Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Greening the Bottom Lines of Parks: These Simple Tactics Can Reduce Energy, Water, and Product Use

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Greening the Bottom Lines of Parks: These Simple Tactics Can Reduce Energy, Water, and Product Use

Article excerpt

THERE ARE MANY GOOD REASONS why park and recreation departments should consider adopting more green and sustainable practices: reducing landfill waste; reducing toxic chemical use to benefit employees, citizens, and the environment; reducing your department's carbon footprint; and being a leader within the local government for sustainability policies and practices. Another great reason is to help your bottom line.

Parks managers of the 21st century need to run facilities in more cost-effective ways to counter rising operating costs, tighter budgets, and the increased demands of the facilities and services. This article discusses ways to decrease energy, water, fuel, and product use in ways that help sustain your department and the environment at the same time.

My work on this topic began in the fall of 2008, when I volunteered to form the City of Missoula, Montana's Green Team to develop a list of ways in which the city's approximately 500 employees could reduce energy, fuel, water, and product use that would cost nothing (or very little) to implement. I began by researching the internet and talking with people in my community who are working on climate change. Helpful publications included Best Practices for Climate Protection: A Local Government Guide (www.broward.org/ NaturalResources/ClimateChange/Documents/ Best_PracticesLocalGov.pdf) and The United States Conference of Mayors Energy and Environment Best Practices January 2007 (www.usmay ors.org/bestpractices/eandebp07.pdf).

By early 2009, the team produced a "best ideas" list of 25 ways that city staff could reduce the cost of energy, fuel, water, and product use, which was then sent out by the mayor to all employees as the city's new Green Policy. Many of the listed items are applicable to parks departments, but this article will also go beyond this list to address ideas specifically targeted at parks departments.

Reducing Utility Bills

This is the area where immediate cost savings can be seen by implementing the following practices:

* Turn off lights and electronic equipment when not in use and use power strips to make it easy to turn off equipment completely ("ghost" electric use can range up to 10 percent of your electric bill).

* Reduce lighting where possible-many office areas are often "over-lit" and you may be able to take out light bulbs or at least not always turn them on all day, every day.

* Use more energy-efficient fixtures. The City of Missoula has changed out nearly 700 incandescent or flourescent lights city-wide. The estimated energy cost savings is just over S20,200 a year; the projected average savings per fixture is $30 a year. Install automatic light sensors that turn off ceiling lights in offices where no motion is detected for 10 minutes. Here is a great cost comparison chart of LED/CFL/incandescent bulbs: www.designrecycleinc.com/led%20 comp%20chart.html.

* When it's time to replace/upgrade office equipment, purchase Energy Star-rated equipment.

* Adjusting thermostats saves three percent per degree--consider 68 degrees during the winter and 74 during the summer.

* Make sure all doors and windows are properly sealed on all park buildings.

* Replace old HVAC systems with more efficient models. This is the most costly upgrade on this list, but the payback period is about eight to nine years, and after that the cost savings can really add up. Many cities have achieved this upgrade through a performance contract with Johnson Controls. (www.johnsoncontrols.com/ content/us/en/products/building_efficiency/ energy_efficiency/performance_ contracting. …

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