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How do we share costs, ideas for a more sustainable future?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/08/12 @ 2:50pm

· What does it mean to have a clean energy future? How do we handle the challenge of rising demand for energy and at the same time find and promote alternative sources? One of those challenges is playing out in Cleveland where the city wants build a $180 million plant that would incinerate trash and convert it to energy. Critics of the plant argue that it will be a major new source of pollution. Is this the answer that balances concerns over air quality with finding a new source of domestic energy? If the city can reduce its energy bill and eliminate solid waste from landfills, is the added air pollution in the city a fair trade off? 

· Water pollution is not caused by one household, or one city. Unlike the age where a few steel and chemical plants set the river ablaze, today it takes a whole region to pollute a river like the Cuyahoga, which runs across many city boundaries before it dumps whatever we put into it in Lake Erie, our source of drinking water. When it comes to dealing with water pollution, we need regional solutions. That's why the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's Project Clean Lake calls on 61 cities to contribute to solutions like replacing old sewers so that they can separate water that we flush from our buildings and rainwater. The $3 billion project has generated a lot of questions ? which the Sewer District tries to answer on its web site ? they include: 

Are some cities paying more that others? Is it true that more densely populated cities like Cleveland Heights are expected to pay $30,000 a household while less populated cities built at the formerly undeveloped upstream end of the river pay proportionately less? Is there a good solution to this problem since the sprawl in Northeast Ohio cannot be undone? Twelve of the cities in the Sewer District ? including Cleveland Heights ? are suing because they don't think Project Clean Lake accounts fairly for sprawl. For example, how do we as a region account for the added costs to existing communities in flooding and water pollution caused by newer development where forests or farms once stood? A group calling themselves the Citizens Reform Association of Cuyahoga County ? the group that put the retain Hagan and Lawson-Jones as county commissioners on the ballot in 2009 ? are gathering at 7 p.m. on March 29 at Cleveland Heights Public Library to discuss this issue of regional costs.

· We've heard it said, what's most exciting about sustainability in Northeast Ohio are the people. We agree. For example, the ideas that have bubbled up about reusing vacant land to build a local food economy are some of the most creative of what is often generically called sustainability. While not invented here, farming on vacant land has generated a lot of excitement. A huge effort to think about vacant land as a system for raising local food was the centerpiece of the ReImagine a More Sustainable Cleveland effort. Lots of groups are doing what the planners and visionaries hope can be taken to a bigger scale.

For example, OSU Extension's Market Garden class has trained dozens of ordinary people how to raise crops in their neighborhood and sell it to their neighbors (they are still going ? learn more here). Community gardens in Cuyahoga County have doubled to more than 250 ? many being planted on vacant lots. Some, like the Stanard Farm are multi-acre farms that replaced a shuttered Cleveland school that was carefully taken apart or 'deconstructed' and had its materials reused. A Local Food Summit on March 10 will gather growers and those interested in being part of the local food movement. Click here for more information

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