Winter 2018

Stormwater BMP cost-share and rain garden GIVEAWAY
Contact Cara Matteson, Stormwater Coordinator,, 319-286-5604
Stormwater BMP cost-share (up to 50%) for home and business

The Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) Cost-Share Program provides property owners financial and technical assistance in implementation for improving water quality and reducing the amount of stormwater runoff.  
Financial assistance will help cover the cost of materials and/or contractor labor for completing the projects. Projects can range from rain gardens and bioretention cells to pervious pavement and soil quality restoration.  The City will provide partial reimbursement up to 50% of the project cost.  Maximum reimbursement for residential projects is $2,000; there is no maximum for non-residential projects.
Anyone subject to the City of Cedar Rapids stormwater utility fee will be eligible for participation in the program.
Free Raingarden Design & Installation GIVEAWAY

Americorps partnered with the City of Cedar Rapids is having a Free Raingarden Design/Installation Giveaway for 2018.  Applications can be requested from the Stormwater Coordinator, and can be found on the City website and are due March 27.  Design and installation of raingardens will be completed by AmeriCorps at no cost to the resident. 

Raingardens can be a great feature to any yard and will provide a functional and aesthetic value!

Storm Drain Art -  Seeking artist submissions now!
Art and Education for Clean Water

Iowa BIG, City of Cedar Rapids, and Downtown District are teaming up to create beautiful, educational murals downtown.

Storm drains can be hot spots for illicit dumping--grease, paint, cigarettes.  This flows directly into our river without treatment and affects the health of our waterways.  Aquatic life, recreational life, drinking water all rely on healthy waterways.

Storm Drain Art is a way to harness the creative talent of local artists to bring beauty and an educational message to the storm drains.  

Inspired by Richmond, VA's model project, the City of Cedar Rapids, Downtown District, and students from Iowa BIG are bringing this work here.  

Artists are now being solicited to submit design proposals for the seven sites chosen.  8' x 8' murals surrounding and including the select storm drains will be painted May 14-18.  Artists have until March 26 to submit designs, which will then be chosen by a panel of judges including Iowa BIG, City staff, Visual Arts Commission, and two residents.

Submit your art now!  Your creativity and passion for clean water and art is needed.

Questions?  Contact Eric Holthaus, Sustainability Coordinator, at or 319-286-5927.
Action Taken:  1/29 event draws 250 for collective impact!!
Collaborative event is action-oriented.
250 residents turned out on Monday, January 29th, for the "Take Action! Energy, Water, and Waste Reduction" event.  

The event was a partnership among many organizations in Cedar Rapids committed to energy, water, and waste education and conservation.

Free LED light bulbs, free countertop compost buckets for the kitchen, free tiny trashes for the office, and free drawstring and tote bags were among the promotional given out that directly translate to an impact at home.  

The event was also a place to ask the experts important questions.  Residents of Cedar Rapids, did you know you can put vegetable and fruit scraps, paper towels, and napkins in Yardy (your green yard waste container)?  Did you know paper towels and napkins should be composted in Yardy and not recycled?  Did you know LED light bulbs can last 10 years and use 1/5 to 1/10 of the energy of incandescent light bulbs, and they have the same warm light quality?  

The idea for the event followed three well-attended "Sustainable City Talks" the City hosted last year, featuring scientists, business leaders, and city staff communicating the concepts, projects, and leaders of sustainability in the community.  Feedback was positive, but the audience expressed interest in a discussion-based event and one that's more action-focused.

