Tallahassee Reports on 85 Sustainability Initiatives

Florida's Capital City Releases Green Initiatives Annual Report for 2014

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Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 6:00 pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Last year was a banner year for the Tallahassee Department of Environmental Policy and Energy Resources. In the seventh edition of its Green Initiatives Annual Report, released last week, city officials touted their progress on more than 85 sustainability initiatives in 2014.

Many have been financed in part by more than $1.29 million acquired in recent years from federal and state grants.

“Sustainability is part of the culture of every department within the city, which can be seen through the breadth and scope of the initiatives in this report,” said EPER Director Cynthia Barber.

From diverting more than 32,000 tons of material from its landfill to increasing its solar energy capacity to 1,762 kW, the report cites progress in nine categories including leadership, outreach, health & wellness, economics, natural resources, energy, solid waste, land development and mobility.

Leadership

The Tallahassee City Commission adopted the city’s five-year sustainability plan, Tallahassee GreenPrint, in June 2013. That plan helped the city earn a Five Milestones for Sustainability Award from ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability in 2014. The award recognizes member communities that address sustainability through a measured planning and implementation process.

One of the hallmarks of the city’s plan involves partnerships with local and regional organizations, and the mobilization of citizen volunteers. The city’s innovative Neighborhood Leadership Academy graduated 25 neighborhood leaders in 2014. The interactive forum educates participants about how to better access city programs and services.

In a partnership with the city of St. Marks, the two cities cleaned up a former 25-acre refinery and made it ready for future development. The project was funded in part by a Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund sub-grant from the Tallahassee Brownfields Coalition and will help address a longstanding environmental issue in the St. Marks River Watershed.

Outreach

The city’s outreach efforts in 2014 included a mix of environmental and sustainability training programs for city staff, and a variety of community-wide events and promotional campaigns. About 335 people attended the city’s “Sustainable You 2014” conference that featured 24 breakout sessions and more than 60 presenters. In the fall, the city hosted a “mini expo” on alternative transportation entitled “Get There Green: Biking and Walking in Tallahassee.

Health and Community Wellness

In 2014, the city and the Tallahassee Food Network completed implementation of its “Closing the Food Gap” initiative, a USDA grant-funded program that educated consumers about the benefits of purchasing local food. More than 80 farmers attended farmers’ education workshops; 662 people attended consumer workshops; and 203 people participated in 20 cooking demonstrations. The city also added two new community gardens on city-owned land. The program now provides garden space to eight neighborhoods in the city.

Farm Share, an organization that recovers fresh food from farms, wholesalers and other groups and distributes it to low-income families gave out more than 10,000 pounds of food to 220 households during a city-sponsored event in June.

Tallahassee maintains more than 3,550 acres of parkland. Last year, the city completed construction of a pedestrian bridge that connects the Lafayette Heritage Trail Park and J.R. Alford Greenway, connecting the two recreation areas and creating a safe route to hike and bike over the railroad tracks.

The city’s eight community centers reported more than 1.03 million visits in 2014; 15,000 senior citizens participated in various activities at the city’s senior center; and more than 1,000 teams participated in 25 youth and 10 adult city league sports programs.

Economic Development

Tallahassee’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) distributed $85,000 in Retail Incentive Loans in 2014. The loans helped complete $230,000 in improvements.

The CRA added $5.6 million to help finance the continued redevelopment of its Gaines Street brownfield corridor in 2014. Designated a brownfield area in 2000, the Gaines Street project received three brownfield clean-up grants from the U.S. EPA and has since been redeveloped with private investments totaling an estimated $150 million since 2006. The CRA has provided $10.69 million in incentives, helping turn the former rail corridor and industrial site into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood with hotels, restaurants and multi-family housing units.

Natural Resources

Tallahassee took numerous steps to improve stormwater management, air and water quality, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, litter abatement and other forms of pollution control in 2014. It continued major upgrades to its Advanced Wastewater Treatment facility, which are expected to be completed this year. It planted nearly 800 trees and distributed 350 more through its Adopt-a-Tree program. It provided grants for the installation of numerous rain gardens and helped sponsor a rain garden workshop.

