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Are Greener Cities Always The Greenest Option?

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Photo credit: fairfaxcounty / Flickr

City-wide efforts to implement environmentally-friendly practices present significant challenges in urban areas that were built decades ago. Transformation to a “green” city would be easier if it really meant a new, green paint job. New buildings, landscapes, power sources and transportation options that follow principles of green living are easy to discuss and hard to implement.

Municipalities have made some remarkable mistakes when undertaking revolutionary strides toward clean energy, renewable resources and careful use of the environment.

City leaders must state the commitment to green energy within logical bounds for all green projects. In some cases, the financial resources cannot fulfill the dreams of the “green crowd.” All decisions must be tempered with the return on investment that can be realized before the green trend fades. Conventional products might be more affordable than green solutions.

Contractors hired for city-sponsored projects must do more than talk about LEEDs guidelines whenever upgrades and improvement projects are completed on publicly-owned buildings. Adherence to the guidelines requires measurable improvements without shortcuts. LEEDs standards must be assessed objectively to ensure that every project improves energy efficiency through materials, construction and HVAC equipment.

Office supplies can be replaced with recycled paper and natural cleaning supplies when costs can be reduced. Embracing costlier approaches to high-use supplies can work against efforts to control expenditures. Few people consider the amount of energy required to produce these “green” products.

Standard products can be more environmentally friendly even without the green label. A strong marketing campaign is not the primary factor in choosing supplies. Appropriate research will reveal the ways in which green products have been produced and sold.

Large-scale wind and solar projects require balance against other interests that support tax revenue streams, which include property taxes. In many instances, cities benefit from the use of clean-burning natural gas over using valuable land expanses for “renewable” energy projects.

Millions of dollars in solar panels must remain in place for more than 20 years to realize the expected savings. Few cities can forfeit property tax revenues for this particular use.

Vast stretches of naturally growing plants and grasses are essential for the city with a “green” mission. In some respects, large areas of unused land can be expensive when the city relies on property tax revenue for other projects.

Balance is essential in the quest to maintain a healthy, natural landscape that utilizes every acre of land for the best use possible. Love for nature fades when cities are unable to maintain large parks and green areas.

Large quantities of clean water are essential for the health and well-being of the entire community. Storm water control is important when heavy rains overflow storm drains and cause sewage and fresh water to mix inside the system. Cities must remember the importance of investing in proven measures that protect the city from becoming a massive slab of concrete that cannot absorb water in natural areas.

All aspects of the “green” projects must interconnect to reduce the amount of effort required to move throughout the city. Paths are essential for people who want to walk and bike instead of using motorized transportation. City planning plays an important role in securing support from the public for reducing dependence on traditional modes of going to work and school.

City leaders are wise to consider the various ways in which “green” projects can be incorporated in the upcoming city plans. Renovations can follow acceptable “green” practices without spending more money than necessary.

In addition, older areas can be improved without unnecessary effort and making wasteful choices. Careful planning is the key to selecting the best materials and resources for projects that will provide measurable return through energy and money savings.

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