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Reducing Greenhouse Gases in City Operations and Services: Best Practices From the Private Sector

Kit Cole is director of external affairs and sustainability initiatives for Waste Management and can be reached at <kcole@wm.com>. Jeffrey Brown is director of environmental affairs for Safeway and can be reached at <Jeff.Brown@safeway.com>.

Business leaders are embracing policies and practices designed to reduce green house gases, and many of these efforts can easily be replicated in city operations. Some of these practices are presented here.

Expand procurement of recycled content and green materials. When specify ing procurement guidelines, evaluate options to purchase greater varieties of recycled content materials. Buying a wider r ange of such products creates the end-market demand to sustain and expand recycling industries and their environmental benefits. Waste Management evaluates the total life-cycle impact of products and services -- not just costs -- when it comes to purchases and contracts. This is especially true for high-volume items as well as for items that have a big environmental impact.

Invest in alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure. When purchasing new fleets, evaluate the potential of purchasing natural gas vehicles or retrofitting current fleets with pollution control devices. These updates can significantly reduce greenhouse gases, toxic particulate emissions and smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions as well.

Nationwide, Waste Management has replaced nearly 500 diesel-fueled trucks with vehicles that run on 100 percent clean-burning natural gas. In California, the company has retrofitted nearly 800 trucks with special pollution controls to reduce emissions. Altogether, these proactive measures have reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking about 28,000 cars off the road. At the local level, these ef forts improve air quality within franchise areas, increasing customer satisfac tion.

When building fueling stations for your alternative fuel vehicles, evaluate options to make stations available for public use. Local communities and entire regions benefit from greater access to alternative fueling stations. Most of Waste Management’s liquefied natural gas and compressed natural gas fueling stations are available to the public and other natural gas fleets.

At the same time you are evaluating alter- native fuel vehicles, consider promoting alternative transportation options among employees. This includes evaluating the environmental benefits of expanding vanpools and incentives for carpooling. Waste Management-sponsored vanpools help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by eliminating thousands of driving miles from roadways.

Invest in sustainable elements in building design and projects. When constructing new buildings or updating existing facilities, consider incorporating sustainable options. In concrete production alone, there are wide-ranging benefits from a 50 and 60 percent replacement of Portland cement mix with high volume fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion. These include a 25 percent reduction in smog, health effects and fossil fuel use, 15 percent capital cost reduction and a 20 percent life-cycle cost reduction.

Waste Management has begun using high volume fly ash (50 percent by weight) in concrete production. Other sustainable elements in use include native vegetation and strategically placed light panels to maximize natural lighting.

Use energy audits, interviews, observation and research to determine large energy uses that can be reduced with better practices and new technology; for example, light-emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent lighting. Once a city or business understands the components of its overall energy bill, it can methodically make improvements, starting with those that offer the biggest reductions for the least amount of effort. In a short period of time, many small changes can add up to an encouraging and substantial reduction in energy usage. The variety of energy-saving products and practices available today makes this a particularly good time to accelerate this process. Safeway has used a number of methods to reduce electricity use in its stores, including making changes to exterior signage and refrigeration systems, and using compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs for interior accent lighting. As a result of these efforts, the energy used per square foot in Safeway stores is well below the national average for grocery stores.

Concentrate recovery and recycling efforts on large waste streams that are most easily segregated and have recycling value (for example, cardboard, plastics and aluminum). Businesses and the public sector alike are increasingly realizing that an effective recycling and recovery program can lead to a significant reduction in the trash bill, in addition to meeting waste diversion targets. Safeway recycles approximately 500,000 tons of material annually, including used cardboard, produce trimmings and plastic. The recycling value of these commodities, combined with the reduction in solid waste disposal costs, saves the company tens of millions of dollars every year. This diversion also helps most municipalities in California reach their 50-percent waste diversion targets.

Purchase/invest in alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar generation, to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The proliferation of alternative energy sources will benefit the long-term interests of the business community, the public sector and the citizens of California. Ongoing commitments to renewable power purchases provide stability to the green power market and incentives to increase green power production facilities. This leads to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from power production. Safeway began purchasing renewable power in 2005 through EPA’s Green Power Partners program. In 2006, Safeway bought 87 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy, enough to power all of its 340 fuel stations in the United States, and made a similar commitment for 2007.