Cities and businesses join to build resilience

How does a city become resilient? With more communities facing climate impacts, including more severe storms, heat waves, and sea level rise, it’s a question many city planners are struggling with. And it’s a question best answered through collaborative efforts.

To move its resilience planning forward, the City of Providence brought together state officials, city departments, local businesses, universities, hospitals, utilities, and others for a two-day workshop facilitated by C2ES. At the workshop, AECOM and IBM led city and community officials through the Disaster Response Scorecard where participants discussed the risks they face, strategies in place or needed to lessen those risks, and how they can respond now and in the future to minimize loss of life and damage to critical infrastructure.

Providence has already seen rising sea levels and increased flooding. In Rhode Island, sea level could rise as much as 2 feet by 2050 and 7 feet by 2100. The Third National Climate Assessment says the region will experience heat waves, more heavy downpours, and more coastal flooding.

With its extensive waterfront, Providence is on the frontlines of climate change. As Mayor Jorge Elorza told the Providence Journal, “We simply can’t afford to kick the can down the road. By planning ahead we can make wiser investments … to minimize our risk and enhance resilience.”

Cities like Providence are one of many working to strengthen their resilience to climate change now, rather than waiting for a disaster to occur. C2ES held a similar exercise with the City of Anchorage, and will soon hold resilience workshops with Kansas City, MO, Miami Beach, FL, and Phoenix, AZ.

Cities across the U.S. are looking to change how they prepare for and respond to extreme weather and climate change impacts. Strategies to improve resilience include:

  • Working with community leaders. Cities are working together with diverse community groups to raise citizens’ awareness of climate change and extreme weather. For example, Providence recently held a workshop with faith-based organizations on hurricane preparedness.  
  • Partnering to pool resources. The adage “There’s strength in numbers” holds true. Through memorandums of understanding, cities are partnering with their local businesses and non-profits to prepare for and respond to extreme weather. Some businesses are funding collaborative resilience efforts. PG&E will award $1 million  to local governments in their utility territory that propose resilient solutions, focused on disadvantaged communities, that others can replicate.
  • Visualizing and combining information and data. Mapping of climate change risks can help people understand vulnerabilities. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council has mapped sea level rise, storm surge, and other risks to coastal communities in the state.
  • Developing innovative solutions. The City of Hoboken, N.J., which experienced devastating flooding during Hurricane Sandy, is partnering with BASF to build a park and parking garage that can double as floodwater storage. Once finished, it could hold at least 1 million gallons of excess water.

Innovative solutions like these could help communities improve their resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, and C2ES will continue to share new approaches and best practices

Low-cost cooling tips when the heat is on

fan

Late summer days mean fun in the sun – kids running through sprinklers, building sandcastles, and playing at the park. Unless it’s so hot, you’re mostly looking at the outdoors through the window of an air-conditioned house.

An eight-day stretch of 95-plus days, with DC’s infamous humidity, felt like being trapped in a sauna, and we’re not alone in feeling the heat. Much of the Northeast was roasting. Central and eastern Europe had heat waves. The Middle East has seen record-breaking temperatures as high as 129 degrees Fahrenheit. Globally, last month was the hottest July on record.

As we all crank up the air, how can we keep cool while keeping the energy bills down?

Here are five simple ways:

  1. Close window shades or drapes during the day to block out sunlight and keep the inside temperature cooler. Highly reflective interior blinds can reduce heat gain by about 45 percent, while drapes with white plastic backing can reduce heat gain by 33 percent.
  2. Manage that thermostat. Your cooling costs increase by up to 5 percent for every degree you lower the temperature. And don’t cool an empty house. According to the Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year on cooling and heating bills by turning your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees from its normal setting while you’re at work.
  3. Avoid using items that generate heat. Common culprits are incandescent lightbulbs,  which waste 90 percent of energy in the form of heat, the stove and oven, and the clothes dryer. Replace heat-intense bulbs with CFLs or LEDs, take advantage of summer fruits and vegetables for a no-cook meal, and hang your laundry to dry.
  4. Hang out in the lower levels of your home if possible. Heat rises, so the basement or first level may feel cooler. You may even want to sleep there on roasting hot nights.
  5. Turn on ceiling fans (counter-clockwise) and portable fans to circulate air when you are in the room. It doesn’t actually cool the room, but it makes you feel cooler by helping sweat evaporate faster. You can also cool off by putting a cold cloth on your wrists or neck or taking a cold shower. Remember to drink plenty of water on hot days. Organizations like the Red Cross provide checklists to help you prepare for the heat.

