sell fresh fruits and vegetables directly to low-income customers living in urban food deserts.Increasing access to affordable produce isn’t simple or cheap, according to mobile produce supporters, but it isn’t impossible either. Comprehensive and effective strategies incorporated among local government officials, volunteers and potential customers can sustain these mobile farmers markets for the long term. If successful, a mobile vendor can be just as popular as a neighborhood ice cream truck to area children.
  3. Climate Change Prompts Community Collaboration

    With broad consensus on the fact of climate change, organization around the issue has shifted from convincing the world of its inevitability to working together to do something about it with resiliency and sustainability planning.Some of these efforts were presented at the “New Partners for Smart Growth” conference held recently in Denver.
  4. Smart Growth 101

    Supporting smart growth doesn’t mean skipping the local mall or avoiding a new housing development. So what does it mean?“Smart growth is really about more choices,” explained Paul Zykofsky, associate director of the Sacramento-based non-profit Local Government Commission (LGC). “It’s not about being against growth. It’s about well-planned growth.”
  5. Redeveloping Abandoned Gas Stations

    Brownfield /’broun,feld/ n: abandoned, idled or underused industrial and commercial properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.The empty gas station on the corner. The shuttered restaurant with a cracked parking lot. The abandoned factory or foundry on the edge of town.
  6. U.S. Coasts Prepare for Rising Seas

    Sea level is a “slow-moving emergency,” according to scientist Steve Goldbeck.As chief deputy director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), one of the first U.S. coastal community agencies to establish a master plan to deal with sea level rise, Goldbeck has first-hand experience helping coastal communities deal with the effects of climate change.
  7. Financing Sustainability Projects

    DENVER, Colo. – City budget deficits are far from rare. Chicago, Phoenix and Newark are just a few examples of cities confronting likely shortfalls in the upcoming fiscal year. And on the extreme end of the spectrum there’s Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy in the summer of 2013 citing a staggering $18-20 billion in debt.So how can cities find room in their budgets for sustainability initiatives?
  8. Guidelines for Transit Oriented Development

    The first step toward expanding sustainable public transportation is to have a plan.That’s what Pace Suburban Bus Service in Chicago, Ill., has created with its new Transit Supportive Guidelines for the Chicagoland Region, designed to help municipal officials and private developers incorporate bus service in their projects.
  9. High-Speed Rail Builds Momentum in California

    The Golden State is on track to build the first carbon-neutral, high-speed rail system in the United States.The rail system will link Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and sustainability is woven into every aspect of this project, starting with a commitment to zero net direct construction greenhouse gas emissions and continuing to improve overall air quality for future Californians.
  10. Universities Lead Effort Toward Biomass Energy

    By 2020, the University of Iowa aims to get 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources, including from biomass feedstocks grown locally. To move it toward that goal, the university has developed a set of eight targets ranging from conserving energy to decreasing waste and developing sustainability partnerships.Meanwhile, Iowa State University is making important discoveries as it investigates the use of biorenewable resources as sustainable feedstocks for producing chemicals, fuels, materials and electric power.
  11. What to Do with Empty Big Box Stores

    Look in almost any city in North America, and you’ll find at least one: That empty shell of a building with the paper-wrapped windows and the weed-infested parking lot.Yep, it’s a vacant big box store.
  12. Social Equity: The Forgotten Leg of Sustainability

    Sustainability is commonly described as a “three legged stool.” There’s economic prosperity, ecological integrity, and then there’s that third leg….Hmmm… it’s sometimes the hardest to remember, and it can certainly be difficult to define, but the sustainability stool just doesn’t stand without social equity. The concept is that everyone in a community – not just those on the “A List” – need the opportunity to participate and thrive in order for that community to sustain itself indefinitely.
  13. The Big Idea Behind Smaller Homes

    While the average American homeowner seems bent on living large, an increasing number are discovering the benefits of living in a smaller, more sustainable, home.In 1973, the average new American house measured 1,660 sq. ft., and it’s been getting bigger ever since. Even the economic slowdown and the housing crisis didn’t slow the growth for long. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average new house built in 2012 was 2,505 sq. ft. – almost to the all-time high of 2,521 sq. ft. in 2007.
  14. Cities Sing the Snow Removal Blues

    Described by some as the coldest winter in 30 years, and with one storm after another keeping snow plows on the road, the winter of 2013-14 is already putting a strain on public works departments in many parts of the country.More winter storms and colder temperatures bring increased costs and environmental concerns that have some communities testing new products and procedures that make coping with winter weather more sustainable.
  15. ‘Walking School Buses’ Picking Up Speed

    More U.S. children are getting to school the old school way – by walking.Requiring only two volunteers and a neighborhood of children willing to dress for the weather, the “walking school bus” is part of a growing national trend to combat childhood obesity, traffic congestion and auto emission pollution in urban areas.
  16. Seattle Sets Pace in Climate Race

    If there is a poster child for sustainability in local government, Mike O’Brien thinks the city of Seattle might be it.Maybe that’s because for decades this coastal city of 635,000 has branded itself as a center for environmental stewardship and social innovation. Faced with the threat of sea-level rise, which could inundate large swaths of the city in the coming decades, and diminishing snowpack in the surrounding mountains, which threatens the region’s source of water and hydroelectric power, the city in 2013 updated its plan to become carbon neutral by 2050 and protect its infrastructure from the likely effects of global warming.
  17. Food Hubs Bring Local Food In Reach

    Demand for local food is growing. Yet city dwellers often find it easier to buy a cabbage that has traveled 500 miles than one that was grown in the next county over. And farmers might find it easier to grow corn for a national market than table vegetables and fruits for a local one.Who benefits when food is eaten closer to where it's grown?
  18. Is Government Responsible for Sustaining Rural Populations?

