1. Rails-to-Trails Project Spurs Local Economy

    When a community looks for economic and community development opportunities, the answer often lies in their own history. Many communities are using recreational opportunities as major placemaking initiatives and a focus on history and natural heritage has been at the forefront of those decisions.With a vision to use an abandoned resource to create a cultural link to their past, the cities of Johnson City and Elizabethton, Tenn., partnered to convert a ten-mile stretch of abandoned railway to a greenway to link their communities in a new way. The two municipalities, with the help of several groups of stakeholders, successfully created new recreational opportunities, spurred economic development, and preserved a key to the area’s rich cultural heritage born around the railroad industry.
  2. County's Biomass Project Provides Economic, Environmental Benefits

    Perseverance was the key for Sullivan County’s District Energy biomass project, but officials said it was more than worth the wait since the benefits have been immediate.Sullivan County, N.H. was interested in utilizing biomass for quite some time in order to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and carbon emissions. After much research by Facilities Director John Cressy and his team, the county purchased a Hurst biomass boiler district heating system with a backpressure steam turbine/generator to serve the county’s 166-bed nursing home and 168-bed prison complex, as well as two smaller on-site buildings in Unity, N.H.
  3. Concrete Ideas for Reducing Concrete Waste

    Civil engineering researchers, sustainable construction advocates and innovators in the zero-waste movement are on the hunt for the most effective and efficient ways to use and reuse concrete.The world is literally covered in concrete and with an annual production of 3 tons per person globally it is the second most consumed material on earth, after water. Its strength and durability are coveted by construction crews from New Zealand to Zimbabwe.
  4. Groups See Results from Process Improvement

    If you’ve ever wondered whether your work group could be more efficient, provide better customer service, produce a higher quality product, cut costs or generate more revenue, perhaps the place to start is an honest evaluation of the core processes that make your organization tick.Process improvement initiatives began years ago with private corporations in the manufacturing sector, such as Ford, Toyota and Bell Lab. Over the decades, these approaches have matured with the help of companies like General Electric and Motorola. These initiatives carried various titles, like Total Quality Management, Lean, Six Sigma, and Continuous Improvement (just to name a few).
  5. Denver Strives to Bring Sustainability to Scale

    While Colorado’s epic floods of September 2013 made national news, it has been a water disaster of another kind that worries Denver’s Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Tinianow the most.“Really it’s the lack of precipitation,” he said. “Drought is a much bigger threat here.”
  6. Nurses in High Demand as Cities Compete for Quality Health Care

    As Americans age and the Affordable Care Act makes health care accessible to more people, experts say communities across the country will need to compete more vigorously to attract a limited supply of nurses and other qualified health care workers.More than ever before, health care is becoming a critical economic development and workforce concern for local communities and regions.
  7. Researchers Call for Road Salt Reductions

    As winter weather sets in across much of North America, the annual debate over road salt ensues.On the one hand, salt and other deicers save lives and money by reducing accidents and allowing commercial traffic and air travel to continue flowing throughout the season. On the other hand, the sodium chloride that gives salt its ice melting punch can be corrosive to vehicles, roads and bridges. When the spring melt carries it into nearby streams, it can be a hazard to plants and aquatic animals.
  8. Farm Bill Yields Bumper Crop of Sustainability Grants

    If you’re looking for federal grants or low-interest loans to kick-start sustainable agriculture, forestry, entrepreneurship, conservation, food systems or community development programs, a newly revised guide published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture might help.The guide, titled Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities, describes 63 programs intended to assist local governments, private businesses and individual producers in a wide range of sustainability, economic development and conservation efforts.
  9. Energy Retrofits: Small Changes Add Up

    Building energy efficiency into new construction is getting easier all the time, and sleek wind or solar installations are impressive demonstrations of technology. But the fact is that most buildings are legacies.The 100-year-old farmhouse that loses heat through the roof, the low-income housing development with the 1960s-vintage boiler – these are the realities that families and organizations deal with when trying to become more energy efficient. And while there are obvious long-term savings in improving energy efficiency, in the short term these repairs can be too costly to take on.
  10. Incorporating Social Equity into Sustainability Initiatives

    Cities often struggle to be certain that the benefits they provide are evenly distributed. Leaders of two very different cities – Detroit, one of the nation’s largest cities, with a population of nearly 700,000, and Dubuque, Iowa, less than a tenth that size – both found that a key to achieving their goals was to involve more voices in planning, and not necessarily in the way you would expect.How the two cities achieved this involvement was discussed during the Growing Sustainable Communities Conference, held recently in Dubuque.
  11. Unlocking Your Potential for Clean Energy

