City looks to go green on the cheapSomeday, if Howard Blin has his way, a report like the one he delivered to Cottage Grove City Council members last week won’t ever see a printer.
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
Someday, if Howard Blin has his way, a report like the one he delivered to Cottage Grove City Council members last week won’t ever see a printer.
The eight ink-stained, pink and white pages that council members held in their hands last week detailing how to improve efficiencies in city operations may one day never leave the computer screen, saving reams of paper — and dollars, too.
Cottage Grove’s Sustainability Task Force, led by community development director Blin, recommended to the council last Wednesday that the city invest roughly $23,000 in lighting and mechanical improvements that would save $14,000 annually.
It also recommended reducing fuel consumption by 20 percent over the next decade and cutting paper consumption — “That might be the hardest part,” Blin said — by 20 percent in the next 10 years.
“A lot of this is just raising consciousness,” Blin said. “This all adds up. Let’s be careful how we use it.”
The city’s so-called “Green Team” was formed last summer in an effort to reduce Cottage Grove’s environmental impact by streamlining the operations of major city buildings like City Hall, Fire Station No. 2 and the Public Works building.
It delivered recommendations last week large and small — both in cost and eventual payback — ranging from programmable thermostats that would pay off the city’s initial investment in less than a year to high-efficiency furnaces that could take three decades to realize a cost benefit.
The task force had originally planned to recommend measures with a payback period of 10 years or less, but due to recent budget cuts, they instead recommended that the city implement measures with a payback period of three years or less.
“The most bang for the buck is in the simplest items,” he said. “It’s more cost-effective to go with simple items first and implement the larger items later.”
Cottage Grove has already begun efforts to cut fuel consumption, which, at a cost of more than $340,000 in 2008, represents one of the city’s heftiest expenses. City vehicles reduced fuel use by 3 percent in 2008, reversing a recent trend of increased trips to the pump.
The task force’s report lays out further goals for cutting consumption. The goal for 2009 is a 2 percent reduction from 2008 usage, 5 percent by 2010 and 10 percent by 2015.
But the task force has set an aggressive target of reducing fuel consumption 20 percent from last year’s numbers by 2020 — an impressive feat considering officials expect Cottage Grove to continue adding population, and with it, miles of roadway.
Blin said it’s an achievable goal, one that would take the city’s fuel usage below 90,000 gallons per year.
“We believe it is (a reachable target),” Blin said. “It’ll be a combination of more efficient vehicles” and more efficient driving practices. And as the city turns over its fleet of vehicles, replacing aging cars and trucks with newer, more efficient models, the city will make further progress toward those goals.
It doesn’t mean Cottage Grove Police will be cruising down Jamaica Avenue in Priuses any time soon.
But public safety director Craig Woolery said it would mean some education for officers in how to be more fuel-friendly drivers, and the continuation of a zoned patrol system implemented during last summer’s days of $4-a-gallon gas.
The challenge, Blin said, is balancing efficiency and quality. “We’re not going to reduce the level of service,” Blin said. “We still have to provide a high level of police and fire protection. We’re not going to water that down to save fuel.”