City Aims to Excel as Ecological Example

Article excerpt

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

No mandates.

That's the first thing members of Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy's Sustainable Business Initiative want business people to understand about their recommendations.

Rather than telling employers what to do, Piercy's 16-person committee proposes that Eugene city government lead the way in encouraging businesses and residents to adopt environmentally friendly practices.

For example, some of the 22 recommendations released Tuesday call for city government to stop sending waste to landfills or incinerators by 2020 and to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions so city operations become "carbon neutral" by the same year.

Eugene would not tell businesses that they must recycle or use alternative energy, but the committee recommended city government buy products and services only from firms that follow "sustainable practices."

The city, with more than 1,400 employees, buys millions of dollars in goods and services annually, so it has the ability to influence the marketplace and set an example, said Bob Doppelt, the committee's coordinator.

Through a sustainability board or commission, and working with other local governments, Eugene could encourage the creation of well-paying jobs at environmentally friendly businesses, the committee said.

"We hope that more happens than the city's purchasing policy," said Doppelt, who is the director of Resource Innovations in the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at the University of Oregon.

The committee's goal has been to encourage ways to achieve what Piercy calls the "triple bottom line" - protecting the environment while providing well-paying jobs but still allowing employers to profit.

"My point of view is that if we were going to try and strengthen the economy, let's do it in a way that works for Eugene," she said.

The committee's research involved more than 750 people, included dozens of meetings and took more than a year.

The ideas in the 42-page report wrap up a major effort by the first-term mayor, but the committee said the work is far from over.

The ideas "provide a starting, not ending point for making Eugene one of the nation's most sustainable mid-sized communities by 2020," its report said.

The City Council is to review the recommendations next month.

Councilors would have to agree with the goals for city government, including creating an "Office of Sustainability" and adopting the goals on waste and carbon dioxide emissions, for the recommendations to take effect. …