Take Action! brought these interests and partners to the Downtown Library.  
  •  Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) shared information on their Weatherization, Energy Assistance, and Food Reservoir programs which serve lower income individuals and families in Cedar Rapids.  
  • Iowa BIG high school student Sarah Wolf shared the exciting "Your City, Your Fruit" project, a collaboration between BIG and City of Cedar Rapids that promotes eating fruit from your city's fruit trees!
  • FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams Enter in Gallons and Flowbot showcased their impressive water conservation projects that competed at the regional and state level.  Having sustainability-caring 10-year old students enthusiastically sharing their water footprint disclosure project and graywater recycling project is inspiring and smile-inducing, at the least.  Did you know there are more than a dozen FLL teams in Cedar Rapids?  These kids are remarkable.
  • Green Iowa AmeriCorps - Cedar Rapids showed up to share their energy audit and weatherization programs.  Did you know all audits and energy efficiency upgrades are free (like LED light bulbs, water pipe insulation, weather stripping, caulking, etc.)?  You can live in a house or apartment.  Green Iowa focuses on but is not limited to financially burdened residents living in homes and apartments. 
  • Other partners included: Indian Creek Nature Center, Trees Forever, Alliant Energy, MidAmerican Energy, Linn County Public Health, Cedar Rapids Community School District Green Teams, and City of Cedar Rapids Utilities Department.
Sustainability is for everyone--all ages, all incomes.  Sustainability is energy, water, and cost savings; it's natural resource health and therefore your health; and it was definitely a good time the evening of January 29th!
Solar Ready! Cedar Rapids is first gold-rated city in Iowa!
From left: Kirkwood Apts' 1,895 panels on several roofs; Solar Power Hour; Glass Rd. water booster station array
The City of Cedar Rapids earned a SolSmart gold-rating for making it easy to go solar.  Cedar Rapids is the first City in Iowa to earn this designation.

The gold-rating comes from the national organization called SolSmart, which is funded by the Department of Energy, and assists local governments across the U.S. in reducing barriers to going  solar for homes and businesses in their communities.

All communities applying for SolSmart designation--bronze, silver, or gold--must first have their mayor sign a solar statement, committing the community to making solar easier.  This occurred in February 2017.  City staff then used the SolSmart framework to improve processes related to solar in areas like permitting, inspection, zoning, and education.  The City surpassed the 200 point threshold to achieve the gold status.

Other contributing factors to the City's success was the Cedar Rapids and Linn County Solar Group Buy (educated 480 residents on solar and resulted in more than 100 home installations) and the City's four solar installations in City facilities (over 260kW of solar installed).

Linn County and Johnson County have also earned SolSmart gold status, the only two counties in Iowa to do so. 

A gold plaque will soon be received by the City to commemorate the achievement.
EcoFest is April 21!

Can you believe that it will be warm and beautiful in just a couple months?  Saturday, April 21, EcoFest will be here to seize your spring awakening.  

Many reasons to attend, not least of which will be trips to the top of Mount Trashmore. 

Head to Dubuque October 2-3!

Submit a presentation proposal (March 9 deadline), or buy a ticket for one or both days (starting June 1) to the 11th Annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference

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?
Forestry succeeds with trial to reuse 100% of wood waste.

In January, the City's Forestry team trialed a 100% reuse effort.  The trial was a success. 

Wood chips and logs pose a challenge for Forestry in terms of budgeting as well as trying to find a better end use of the material.  In the past, wood chips and many logs were taken to the Solid Waste Agency's yard waste / compost site at the end of A Street SW.  For the wood, composting is not a bad end result, but it does cost the City to dump the material.  Some of the logs were placed in firewood yards for residents to utilize. 

Starting in late summer, the Forestry began dumping wood chips at a City-owned site near the Sac and Fox Trail.  There, the chips break down so Forestry can then use them as a compost source to mix with soil.  The finished mixed soil is used to restore parkways where stumps have been taken out. 

Other logs have been sent to temporary storage yards where they will eventually be moved to the firewood processing areas, which are open to residents to utilize.  One firewood site is currently in service at Van Vechten Park, and another is scheduled to open later this year.   A no-cost permit is required.  Please contact the Parks and Recreation Department for details (319-286-5566).

Turning to natural decomposition of wood chips and logs and citizen reuse allows Forestry to reuse 100% of their wood waste and not have to pay to dump it elsewhere.  Based on space and quantity, dumping at SWA's yard waste / compost site may at times be necessary, but the commitment to waste reduction and cost-savings has inspired the Forestry team.
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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