    Many communities want to use and provide renewable energy options. But moving from green energy ideas to a plan-of-action and an installed system can be an overwhelming process, stretching across years, changing budgets and the rapidly developing industry of renewable energy technology.Achieving the goal of increased renewable energy is possible and in a community's best interest, according to three presenters who discussed their initiatives during the session, Unlocking Your Potential for Clean Energy, at the Growing Sustainable Communities Conference, held recently in Dubuque, Iowa.
  12. Economic Growth and Cultural Vibrancy through Creative Placemaking

    What is creative placemaking?Essentially it is a development built around and inclusive of arts, cultural and creative thinking, such as museums and orchestra halls, public art displays, transit stations with art themes and live-work structures for creative people, according to Jim Tischler, with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s Community Development Division.
  13. Creating Community Capital through Local Food

    Americans buy local food for its freshness, to support the local economy, and because they like to know the source of the product, according to a 2009 Food Marketing Institute survey. Local governments are increasingly focusing on cultivating locally-based, self-reliant, sustainable food economies for many of the same reasons.“In North Carolina, we eat $45 billion worth of food every year,” said Dr. Nancy Creamer, a distinguished professor at North Carolina State University and director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a collaboration between NC State, North Carolina A&T State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. “Just imagine a small portion of that going to our local farmers, and the economic engine that inspires.”
  14. Universities Connect with Communities

    Universities have long been known as centers of innovation. After all, they employ some of the nation’s top research scientists, not to mention knowledgeable faculty and expert staff.But universities often need their students to participate not just in the technical ideas behind innovation, but in building relationships with the community where the school is located, since that cooperation brings projects off the drawing board and into practice.
  15. No Quick Fixes for Sustainable Communities

    Sustainability is a popular catchphrase in cities across the country, but implementing the change needed to become more sustainable communities is challenging work with few quick fixes.That was a recurring message at the 2014 Growing Sustainable Communities Conference, held Oct. 7-8 in Dubuque, Iowa. The conference drew approximately 400 attendees from 100 different cities in 21 states.
  16. Baltimore Braces for Climate Change

    Two hundred years ago, the city of Baltimore survived a 25-hour assault emanating from Chesapeake Bay – a dramatic scene immortalized by Francis Scott Key as he penned a poem that would one day become America’s national anthem. But today, it isn’t the threat of British war ships keeping city leaders up at night.It’s the bay itself.
  17. Demystifying Social Equity

    Many communities are on the cutting edge of sustainability and quality of life – investing in projects like community-wide recycling, energy efficiency and even some bike trails. But are all these resources available to every resident?A recent survey found only one in 10 local governments have addressed social equity issues with the same energy they devote to other sustainability challenges.
  18. Effective Climate and Clean Energy Planning

    The prospect of urban growth coupled with the effects of climate change offers both opportunities and risks.This is according to Future Proofing Cities, a 2012 report by global consulting firm Atkins, in partnership with the U.K. Department for International Development and University College London.
  19. Community Solar Shares the Sun with Everyone

    While the cost of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems has decreased, a recent U.S. government survey found that only about 25 percent of residential rooftops can support PV systems due to shading, building design and other issues.Community solar offers a way to share the benefits of solar, even if the panels won’t work on an individual building.
  20. Roundabouts Really Get Around

    Roundabouts are one of the most effective tools highway engineers can use to significantly reduce serious traffic accidents.In fact, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reported that during the last decade, the crash experience at modern roundabouts has been studied extensively.
  21. Where America is Sprawling and What It Means

    People in compact, connected metropolitan regions are more likely to move up the economic ladder, have lower household costs, enjoy more transportation choices and lead longer, safer, healthier lives, according to a report by Smart Growth America and the University of Utah's Metropolitan Research Center.Measuring Sprawl 2014 evaluates development in 221 major metropolitan areas in the United States, and ranks these areas based on how sprawling or compact they are.
  22. Mice Implicated in Surge of Lyme Disease

    As health officials contend with another harsh season of Lyme disease cases, a recent study reveals a common culprit: white-footed mice.People living in northern and central parts of the U.S. are more likely to contract Lyme disease and other tick-borne ailments when white-footed mice are abundant. Mice are effective at transferring disease-causing pathogens to feeding ticks.
  23. Parklets: From Pavement to Public Spaces

    With its temperate weather and steady stream of pedestrians, it’s not surprising that the city of San Francisco conceived and installed the nation’s first parklet in 2010.Today, less than four years after that original site was opened to residents, the concept of parklets has expanded beyond California, with small-scale public spaces growing in cities around the country.
  24. Fleet Managers Save Millions with CNG

    When the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) finishes converting its fleet of more than 300 buses to run on compressed natural gas (CNG), it’s estimated that fuel savings will be around $7 million a year, according to Marty Stutz, vice president of communications, marketing and customer service.COTA decided to make the switch from diesel to CNG in 2011 after a comparative study, Stutz said. While the decision was primarily driven by economics, the environmental benefits were also important.
  25. Financing Green Infrastructure Projects

