The beginning of 2013 marked the expiration of the Green Cincinnati Plan, and according to environmental activists and city employees, it worked, and Cincinnati should re-up.
The Green Cincinnati Plan began in 2008 — originally requested by Mayor Mark Mallory — and consisted of more than 80 recommendations that targeted energy efficiency, waste reduction and green land use in a city-wide sustainability initiative.
“So here we are five years after the adoption of the plan, so how did we do?” said Larry Falkin, director of the Office of Environmental Quality. “We actually did really well. We set the goal of reducing greenhouse gasses by eight percent by 2012, and we reduced them 8.2 percent. We’ve done these things in a way that saves more than it costs.”
Green Umbrella, a regional nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental vitality, met with the Strategic Growth Committee to discuss the city’s future efforts to “go green,” with the New Green Cincinnati Plan. Supporters from Green Umbrella and other organizations filled city hall’s chambers.
In the past, Green Umbrella worked with approximately 175 private, environmentally conscious organizations to work cohesively toward sustainability in Cincinnati, and has picked up much of the responsibility of getting private entities on board with the Green Cincinnati Plan, Falkin said.
“As we look through the New Green Cincinnati Plan, there are some things that fall naturally within city government’s field of responsibility,” Falkin said. “There are also lots and lots of partners out there in the community who are focused on many of the things we’re talking about in the plan, and would be happy to pick up some of the responsibility.”
Falkin attributed much of the success to improvements in transportation and solar energy panels on certain government buildings, but said there is still work to be done. Much of the improvements could be done at an extremely low cost to the city.
An inexpensive initiative Falkin would like to see implemented is to make multiple occupancy transportation more accessible. With the addition of Megabus stops in Cincinnati, the metro system should connect to those stops so people would not have to use a car to get there, said Steve Johns, city sustainability coordinator.
“Friends don’t let friends SOV,” Johns said, referring to single occupancy vehicles such as cars. “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to bike to the greyhound station, lock up your bike and take the longer distance trip? Wouldn’t it be great to link Amtrak to our metro system more seamlessly?”
Not all of the New Green Cincinnati Plan is cheap. A more costly initiative it outlines is to add more solar panels to government buildings and to spread leftover power to other buildings by interconnecting the panel systems.
Councilmember Cecil Thomas commended the progress the city has made, but said raising awareness of green initiatives has to be improved.
“There are numerous recommendations in your report that we as citizens can do at really no cost to ourselves,” Thomas said. “That is really the most important aspect here in terms of educating the community on ways that we can be of help in addressing the overall energy situation.”
Ryan Ponti-Zins, a University of Cincinnati student speaking on behalf of UC's City Relations Director, attended the meeting to express students’ interest in citywide sustainability initiatives, and mentioned improvements in green transportation would help current students get around easier.
“More and more students are considering whether or not the city is sustainable, and Cincinnati’s push to be a more sustainable city is attracting more students to the area, and also it will keep these talented students in the area,” Ponti-Zins said.
While members of the Strategic Growth Committee seemed welcoming of the new plan, Thomas said council needs to see a more concrete breakdown of specific costs, and suggested to revise the plan to include those specific costs and to do studies to see how much savings the city would see as a result.
“I’ve always said we can pay now or pay later, and I’d rather pay now,” Thomas said. The final New Green Cincinnati Plan will go before city council late February.