Volunteers in the city’s Adopt A Street program picked up more than 800 bags of trash along 118 miles of adopted streets last year in Tallahassee, and an additional 135 bags of trash in a Super Clean Sweep event hosted by EPER during the annual Keep America Beautiful national campaign.

The city’s 2014 carbon emissions per unit of electric production remained the same as the previous year, at 0.48 tons/MWh, despite a 2.4 percent increase in net electric load, according to the EPER report.

Energy

The city continued to support the production of solar energy through its net metering program and through the installation of solar PV systems on city buildings. The city pays full retail kilowatt-hour value for the electricity fed into its electric grid by customers participating in the net metering program. With 80 residential, 129 commercial and 23 city-owned installations, the total of 1,762 kW of capacity offsets the need to generate an estimated 2,369,142 kWh per year of electric energy from fossil fuels.

The city’s Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESCO) with Honeywell continues to generate energy savings for the city, exceeding the savings guaranteed under the contract. In what was the ninth year of the contract, the city savings associated with the energy reductions were $513,540. The city also offers a variety of energy rebate programs to residential and commercial customers.

The city of Tallahassee continued to expand its use of alternative fuel vehicles in 2014. To date, it how has 21 supplemental engine bucket trucks, 13 hybrid heavy duty trucks, 83 less idle time police cruisers, and 18 compressed natural gas vehicles. The city’s fleet department produced approximately 2,500 gallons of biodiesel in 2014, a reduction from previous years as the department worked to enhance processes and upgrade equipment.

Tallahassee’s “Get There Green” program is an initiative that provides city staff with alternative options for work-related travel. Staff can be seen riding to nearby meetings in one of two electric vehicles or on one of the bicycles that are part of the program. In 2014, staff made 267 two-way trips totaling 802 miles and avoiding the use of 40.11 gallons of gas.

Solid Waste

By expanding education and outreach and incorporating single-stream recycling, the city has significantly increased the amount of recyclable material collected from the community. Tallahassee’s first full year of single-stream recycling in 2014 resulted in a 23.4 percent increase in material collected over the prior year and just over 69 percent more than the 2010 total. The community’s participation rate is 37.6 percent and recycling as a percentage of total garbage collected is now at 26.8 percent.

City Hall, which composted one ton of coffee grounds in 2014, recycled 33 percent of its total output of trash during the year. A major initiative to reduce the use of paper for city business, including the implementation of electronic payments to vendors, suppliers, contractors and employees, as well as the use of electronic forms and documents for city projects, has resulted in significant savings. The Growth Management process that allows customers to submit documentation and pay fees online saved $35,000 in paper last year alone.

Land Development

During 2014, the city continued to redevelop land within the urban core, transforming contaminated, blighted or otherwise underutilized areas into cultural amenities that address environmental concerns, enhance walkability, and strengthen economic vitality. The year saw the completion of Cascades Park, a formerly contaminated 24-acre area in the southeast corner of Tallahassee’s downtown, which was transformed into a park that includes an amphitheater, multi-use trails, an interactive water play plaza and a children’s play area, among other amenities. The stormwater management system within the park improves water quality and abates flooding through two stormwater ponds, a recreated wetland, a stream and waterfalls.

The city also began construction on an expansion to the Cascades Park trail and enhancements to the Gaines Street Art Alley pedestrian pathway and wildlife habitat.

Transportation and Mobility

In 2014, Tallahassee’s StarMetro expanded its public transportation options by adding an “All Access Pass,” which offers discounts to businesses, schools and apartment complexes that agreed to buy passes for all their employees, students or residents. The pilot program saw a 45% usage rate. The city’s bus transit system provided 4.3 million trips in 2014, removing 4,763 vehicles from local roadways.

Future EPER reports will contain even more objective metrics. In 2014, the city launched a pilot sustainability benchmarking program to track and report on the economic, environmental and social benefits of selected city programs. Next year’s report will include data from this new program.

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