1. Sustainability Map
  2. Tour NW Water Plant
  3. Solar's quick payoff
  4. Idle Free signs installed
  5. Bike fix-it stations, map, & tool descriptions
  6. City Careers in Sustainability
  7. Storm Drain Art
  8. Stormwater BMP cost-share (for rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavers)
  9. Growing Sustainable Communities Conference, 11th Annual
Sustainability Map - Cool new visualization tool with tons of potential

Sustainability's not always easy to see.  You may not know the Downtown Library has a green roof, or that your neighbors with one of the City's solar arrays, or that building where you pay your utility bills has fruit trees...for you to eat!

The Sustainability Map is a visualization tool that adds context and tour-ability to the City's sustainability efforts.  Are you a teacher, or a parent, or a sustainability-enthusiast?  Schedule a walking or biking trip around cool sustainability features in your neighborhood.

Just a few features are visible on the map today.  We'll be adding more--rain gardens, bike lanes and fix-it stations, permeable paving.  This first phase is largely focused on City sustainability features, but more private (resident, neighborhood, business) sustainability features will come to the map in the future.

Maps are fun.  Whether they help you explore, learn, or start a conversation with your neighbor, it's exciting to share.

Your City, Your Fruit:
Definitely give this layer a look.  You can click on the fruit tree layer, and that shows all the fruit trees planted in the City.  Those are on public property, meaning their yours to eat!  Be safe and don't take all the fruit, but add it to your list of places to get a refreshing bite of a plum, apple, or peach when the season's right.  Nut trees will be added in the future!

THANK YOU to GIS Specialist Adam Galluzzo and Energy Management Specialist Holly Ruble for all the hard work on this map!
Visualize sustainability in Cedar Rapids on the Sustainability Map.  More to be added!
NW Plant: 7807 Ellis Rd
Cedar Rapids, IA 52405
Tour the NW Water Plant Aug. 10!

Following a successful tour of Water Pollution Control in April, the most requested and next offered tour will be of the Northwest Water Plant.

Friday, August 10, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
  • Sign up here for the tour! 25 spots available
  • Get a Green Gift Basket for attending
    (LED lightbulb, steel pint cup, counter-top compost bucket, drawstring bag)
  • City staff and Community members are both invited!
How does water make it from the shallow alluvial wells of the Cedar River to the water plant and then to your sink and shower everyday whenever you need it?  Come see the technology, meet the staff, and learn about the challenges and accomplishments of this critical City service.
Solar on NW Transit Garage quickly pays off
Solar kWh of electricity is in blue.  Solar costs were paid off in two years. 
Clean energy and savings from here on out

In June of 2016, a 90-kilowatt solar array was installed on the Cedar Rapids NW Transit Garage.  

The City financed the solar panels by using a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) model.  In a PPA, there are zero upfront capital costs.  The company that installs the solar panels owns and maintains them for the contracted life (25 years).  The solar panels are paid for by charging the customer (the City) a rate for that solar electricity.  The City saves money because the solar electricity rate is less expensive than the electricity provided by the local utility.

In 2016, when the City started accepting proposals from companies to install the solar panels, a consultant was hired to evaluate the highly technical documents.  The consultant fees were the only cost incurred by the City, which have already been recouped by the savings from the solar panels.  

Solar power is a clean, renewable energy.  The CO2 emissions once created by powering the NW Transit Garage have been cut by 60% since installing the solar panels, an important step in curbing pollution.
Idle Free sign recently installed at Water Administration Building
IDLE FREE: It adds up!

"Idle Free" signs are being installed at several City facilities. 
  • City Services Center
  • Water Administration Building
  • J Ave Water Plant
  • NW Water Plant
  • Water Pollution Control 
  Purpose of signage:
  • To communicate the Engine Idling SOP
  • To create awareness that the City values reducing idling where possible
The Engine Idling SOP states the following (#1 is on the signs):
  1. Unless a vehicle's engine is idling for purposes of equipment operation, safety, or emergency, vehicle operators shall turn off the vehicle's engine when idling is expected to exceed 30 seconds. 
  2. Vehicle operators shall not idle the engine for more than 5 minutes to cool down or warm up a vehicle. 
The sign and the SOP are not intended to eliminate idling that is necessary for safety or operations.
The signage communicates a behavior the City values.  Unnecessary idling costs thousands of dollars annually for the City.  Additional costs include decreased engine life and air quality.  
Linn County has also worked on idling reduction across the County. For more info on Linn County Public Health's efforts and engine idling facts and myths, head to the Idle Free Linn website.
These small acts add up when multiplied across our City organization!  Thanks for making a difference.
Bikes for health and inclusiveness
Pump up tires, mount your bike on the fix-it station's arms, and many more tools to keep that bike going!
Keep on riding!

4 more Bike Fix-it stations have been installed along Cedar Rapids trail locations.  These were made possible through sponsorship from the Cedar Rapids Area Association of Realtors.

