The Green Column #5

Groups Making Lincoln A More Sustainable City

June 21, 2009— An African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

In a recent speech, former Vice President Al Gore elaborated on this proverb by adding, “We need to go far, quickly.” Of course, he was speaking about the need for cleaner energy and policies to decrease the speed of climate change.

For those following the news, his urgency is understandable. In Antarctica, the Wilkins Ice Shelf is crumbling into the sea. Energy prices seem unpredictable in an unstable economy. Our reliance on foreign oil weakens national security. And recently, climate change refugees from the Carteret Islands were reported.

Hank Dittmer, writing for The Ecologist, stated, “In 2007, the Earth officially became an urban planet, with more than half the world’s population living in cities for the first time. Globally, the 21st century will be the urban century.”

According to New York Times correspondent Andrew C. Revkin, by 2050 or so, the world population is expected to reach 9 billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today. Those billions will need food, water and other resources.

Even though an exploding population and a crumbling ice shelf are disturbing, the ramifications are distant enough for many people to ignore. But the effects ripple through our community in the guise of higher energy and food prices, water conservation concerns, land use and transportation issues, to name a few.

Many local households are concerned about quality jobs and future growth. Balancing human affairs with the planet’s limits is the challenge facing each of us, even in Lincoln, Nebraska. In order to meet these challenges, cities around the country have individuals, groups, businesses and organizations creating solutions. Lincoln is no exception.

Lincoln Electric System’s Sustainable Energy Program is an example in which 5,000 homes are participating. According to Todd Hall, LES vice president of consumer services, “The sustainable energy program will net an energy reduction for LES of about 7 million kilowatt hours a year. That is comparable to a reduction of nearly 600 homes in reducing energy supply across our community and the equivalent to nearly 7,000 tons of carbon reduction, a great success.”

Change has been simmering in Lincoln for years, building steam through the creation and movement among and between green organizations, social networks and nonprofits. Sustainability quietly appeared through these networks and individual efforts as rain barrels, solar panels, coffee house meetings and green social blogs. Communication and cooperation among the different interests and stakeholders in all segments of the community is critical in making Lincoln more sustainable.

Below is a sampling of local groups and organizations which are bringing Lincolnites together to foster sustainability. A more detailed list can be seen online at lincolngreenbydesign.org.

Community Health Endowment of Lincoln
Focuses on using resources prudently while growing and preserving assets; partnering to build healthy children, families and neighborhoods; and finding new and better ways to improve the health of our increasingly diverse community.

EcoStores Nebraska
Retail warehouse selling second use building, construction and remodeling material. Promotes the sustainable use of materials: providing a chance for good material to be used a second time.

Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities
Established to promote an integrated approach to issues of sustainability. With educational programs and pilot projects, the Institute provides an opportunity to explore the broad concept of sustainable development and look further at specific applications on a project-by-project basis.

Lincoln Green by Design
Collaborates with the Mayor’s Environmental Task Force, promotes long-term sustainable development, evaluates existing codes, ordinances and regulations for sustainability barriers, and is creating a public resource and educational center for information and leadership for the long-term sustainability of Lincoln and Lancaster County.

Lincoln Green Scene
Social networking site; the green, online meeting place to exchange
information, view event calendars and discuss issues concerning everything from energy, food, gardening to recycling.

Mayor’s Environmental Task Force
Advises the Mayor with regard to issues of sustainability and the best environmental practices. Voluntary group organized into sub-committees.

Nebraska Alliance for Conservation and Environment Education
Devoted to promoting and strengthening environmental education efforts in Nebraska.

Lincoln Green Building Group
Promotes the concepts and policies of sustainable living through education and advocacy by focusing on sustaining natural resources, reducing waste, minimizing toxins and saving energy.

Nebraska League of Conservation Voters
Promotes leaders who make the right choices so that our children and grandchildren can inherit the same rich and healthy environment we enjoy today. NCLV works at the state, county and local levels across Nebraska.

Nebraska Sierra Club
Chapter has active statewide programs in conservation and legislative involvement.

The U.S. Green Building Council – Flatwater Chapter
Serves as a catalyst for change in the state of Nebraska by promoting green building practices, technologies, policies and standards through partnerships with other organizations.

Wachiska Audubon Nebraska
Helps protect birds and wildlife habitat, promotes responsible urban development and supports nature education for adults and children.

As the demand for change grows, our community needs to respond. As Al Gore said, we must go far, quickly.

© Lincoln Green by Design