Sustainability Director Andrew Watterson Addresses City Sustainability Agenda at NeoExcellence Roundtable

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Tue, 10/11/2005 - 22:28.

Tuesday Andrew Watterson, sustainability programs manager for the City of Cleveland, addressed a dynamic gathering of concerned citizens and spoke about a variety of planned initiatives geared toward progress toward sustainable economic development. Watterson explained his mission to reduce city expense while creating a sustainable economic agenda, reforming antiquated policies internally and  educating the public.

Watterson is organizing classes with Entrepreneurs for Sustainability, EcoCity Cleveland, and the Green Building Coalition. Thus his role is an educational one and well as economic and sustainable one. Focus on alternative energy options for the city includes a solar powered crib, a growing fleet of hybrid vehicles, and energy conservation, reduced consumption, and optimized efficiency of pumps. Options are being studied in conjunction with Cleveland Public Power as well as Cleveland Thermal.

He also shared that he is open to suggestions – on the renewable energy side he has been focused on wind – since it makes the most sense for the region’s oft-overcast yet windy climate locally. Wind is also a great fit due to the fact that Ohio is 2nd only to California for Wind turbine production materials and infrastructure. Jon Jensen of the Gund Foundation will be meeting with top management at GE to discuss wind options.

Another important initiative has focused on reducing the time trucks are idling at fuel sites – which will result in significant fuel savings. A small biodiesel pilot project of 15 vehicles is seeking funding (using 5% biodiesel which is sourced from soybean). Collectively this involves 80,000 gallons of biodiesel which has displaced particulate-producing diesel fuel. The City is also backing the EcoCity supported CityWheels carsharing project, which will be launched this January. The current city fleet is comprised of 8 Ford Escape hybrids. More are on the docket for next year – but as Andrew explained, it really takes an earnest appraisal of the full life-cycle of the vehicle to understand the true cost savings hybrids generate.

In the Health sphere, focus has been on flexible work plans and helping the elderly take public transportation. Other initiatives are looking to resolve lead and mercury issues regionally.

Focus has also been spent on making City buildings more energy efficient. This has been mandated for City Hall as well as many other city buildings. Work has commenced on the creation of a construction plan that is sustainable, energy efficient, and less waste-productive.

The area of greatest interest for me toward sustainability is currently recycling. There is a committee now actively working to design a concerted recycling plan to build upon the 25 recycling drop-off points which are scattered throughout the city. In order for this to work effective advocacy campaigns need to be conducted throughout the city to foster pride in recycling. There is a tremendous opportunity for recycling to become a culture (for example in Texas, 3 out of 4 Austin residents do it) but in Cleveland, the culture and behavior hasn’t shifted yet. In a subsequent personal conversation with Andrew he explained that recycling dumpsters would be provided by the City free of charge so long as funding were procured to secure the parking spot or alley space necessary to keep the unit. One initiative I have personally embarked upon with my friend John McGovern has been to catalyze the numerous bars in the Gateway district to cease disposal of countless cans and bottles and shift to recycling them on a daily basis. We are starting with the bar downstairs from us: AJ Rocco’s and hope they will lead the bar recycling wave regionally. And so I ask, empowered by Andrew's words – what will YOU do to move our region toward sustainable economic development – all it takes is heart and a little extra time to rally support and progress.

Let’s all bring it!