January 2017

6 Sustainability Successes of 2016
1.  Sustainability at Work!

Our municipal operation is always improving.  Here's a list of 2016 projects we completed or started internally.
  • Solar on NW Transit Garage:  90 kilowatts of renewable, non-polluting energy with no capital cost and a lower electric rate covers 62% of the facility's annual energy use.
  • Green Cleaning:  We chose a new janitorial supplies vendor with a strong sustainability focus that's increasing the percentage of cleaning products that are safe for air, water, skin, and lungs.   
  • Zero Waste:  77% of what we landfill in City Services Center could be composted or recycled.  Staff now have Tiny Trashes, and lidded compost bins are coming for food and paper towels.
  • Engine Idling:  $3-5,000 per month of fuel used to idle.  Our updated engine idling policy says:  No idling over 30 seconds, and limit vehicle warming in the cold season to 5 minutes.
See more useful resources here.
Globally, natural resources are consumed 1.6x faster than they can be regrown. Americans consume resources 5x faster than can be regrown.
2.  State of Affairs: The City of Cedar Rapids' Pursuit of Sustainability.

Give this a read to see the foundation we're building upon.  It's a quick read on challenges we face, what other cities are doing, what we've done, and our direction forward.

The image to the right represents our sustainability challenge and opportunity.  Over time, our goal as the City of Cedar Rapids is to make decisions that maximize economic,
social, and environmental health for the long-term. This "triple bottom line" approach is a skill-set we each need to develop and employ.

Head here for the short report.
SAVE THE DATE: January 31 @ 6pm
Sustainable City Talk:
Local Leaders 
Embracing Sustainability

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Facebook Event Website

Downtown Library, Whipple Auditorium

3:00 - 4:30 p.m. City staff

6:00 - 7:30 p.m. Community members

Featuring Dr. David McInally (Coe College, President), Mark Weldon, (PepsiCo, Sustainability Principal Engineer), and Steve Shriver (Eco Lips, President and Founder; Brewhemia, Co-Owner)

3.  New stormwater policies
Improvements in water quality, flash flooding, cooler summer temps, and landscapes.

Soil Quality Management Plan:  Cedar Rapids' new topsoil policy for new developments requires planning for healthy topsoil for new residential and commercial developments.  There are numerous options to choose from that gives flexibility based on the site conditions.  Topsoil absorbs rainfall and grows vegetation best, which mitigates flash flooding conditions and creates green landscapes at lower cost. 

Stormwater utility rates: Stormwater fees used to reflect the total size of a property.  With improved technology, sites can now be assessed for amount of pervious (water can soak into it) or impervious (water runs off of it) land, and stormwater fees will now be assessed based on a property's amount of impervious land-or their contribution to stormwater runoff. The rate changes will be phased in, and stormwater best management practices (BMPs) will be incentivized to improve infiltration (and create more green spaces).  

Learn more here about stormwater action you can take.
Bio-tent for raising butterflies
4.  1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative
Major land (and butterfly) prep for 2017

1,000 acres of prairie will provide habitat for pollinating butterflies, birds, and bees;
opportunities for walking, jogging, and basking in nature; and native landscapes that cool and clean the air, absorb rainwater, and build fertile, carbon-trapping soil.  That's what the 1,000 acre pollinator initiative will delivers over 5 years.  400 acres have been dedicated from the City of Cedar Rapids and 600 more from Linn County and Marion. 

In 2016, 170 acres of the city's future pollinator acreage was burned in preparation for planting in 2017.  Concurrently, the city partnered with the  Monarch Research Project to raise monarchs in bio-tents in Noelridge Park.  Monarchs that lay eggs in the wild result in only a few mature butterflies; these bio-tents result in 90% of eggs reaching adulthood.  Prairie seeds aren't cheap; the Parks and Rec Department received a $96,480 grant from Iowa REAP to assist with seed procurement.  

Learn more about the process, partners, and benefits here.
What excited you in 2016?  
5.  Middle Cedar Partnership Project 
Regional partnership improves water quality and quantity.

Through the collaborative efforts of the Middle Cedar Partnership Project, farmers upstream of Cedar Rapids have planted 1,635 acres of cover crops in 2016.  Lead partner of the MCPP, Cedar Rapids works with upstream farmers and state and federal resources to spread practices like cover crops, no-till, and wetlands and prairies along waterways.  These practices keep more water, fertilizer, and soil on farm fields, rather than washing them downstream.  For Cedar Rapids, with the Cedar River as our drinking water source and major flood hazard, this is the long-term and regional approach needed.  $4.3 million from local, state, and federal programs will be put to work over 5 years.
Roads can be safe and useful for everyone.
6.  Roads are for everyone.
Our multi-modal approach creates an inclusive road network.

Road improvements continue to go above and beyond simply repairing pavement. Whenever possible, Paving for Progress projects include elements that make them more sustainable and inclusive. The City believes cars, bikes, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, transit riders-everyone-has a right to use roads safely. We added 5.2 miles of on-road bike lanes and trails last year, adding to the more than 50 miles of bike lanes and trails in town.

An important piece of this is inclusion. We want roads, where possible, to include options for all modes of transportation. Some residents have the luxury of choosing to ride their bike or take the bus to work. However, many people need these modes of transportation and rely on them as their only option. Being aware and inclusive of these needs is important for building a city where all people have safe and accessible mobility options to live, work, and play.

Learn more about Paving for Progress and our multi-modal approach here.
What do you think?
Contact sustainability@cedar-rapids.org.

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