Let me first start by saying that we are really lucky to be the first city in the U.S. to host this event. My second thought is how impressive it is that the organizers made the event, with more than 1,600 people attending, a zero-waste conference. All of the products were recyclable or compostable. Although this was an event including representatives from international conservation and sustainability efforts, I'm going to focus on some of the highlights from the local area.
Some of the ways Columbus is making a difference include:
• city's future building projects are LEED certified
• a comprehensive citywide curbside recycling program was implemented recently
• Scioto River restoration to remove dams and preservation of Big Darby Creek from a possible business that would have polluted it
• the cleanup of local brownfields
• implementation of a Green Spot program for businesses to encourage them to be more "green"
• the conversion of city vehicles to use CNG instead of diesel
• city trying to become more pedestrian and bike friendly. A bike-share program with low-cost bike rentals will be implemented next spring. New bike racks and Captial Crossroads bike storage areas have been placed downtown
Some other things I learned about:
"Litter to glitter"
During a visit to the exhibition hall, I learned about a business based in Dublin called InnovaGreen. This company recycles cigarette butts and I was really impressed with this idea. I see cigarette butts all of the time and I'm sure most people just discard them and don't think twice about recycling them. Did you know that they are the top pollutants to our waters and that 95% of the cellulose acetate that the butts are made from are not degradeable? The company recycles the cigarette butts into ashtrays, concrete fillers and other plastic products, and one of their top suppliers is casinos in Las Vegas. An impressive fact: the recycling of a ton of cigarette butts is comparable to saving 672 gallons of oil. Who knew?
The city of Columbus has implemented a program where businesses can sign up to be a "green spot" by making a commitment to becoming more sustainable and ecofriendly. To learn more about the program, visit http://www.columbusgreenspot.org/.
"Five Days of Freedom"
MORPC's program begain in April and runs through the end of this month. Individuals take a pledge to spend 5 of 7 days of a week not using driving alone as a mode of transportation. The program is spread across 12 counties and participants can win prizes. Pledge participants can take buses, bikes, walk, rideshare and more. For details, visit http://morpc.org/5/.
Going green can actually save money as was demonstrated in a lecture by Thomas Pendrey of the local G&J Pepsi Bottling Co. The company implemented a program in 2008 to engage employees and promote sustainability. They reuse their shipping packaging, donate their concentrate barrels to be used as rain barrels, turn off lighting when not in use, recycle materials in the office, reuse plastic banding, reduced the size of the bottle caps, worked with UPS to reduce their costs and energy usage for transportation of their products, and send their production runoff to Quasar for biodigesting. All of these efforts are projected to lead to a savings of at least $21-million over a 15-year period. ($21-million!!!) That's an awful lot of money and with the "cola wars" it helps them stay competitive.
Pedal Instead and Yay! Bikes
Pedal Instead promotes bike use and Yay! Bikes promotes bike safety. Did you know that central Ohio boasts more than 300 miles of trails. MORPC recently created a printout map of the central Ohio trails. To learn more about bike and pedestrian planning, visit http://www.morpc.org/transportation/bicycle_pedestrian/main.asp.
"Zero Waste" Ohio Stadium
A group works to reduce the amount of waste created at the OSU Buckeye's Ohio Stadium. The effort hopes to eliminate waste altogether.