For future summers, consider planting shade trees, especially on the southwest side of the house, or building a trellis with climbing foliage. Take a closer look at your windows and doors to make sure cool air isn’t leaking out. And explore ways to increase attic ventilation and reflective insulation that blocks the transfer of heat from the roof and attic into your house.

Heat waves are expected to become more frequent and intense, so taking simple steps now can reduce cooling bills in the future.

How millennials can shape our climate future

Governments, businesses and universities are focusing increasing resources and attention on what is now our nation’s largest generation, millennials.

Generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000,  millennials now represent the largest share of the American workforce. They’re more educated than prior generations. They’re more culturally diverse. And they’re more socially conscious.

How will this millennial generation shape our climate and energy future? Consider just two observations about how millennials want to live and get around -- housing and transportation.

A study found more than 6 in 10 millennials prefer to live in mixed-use communities. They’re more interested in living where amenities and work are geographically close. More than a third of young people are choosing to live as close as 3 miles from city centers.

As for transportation, millennials drive less than other generations. They’re opting for walking, biking, car-sharing or public transit. From 2001 to 2009, vehicle-miles traveled dropped 23 percent for 16- to 34-year-olds.

These preferences point to a future that is low-carbon and more sustainable. Dense urban living and mixed modal transportation options can result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 report from the New Climate Economy notes that “more compact, more connected city forms allow significantly greater energy efficiency and lower emissions per unit of economic activity.”

Millennial demands are influencing other sustainability topics, too. A Rock the Vote poll earlier this year found 80 percent of millennials want the United States to transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030. An earlier poll from the Clinton Global Initiative found millennials care more than their parents’ generation about the environment and would spend extra on products from companies that focus on sustainability.

These facts indicate that this generation of 75.4 million people (in just the United States) wants to live differently than previous generations. Energy policies and technology habits will need to change to keep pace.

Government is paying attention, with President Barack Obama calling on millennials to tackle the challenge of climate change. Businesses, like energy providers, are working to deliver service in a seamless and more socially connected way. And universities are offering more sustainability-focused programs than ever before. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s program list is growing, and university presidents are being asked by students to join the Climate Commitment to reduce emissions and improve resilience to climate impacts.

While millennials wield huge influence, the real power of change will come from all generations working together to develop innovative solutions and implement pragmatic policies to shape a low-carbon future and environmentally stable and economically prosperous planet for all who will inherit it.

 

Kick start spring with 5 green ideas

Spring is the season of renewal, making it the perfect time to re-evaluate and refresh how we go about living and working sustainably on the planet. Turn over a new leaf this spring by trying any or all of the following five suggestions for treading more lightly on the earth.

  1. Avoid waste: What we buy and discard creates tons of waste and greenhouse gas emissions. The average American creates 4 pounds of trash daily. Keep would-be-waste to a minimum by making smart choices before you consume. Here are three tips: BYORM (bring your own reusable mug) to your favorite drink shop; carry reusable bags when shopping; or use Pyrex, Tupperware or reusable snack bags for leftovers after dining out.
  2. Mix up your commute: Are you one of the millions of Americans who drive nearly 30 miles a day – more often than not alone? Try a new way to get where you’re going. Use bike shares, take public transportation, join a carpool or try an uberPOOL.
  3. Grow your curb appeal: With spring around the corner, it is a fine time to add native trees and other plants to your yard or community garden. This greenery will capture carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Once established, native plants are low-maintenance and survive well on available water. They also enhance the look of your home or community. For more tips, check this guide to native plant gardening.

Leap Day gives us 24 hours to help the planet

What are you doing for Leap Day?

According to folklore, it’s a good day for a woman to propose marriage. But if you’re not looking for that kind of commitment, you can instead commit to make a positive impact in the world during your extra 24 hours this year.

Here are seven things you can do to commit to a better planet Earth this Leap Day:

1.    Plan an environmental outing with friends or co-workers. This might mean cleaning up a local stream or helping a local school build a live-and-learn greenhouse or garden. C2ES staffers planted wildflowers at a local park last year and are working on a new outing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers some other great environmental project ideas.

2.    Host an environmental film screening. Educate yourself and friends by watching and discussing an environmental film or TV series like “Chasing Ice,” “Planet Earth,” or “The Symphony of Soil.” For more suggestions, visit this eco film list.

3.    Take steps to save energy. Lowering your personal footprint begins by taking stock of how you use energy at home, at work and on the go. With better understanding, you can take action and live more sustainably while saving energy, money and the environment. Use our carbon calculator to find your footprint and complete pledges to improve it.