Environmental efforts moving forward
By Mayor Grant Degginger
Column appearing in the fall issue of It's Your City
I was honored last year to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement on behalf of the City Council and the City of Bellevue. The agreement set a goal to reduce emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 -- a goal our council is committed to on both a municipal and citywide level.
Is this goal achievable? I believe it is, and I believe it is worth pursuing to maintain Bellevue's quality of life. Climate change is projected to have far-reaching impacts on cities around the world. Having recently visited China, I saw firsthand the huge challenges that country is facing with increasing carbon emissions and air and water pollution.
Here at home, climate change could cause water shortages, reduced mountain snow packs, flooding, interrupted electricity supply and disruptions to our marine ecosystems and the native salmon and other species that depend on them to survive and thrive.
Council members are making sure Bellevue steps up to the plate and does its part to make our environment healthy. Under the Council's direction, the city has been moving forward with an ambitious Environmental Stewardship Initiative, working hard on a number of levels to ensure we reduce the city's carbon footprint.
Since the signing of the Climate Protection Agreement, for example, we have completed an inventory of municipal as well as citywide greenhouse gas emissions. This fall, council members are expected to discuss numerous strategies on how emissions caused by municipal operations can be reduced. We hope to engage the city as a whole in a reduction effort in 2009.
We have also obtained satellite imagery of the ground cover for the entire city. An analysis of this data, which is expected to be completed shortly, will provide valuable information about the rate of change in both tree canopy and the amount of impervious surface in the city. Among other important things, this information will be used to shape strategies to protect or enhance tree canopy. The Council last year increased the amount of tree canopy that must be retained on single-family lots being redeveloped, and in recent years has renewed or created new capital improvement projects to support tree planting citywide.
Other examples of our efforts include:
- Bellevue's recent expansion of parks and playground recycling containers has been a great success, with 3.6 tons of material being diverted out of the solid waste stream each month. Many city-sponsored events now aim for "zero-waste" standards, and the city earned a "Best Workplace for Recycling" award this year from King County.
- The city recently purchased its first all-electric truck. Powered by six large batteries, the vehicle generates zero direct greenhouse gas emissions. It is recharged by being plugged into a standard electrical outlet, and costs about 27 cents to travel 18 miles compared to a gas pickup truck, which costs about $4 per 18 miles.
- The Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center has been awarded a King County Green Building Award. The MSEEC, a partnership between the city and the Pacific Science Center, showcases a variety of green building techniques, technologies and materials. The facility will be a regional center for teaching environmental education. The grand opening was Oct. 11.
- Increased education and outreach has resulted in higher recycling rates citywide. In 2007, residents in single-family households recycled 67.5 percent of their waste (up from 65.9 percent the previous year), and those living in apartments and other multifamily structures recycled 18.1 percent of their waste (up from 16.4 percent). Participation in food waste recycling by residents living in single-family houses has steadily grown -- from 12 percent in 2005 to 32 percent in 2007.
- Nearly 100 city employees participated in Group Health's Bike to Work Month Challenge this year, logging approximately 10,560 miles and saving approximately 10,093 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. The city ranked 14th in mileage among the 648 organizations that participated.
An innovative city program that helps people reduce their carbon footprint was implemented through the sixth-grade science Powerful Choices curriculum in the Bellevue school system. So far, more than 300 households have sent in pledge cards listing what they are doing now and what they will do in the future to reduce their carbon footprint.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a complex and long-term effort. But I am confident we can make notable progress in the months and years ahead. Bellevue has a long history of environmental stewardship, a legacy that will continue as we face these new challenges together.