    Municipal governments invest time, talent, and money into sustainable infrastructure projects, from water treatment to transportation to greenways, all in an attempt to sustain or grow their existing population.But, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one sector of America - rural areas and small towns - are losing ground.
  19. Private Investment Calms Water Woes in Bayonne

    In the nearly universal struggle to improve and maintain crumbling infrastructure, local governments are increasingly turning to private investors to pay for and manage public services.These public/private partnerships (often called P3s), while sometimes controversial, are the new reality for many cities squeezed by crippling debt and in dire need of major capital improvements.
  20. New Report Shows Local Food Boosts Regional Economy

    AMES, Iowa -- A new report from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture shows that institutional purchases of local food added nearly $9 million to the Iowa economy in 2012.What’s more, the report points out enormous opportunities for local foods that could benefit rural communities and farm-based businesses. Investigators measured significant sales from only a small segment of potential markets for local foods among grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, college and school food services and other institutions.
  21. Public/Private Partnerships = Economic Growth

    Local governments are increasingly adopting sustainability-based initiatives, but many of them limit their efforts to those within their direct control such as bike paths, greening public buildings, recycling programs, LED street lights, etc. The vast majority do not proactively engage local businesses in their sustainability efforts.Now, two Colorado researchers are working with local governments to study and engage small and mid-sized companies (SMEs) in the path to sustainability.
  22. Antibacterials Fuel Resistant Bacteria in Streams

    MILLBROOK, N.Y. -- Triclosan – a synthetic antibacterial widely used in personal care products – is fueling the development of resistant bacteria in streams and rivers. So reports a new paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, which is the first to document triclosan resistance in a natural environment.Invented for surgeons in the 1960s, triclosan slows or stops the growth of bacteria, fungi and mildew. Currently, around half of liquid soaps contain the chemical, as well as toothpastes, deodorants, cosmetics, liquid cleansers, and detergents.
  23. Hitting the Solar Energy Trifecta

    “Whenever you can get three or more uses out of one thing, you should do it,” said Jon Dwight, paraphrasing a point he learned when he first began working in the solar energy industry and why this renewable option is an increasingly beneficial investment trifecta for municipalities, businesses and homeowners.Dwight and two other experts discussed the state of the solar industry, its recent growth and its future during “The Modern Economics of Solar PV” presentation at the 6th annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference held recently in Dubuque, Iowa.
  24. The New World of Electric Power Microgrids

    Microgrids that provide localized self-generation of electricity have been around for decades. However, the microgrid of today is new in how it continuously manipulates its load in order to fiscally optimize generation. It also provides improved security and reliability in the event of an interruption in the external grid (the macrogrid), due to natural or manmade disruptions.While there are a variety of policy, regulatory and economic challenges to overcome, many factors suggest microgrids will play an expanding role in the nation’s power generation portfolio in the years to come.
  25. Water Resources Reused and Reinvigorated

    Water resources are taken for granted in many parts of the United States, but the drought of 2012 and increasingly unpredictable rainfall in many parts of the country since then are making communities rethink their water use and resources, whether they have too little or too much.This was the focus of the session, When It Rains, It Pours (Or Not), presented at the 6th annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference, held recently in Dubuque, Iowa.
  26. Bike-Share and Car-Share Programs Reduce VMTs

    Kids everywhere are taught at an early age that sharing is the right thing to do, but as we grow up not many of us think about sharing our bikes or cars.Two representatives from Midwestern college towns shared their thoughts about planning and funding bike- and car-sharing programs to help reduce vehicle miles traveled in their communities.
  27. Gaining Authentic Stakeholder Input

    Propose a sustainability initiative, ask for input, and you'll certainly hear from some people. But, how can you be sure you're hearing from all the “right” people?People who want to change things may miss the opportunity to hear important voices, Stephen Sykes told attendees at the 6th annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference held recently in Dubuque, Iowa. And two-way communication can lead to surprising changes on both sides of the table.
  28. Greening Your Electronics

    Computers have transformed our lives at home and in our workplaces, but they've also introduced a dizzying array of difficult decisions. From the non-recycled plastic of a copier to the mercury in a battery, tradeoffs come with each electronic device.How do you make good choices? How do you reward manufacturers who support your values, and avoid those that don't?
  29. Head and Heart: Gaining Support For Sustainability