    In the early days of urban development, any kind of sewer system advancement that didn’t involve dumping sewage directly into the streets or a nearby body of water was considered an improvement.As engineering processes became more refined, cities developed methods to move sewage and stormwater out of the streets and into treatment systems. These combined sewer systems were vulnerable to overflow in times of excess rainfall or other weather events.
  26. Community Radio Gives Rise to Local Voices

    With an emphasis on local broadcasting produced by a team of dedicated volunteers, more than 800 community radio stations across the U.S. are serving listeners, thanks mostly to the support of small local businesses.Community radio is often confused with public radio, but they are not affiliated with National Public Radio and receive no public funds. Many use a "Low Power FM" license established by the FCC in 2000 as non-commercial or nonprofit radio stations with very weak signals – in some cases only broadcasting within a 10-mile radius.
  27. Encouraging Citizens to Grow Local Foods

    From World War I Victory Gardens to Michelle Obama’s ground-breaking of the White House lawn, across the years and miles in cities, suburbs and rural communities, people have planted backyard vegetable gardens.They’ve used the resulting bounty to supplement grocery store selections for their family meals, to sell in farmers markets and to preserve for winter.
  28. Transit-Oriented Neighborhoods in Demand

    Reversing decades of dominant urban sprawl in metropolitan centers like Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis isn’t going to happen overnight. But a gradual return to transit-oriented development that maximizes access to public transportation is happening in cities across the country.Baby boomers, who originally settled in the suburbs, are now empty nesters and have a desire to live in neighborhoods where they can go to work and out to dinner without using their car.
  29. U.S. Urban Forests Under Attack

    Defying logic and sustainability, many people who can’t see the forest for the trees simply and sadly cut them down, letting the chips fall where they may.While the good news is there are some 660 million acres of forest in America, including about 136 million acres of urban and community forests, we continue to cut down trees in our cities faster than we replace them, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
  30. Austin Plans to Keep Its Cool

    When it comes to sustainability, Austin, Texas has a reputation for staying ahead of the curve. From developing the first municipal green building policy, which served as a model for LEED, to creating what could be the nation's first eco-industrial park exclusively for recycling and reuse companies, this “world headquarters of the armadillo,” is an innovative city where smart growth has been a cornerstone of a bustling economy for decades.Chief Sustainability Officer Lucia Athens said the city of Austin got its wake-up call in the early 1990s when unbridled development almost resulted in the loss of a beloved natural asset.
  31. Biochar Could Make Desalination More Cost Effective

    Imagine being able to desalinate water using a product derived from wood waste.How could wood waste fit into water desalination? By applying a process called pyrolysis, which thermochemically processes biomass, such as wood waste.
  32. Pervious Pavement Relieves Stormwater Woes

    Pervious concrete and porous asphalt are two effective construction alternatives for reducing stormwater runoff and preventing pollutants from entering waterways, and experts say more developers should consider using them.“Really look at what works in other places, but realize that you have to join the green movement. You know you can’t wait forever,” Ghassan Korban said.
  33. Plan to Cut Power Plant Emissions Already Half Way There

    The Obama administration’s plan to cut power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent made headlines across the country this week, but a closer look reveals the industry is already more than half way to reaching that goal.That's thanks mostly to a sluggish economy, energy conservation efforts and a market-driven conversion from coal to cheaper, cleaner natural gas.
  34. Land Banks Help Restore Abandoned Neighborhoods

    There are about 14 million housing units vacant year-round in the United States.Many of them are abandoned and tax delinquent, creating a blight of despair and ugliness throughout industrial cities in the Northeast, the Rust Belt and metropolitan areas everywhere.
  35. Habitat Restoration Projects Abound in Urban Settings

    Nature is coming to your doorstep. Or close to it, at least.The line of demarcation between city and wilderness is fading, with U.S. cities around the country spearheading urban habitat restoration projects. It’s a topic that is getting increased attention.
  36. Massachusetts Prepares for Mandatory Composting

    Banana peels don’t go in the trash can. At least not in Massachusetts, where a growing number of municipalities have curbside composting programs, and the state plans to ban commercial food waste in landfills later this year.Similar to recycling, residential food-scrap programs are simple: Households are given plastic bins to dispose of their organic waste. The compost bins are placed on the curb for weekly street-side pickup service.
  37. Climate Change Update: It's Costing Us Now

    Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience.So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska.
  38. Napkins in Food Waste: Biofuel Potential?

    An Iowa State University researcher has found an unexpected source of fiber in food waste that increases its potential for making renewable fuel: napkins.Funded by a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Stephanie Jung explored fermentation of the sugars, starches and fibers in food waste to make bioethanol.
  39. Sustainable Lawn Care Requires Local 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.

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