Dallas, TX Launches "GreenDallas.net"
Source File: http://www.greendallas.net/
Earth Day Every Day in Dallas
“It’s an exciting time for those of us who have spent most of our lives working on and focusing on the environment,” says Laura Fiffick, director of the Office of Environmental Quality for the City of Dallas. “It’s finally cool to be green!” she laughs. “There has been significant attention on global warming recently by Hollywood and mainstream media, and regular people are starting to pay attention.”
Fiffick is right. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, rockers Sheryl Crow and Melissa Ethridge, former Vice President Al Gore, and producer Laurie David—the list goes on. For Fiffick and those like her, it’s like having a team of national spokespersons promoting your efforts, but without the expense of paying them. “Although this large movement has caused people to become more environmentally aware recently, it’s nothing new to us. We’ve been working a long time,” she adds.
In fact, the City of Dallas purchased its first alternative fueled vehicle 15 years ago, in 1992. Ten years later, Dallas was the first city in Texas to use biodiesel. “It’s a great feeling to be ahead of the curve,” says Ramiro Lopez, assistant director of Dallas’ Equipment and Building Services Department. Since that time, the green fleet has continued to grow. SustainLane—an online media company empowering people, businesses, and government to go green—listed the City of Dallas #5 out of the 50 largest cities in the nation on its “Alternative Fueled City Fleets” list. Dallas is proud to have nearly 2,000 cars and trucks (41 percent of its fleet) running on alternative fuels or are hybrid—the largest fleet in Texas and one of the largest in the U.S.
With 70 percent of the DFW region’s NOx emissions coming from mobile sources, like vehicles, the use of alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles will have a definite impact on the region’s air quality.
But it’s not just air quality that the City of Dallas is focusing on. The City has built an impressive list of accomplishments when it comes to supporting the environment and setting standards for the future.
Dallas’ Environmental Management System (EMS) demonstrates a commitment to not simply comply with laws and regulations, but also to go beyond what’s minimally necessary and do the best work possible on behalf of the environment, the citizens, and the City’s resources. Many new initiatives are the direct result of the system’s broad-based approach to environmental issues. Rather than rely on a compliance officer, or even an entire environmental compliance department, the EMS empowers every City employee to identify problems and take personal responsibility for smart solutions. Here’s a partial list of improvements fostered by the EMS:
- Environmentally friendly or “green” buildings nurture the environment by saving water, energy, and other resources. In 2003, Dallas started its Green Building Program when the Jack Evans Police Headquarters was constructed. The City expects to complete more than 25 green facilities between 2006 and 2010, including ten libraries, seven police and fire stations, one cultural center, three recreation centers, three service centers, and a homeless assistance center.
- A cousin to the Green Building Program is Dallas’ Green Renovation Program. The idea is to replace regular roofs with new “cool” roofs that promote energy savings. Buildings also are being retrofitted with high efficiency heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and lighting systems.
- Through Environmentally Preferred Purchasing, the City selects products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment—compared with competing products or services that serve the same purposes.
- Dallas’ Energy Management Plan is standardizing performance objectives for all new facilities based on watts used per square foot. The plan also aims to reduce energy consumption by 25 percent in existing City facilities in 2007. The City has reduced its overall energy use through numerous means, including use of lighting upgrades, solar panels, high efficient heating and air conditioning systems, and automated building controls. Last year, 994.7 million cubic feet of renewable energy was captured from the McCommas Bluff Landfill—enough to heat all of the homes in University Park, Highland Park, and Duncanville for an entire year.
- With Energy Performance Contracting, the City improves existing buildings without draining local tax revenues. It’s all done by using a mix of energy conservation measures and more efficient heating systems. These savings, in turn, pay for building upgrades. At Dallas City Hall, a comprehensive energy project has resulted in annual savings of about $1.49 million.
- Regular incandescent traffic signals cost Dallas about $2.1 million annually in electricity costs. By converting to energy-efficient LED traffic lights, the City will cut annual energy consumption by 14.5 million kilowatt hours per year. In addition, nearly half of the street lights in the City of Dallas are now lit by renewable “green power.”
- Some components of the EMS have gone beyond the doors of City Hall. For instance, the City started an In-House Recycling Program. The program was originally developed to meet the Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED) prerequisite, which is designed to reduce a building’s solid-waste stream by 30 percent to 40 percent. The program is cost-neutral, meaning there is no direct expense to the City, and it also extends the life of landfills. From April 2003 to November 2006, 3,199 tons of recyclable materials were diverted from landfills.