    Making a personal commitment to sustainability is simple, but there's only so much that even the most dedicated hybrid-driving recycler can accomplish alone. And trying to get a workplace or a community behind sustainability efforts can feel like an uphill battle.The key, according to presenters at the 6th annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference, held recently in Dubuque, Iowa, is to involve both the heart and the mind -- by presenting a plan rooted in personal values and supported by sound business research.
  30. Climate Change Tops Iowa State Senator's Agenda

    Take a look behind today’s headlines and you’ll see how many current events are rooted in climate change. Massive wildfires in California. “Biblical” rains in Colorado. Electrical fires traced back to Super Storm Sandy destroying the New Jersey boardwalk, again. And, as Iowa State Senator Rob Hogg further suggests, civil unrest in places like Egypt and Syria, where drought has caused food shortages leading to societal upheavals.Hogg, 46, represents Iowa's 19th District. A Democrat, he served in the House from 2003 to 2007 and the Senate since 2007. Hogg grew up in Iowa and earned a law degree in Minnesota.
  31. Water Supplies Threatened by Legacy of Acid Rain

    Millbrook, NY – Human activities are changing the water chemistry of many streams and rivers in the Eastern U.S., with consequences for water supplies and aquatic life, so reports a new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.In the first survey of its kind, researchers looked at long-term alkalinity trends in 97 streams and rivers from Florida to New Hampshire. Sites ranged from small headwater streams to some of the nation’s largest rivers. Over the past 25 to 60 years, two-thirds have become significantly more alkaline.
  32. Deconstruction Industry Begins to Gain Traction

    What do hair nets, stained glass and cookie dough have in common?This is not the beginning of a bad joke. They are all items that are currently listed on the Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE), an online database of free, unwanted materials placed up for grabs by businesses and individuals rather than hauled off to landfills. Since its establishment in 1990, the IWE has kept millions of pounds of waste out of Iowa landfills and saved, by its own estimate, $77 million by designating items for reuse.
  33. Would Cap and Trade Work for Solid Waste?

    As population and consumption trends continue to squeeze the nation's available landfill space, one public works professional sees a possible solution: Why not try "cap and trade" for solid waste?Jason Marcotte, director of city services for the city of Everett, Mass., researched the idea for a thesis he wrote while earning his Master of Public Administration degree at Norwich University in 2011. He presented his findings in a workshop at the American Public Works Association's Congress and Exposition held last week in Chicago.
  34. Shifting Gears: Hilton Head Island Embraces Bicycles

    Summer is the perfect time to get away from it all, and for many vacationers that means getting away from traffic jams and smog, in particular. So, it's no surprise that an oceanfront resort town would make traffic reduction a major priority.At its summer peak, Hilton Head Island, S.C., draws 50,000 vehicles a day to its normally quiet, green streets. So, the town has been constructing and promoting bike paths as a way to minimize the air pollution and congestion caused by the sharp increase in summertime traffic.
  35. Lessons from Detroit: It All Starts with a Plan

    As the first major U.S. city to file for bankruptcy, Detroit might be the current poster child for abandonment, but it isn’t alone.In fact, following the bursting of the housing bubble, the credit crunch and the ensuing recession, many urban areas of the country have seen declines in population and an increase in abandoned properties.
  36. Lessons from Detroit: The City After Abandonment

    Dr. June Manning Thomas remembered her most frustrating moment as an urban planner happened early in her career. It was during the 1980s when she was an economic development planner and a member of a Michigan Department of Commerce team that had just found a developer for the 18-story Central Michigan Railroad Station in downtown Detroit.“We thought we had one. We were all gathered for a big press conference and learned he could not get the money. It was embarrassing.
  37. Architect Advocates for Adaptive Reuse

    Preservation architect Jean Carroon believes the United States – a country that accounts for five percent of the earth’s population but 30 percent of its resource consumption – must take a leadership role in reversing the trends of the past half century. And, given the fact that new construction accounts for half of that consumption, the best way to reverse this unsustainable trend is to start reusing and maintaining what we’ve already built, and building things that last.“The greenest thing we can do for both our buildings and our world is constant, steady maintenance,” Carroon told a group at the recent Building Energy 2013 conference hosted in Boston by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.
  38. Connecting Sustainability and Public Safety

    MADISON, Wis. -- When asked to explain the connection between social sustainability and public safety, Madison Police Chief Nobel Wray was stumped.The unusual connection took him back to one of his first assignments, in what was at the time the most dangerous neighborhood in Wisconsin’s capital city. In 1987, Wray was assigned to the Simpson-Broadway neighborhood, an area with the city’s highest percentage of children ages 12 to 21, and about as many homicides as in the rest of Madison’s neighborhoods combined.
  39. Are Utilities Missing Out on the Benefits of CHP?

    When a power plant generates power, it also generates massive amounts of heat. Though that heat is a valuable resource, it is typically rejected as waste and dumped into rivers or lakes or vented into the air. In other words, it's lost.Instead of wasting that heat, combined heat and power (CHP) systems use it: as steam in industrial processes; as hot water for domestic needs; as space heating in the winter. In capturing more of a fuel's energy content, these systems generate energy that is far more cost-effective and far cleaner than non-CHP systems.
Lisette Provencher
David Gershon

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