One of City Council’s top priorities is preserving natural resources so it only makes sense that the City would take steps to make sure that our own house was in order. Over the last couple of years City Council adopted energy conservation guidelines and goals, and the staff has been working to achieve those goals. Because City Departments are housed in different buildings at different locations we’ve had a fairly decentralized management of City buildings so step one has been consolidating utility billing so we know what our baseline energy usage is. We’ve also taken some easy first steps by installing motion activited lights and automated thermostats, and these efforts, though small, do work as advertised. We’re saving money. Right now we’re interviewing firms for a citywide energy audit that we hope would allow us to develop our first energy conservation plan in early 2009. And last month Council adopted a Green Building Ordinance for City buildings.
Make no mistake about it green has gone mainstream corporate. From electric cars to geothermal heating, everyone touts the environmental sensitivity of their company and their products. Even WalMart is reshaping its image with a green hue. As a city that advocated being green when green was still considered anti-disestablishmentariainism, all this newfound support is great but I worry that all the marketing cliches threaten to cause the meaning of the message to be lost in all the noise.
In the race to get into consumer’s wallets green has proven to be a ticket to ride. On the one hand it’s great that consumers and companies care enough that green is now a legitimate contender but I worry about dilution through all the advertising pollution. What’s real and what’s just sales pitch hype?
As long as there’s content behind the hype we probably shouldn’t lose any sleep but that’s where things seem to get a bit tricky. And I think that’s where the phrase sustainability makes more sense than the idolatry of single-minded green mania. Sustainability is a bigger umbrella that takes the green discussion to a higher or at least a broader level — although it’s certainly fair to argue that we had to embrace our inner green before we could really come to understand what sustainability was all about so I’m not critical of the green movement I’m just ready to see it rise to the next level.
Kent’s been an environmentally-minded community for decades and perhaps because we’ve been following the green brick road since its hippy make love not war roots Kent is actually at the leading edge of the sustainability curve. As a relative newcomer to Kent I continue to be impressed with the level of sophistication this community has had when it comes to building the sustainability arc. What we lack in green glitz and glitter we more than make up for in thoughtful goals and action steps to make Kent a model of sustainability.
Most of the groundwork predates me so I can’t take much credit for it but I’m happy to celebrate it just the same. If you haven’t checked out the City’s progress on its sustainability goals, here’s an update that our Planning Department prepared earlier this year [click here]. And I’m happy to report that we’re continuing the tradition with the recent adoption of our first green building ordinance as recommended by the Environmental Commission.
Here’s a little background on the new ordinance and a copy of the ordinance itself.
Kent Green Building Ordinance