The United Municipalities of America


As we’ve mentioned before, there’s a growing trend for municipal authorities taking matters in the own hands when it comes to the environment. And why not? When their own governments get it wrong or take too long to implement innovative new measures, it’s local government that misses out on the benefits, such as substantial savings on power and waste management.

This article from the Wall Street Journal (via Kottke) looks at nine such examples, including:

  • rooftops in Chicago that are kept cool by gardens, lowering air-conditioning bills
  • a suburb of Mumbai, India, using solar water-heaters
  • New York taking the first steps towards hydroelectric turbines providing power for 8,000 homes
  • the streetlights of Ann Arbour (near Detroit) shifting to LED bulbs, with a projected power saving of $700,000.

In the U.S., President Obama couldn’t be firmer on his commitment to switching America over to sustainable clean energy production over the coming years. However, that will take time – meanwhile, many municipalities already have their own plans in motion. Take California, where the state government is chasing the “zero net energy” standard of building efficiency. The city of Berkeley’s FIRST (Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology) program is providing the means for property owners to invest in cutting-edge green efficiency. Or how about Riverside’s sweeping Green Action Plan looks to providing a third of the city’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2020? Further afield, there’s the impressive greening of Grand Rapids under its eco-progressive mayor George Heartwell. And on…and on. These initiatives complement the national energy goals nicely, but they’re all proudly homegrown. (Over the border, Canada is similarly busy).

And what about political action? More than 160 countries have now signed the Kyoto Protocol for ecologically sound industrial and economic development. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. rejected it (happily, President Obama has a rather different view). For more than 800 American mayors in 2008, this was unacceptable – so they signed their own agreement to adhere to Kyoto’s guidelines.

Support your local city government: there’s no telling what it’s capable of.

Image: jmcmichael

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.