Check out the image above to see what tools you can expect to find on these stations and what they do.  For those who don't know the inner-workings of bikes and what makes them go (or not go), the station may look a little intimidating, so give these images a look.  Things can be pretty simple.  Pump up a tire, adjust a seat--those simple fixes can be the difference between riding and a bike that sits at home.

There are lots of reasons why biking is growing in importance to the people that ride and to cities and counties that build bike infrastructure.  

Here are a few ways bike infrastructure contributes to mobility trends, health, and inclusiveness:
  1. Car ownership trends:  The percentage of people age 16-24 with driver's licenses is lower than any point since 1963 (license trends, source)
  2. Making health a habit:  Building exercise into a daily routine is a great way to guarantee yourself exercise.  People commuting to work by bicycle, shown in a recent study, are at lower risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and death compared to those driving to work.  (biking for health, source)
  3. Bike-able streets are inclusive streets:  While bike facilities (lanes, racks, fix-it stations) are used by large numbers of recreational riders having fun and getting exercise, many bike riders are "need" riders.  They bike because it's their best or only option.  Reasons are often financial, or perhaps a person lost a license or never wanted one.  It's important to keep in mind that bike lanes are the only way for some of Cedar Rapids residents trying to get to work or the doctor or for groceries.  In many cities, need-based bike riders can account for 50% of all bike riders (bikes for inclusion, source).
13 bicycle fix-it stations pictured plus a 14th on the Cedar Valley Train in Center Point.
See interviews of City employees with "sustainability jobs" in this new resource.
City Careers in Sustainability

"Sustainability" doesn't have to be in your job title to have a career in it.

Ensuring clean drinking water, planning bike lanes, maintaining a healthy community tree canopy--these are all sustainability jobs.  In the City of Cedar Rapids, there are many of these jobs.

The City is a great place to work if resource stewardship and providing for the public good is what you'd like to do.  Many City employees work in "sustainability" jobs but don't necessarily find that word in their job description or even daily vocabulary.  But indeed, as these interviews show, plenty of City jobs are sustainability jobs.

Storm Drain Murals are Downtown.  Have a look!
7 beautiful murals were painted on storm drains downtown in May!  Whatever goes into a storm drain goes directly to the river--no treatment--and it's the goal of these beautiful, educational murals to make that statement boldly.  What goes down the storm drains directly influences the health of our waterways that we use for drinking and recreating.

7 artists were chosen out of 30 that applied.  This project was a partnership between the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa BIG, the Downtown District, and Diamond-Vogel.  

Only rain down the drain!  Head to the City's interactive map and get downtown to check out these murals:  Storm Drain Mural website
Find the murals on the map above or at the City's storm drain mural website.  The murals very much change what an alley looks and feels like, as evidenced by the top right photo!
AmeriCorps Land and Water Stewards install a rain garden at a Cedar Rapids home.
Best Year Yet: City Stormwater BMP Cost-Share Program!

AmeriCorps partnered with the City of Cedar Rapids to design and install rain gardens this past spring.

AmeriCorps volunteers installed the rain gardens, and residents applying for the program used the City's cost-share program to cover 50% of costs (rock, pavers, mulch, plants).

50 applied to be part of the first-time program, but capacity in the spring to install was limited to 5 homes.  These 5 rain gardens are anticipated to intercept 72,000 gallons of sotrmwater.    12 more will be installed in the fall as part of the City-AmeriCorps partnership.

The City's Stormwater BMP (best management practice) Cost-Share Program funds projects on home and commercial properties that intercept and absorb rainwater as close to where it falls as possible.  Rather than rely on grey infrastructure (streets, pipes), green infrastructure like rain gardens infiltrate water and can help reduce instances of flash flooding and also improve water quality.  Stormwater BMPs, like rain gardens, also add beauty to a yard.  

Pictured to the left, plants installed in the rain rain garden include milkweed, fox sedge, New England aster, columbine, coneflower, Golden Alexander, and Ohio spiderwort

The City provides provides cost-share dollars to qualifying residential and commercial stormwater BMP projects.  For commercial properties, this could be permeable paving, bioswales, or rain gardens.  For homes, rain gardens are the typical practice.  $250,000 is allotted to the commercial cost-share program, and funding for individual projects is not capped.  For homes, the City cost-share dollars match project costs and are limited to a $2,000 maximum reimbursement for any project.

The cost-share program is still young and maintains potential to add many more projects in a season.  Fiscal Year 2018 marked the City's most successful cost-share year:
  • FY16: $7,000
  • FY17: $5,000
  • FY18: $14,000
Learn more and consider applying to the City's Stormwater BMP Cost-Share Program.
Head to Dubuque October 2-3!

This is a terrific event attended by experts and interested people from more more than 10 states.  Many will be attending from Cedar Rapids.  How about you?
Questions, ideas, projects to share, or leaders to highlight?  We want to hear from you!
Contact Eric Holthaus, Sustainability Coordinator, at or 319-286-5927.

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