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Sustainability this week

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/29/19 @ 4:00pm  |  Posted in Biking, Reuse, Green buildings, Zero waste

A round up of news, trends or events related to sustainability in Northeast Ohio.

(near) Net Zero<br />The Bullitt Center in Seattle was built to operate at net zero emissions capacity. How tenants use net zero spaces is part of a Cleveland presentation in April.

A unique brand of leadership is fueling a response to climate change in Copenhagen. The Danish city has embarked on a Green New Deal-type of goal to zero out carbon emissions in the next six years. Understanding that the journey matters more than the destination—in attracting people who want in—Mayor Frank Jensen has charted a course. It includes building a new subway line that will place transit within a half-mile of everyone. They've already chopped 42% of carbon emissions, mainly through a massive shift to renewable energy and a serious investment in biking, which a healthy 43% of the 624,000 residents use on a daily basis. The future is in cities like Copenhagen.

With recycling in a free fall—thanks to a one-two punch of the U.S. producing way too much packaging and China’s policy of no longer buying it—business for reusable and even compostable packaging is expected to rise. Finding the resources—space if you’re the compost facility and funding if you’re the consumer facing institution—to divert organic waste could be a challenge. And yet, for many businesses, Zero Waste is a big part of the equation since tens of thousands of pounds of packaging are bought and tossed at places where the public enjoys visiting. Help getting started toward Zero Waste is provided free by experts like Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District business recycling specialist Doreen Schreiber. Certified as a TRUE Advisor through the U.S. Green Building Council, she is able to assist businesses in preparing for their third party certification and start zeroing out waste.

Lake Erie faces daunting challenges, which Cleveland elected officials started to face this week. Algae blooms, which form mainly from excess fertilizer and animal waste running off of farms in Ohio’s Maumee River valley, are an annual threat to drinking water and a long-term danger to the lake which absorbs last season’s algae into hypoxic ‘dead zones’ where nothing can live. On top of that, plastics are washing into the lake by the tens of thousands of pounds annually. Cleveland City Council is waking up to the threat, forming a subcommittee focused on Lake Erie. It is a worthy endeavor, and one that has many allies, including the Interactivity Foundation whose Freshwater for the Future advocates for water to be recognized by local communities as a basic human need worthy of a clean water standard. For all of the progress that has been made—the river doesn’t run red into the lake and biotic communities have re established a firm fin hold—there are a number of issues that Cleveland can tackle, like: Setting standards, remaining transparent and inclusive about health threats, restoring wetlands and natural areas along the lakeshore, or making the case for removing chronic issues like lead pipes from homes.

Buildings that produce as much energy as they use is the topic of the next Cleveland 2030 District meeting. On April 9th, Roger Chang, one of the leads on green building for the architecture firm Westlake Reed Leskosky which produced the retrofit of the first LEED Platinum Net Zero Energy Courthouse in Grand Junction, Colorado will speak about how to achieve visionary targets like reducing energy use by 50%.

“After the Fire: A path toward environmental restoration of Cleveland’s neighborhoods” on April 17 promises an exploration of 50 years of environmental progress—and an assessment of the multiple challenges that remain—in Cleveland since the Cuyahoga River last caught fire. Guests will weave environmental history, the rise of environmental laws and minority voices in the community into an singular event aimed at addressing the past and facing the future.

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