Solutions (9)

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Sustainability and Energy for Public Agencies – Where to Start

Bottom Line: Get help jumpstarting sustainability at your public agency with this guidebook.


Sustainability is a simple idea with big implications. With all the information and ideas floating around, figuring out how to move towards your sustainability goals may seem overwhelming.

Bicycle Boulevards Create Greener Streets

Bottom Line: Green streets are low emission streets. Bicycle boulevards allow for safe (and emission-free) bicycle travel along important routes within the county.

Bicycle BoulevardOn bicycle boulevards such as the one in Palo Alto along Bryant Street, the use of traffic calming devices like chokers and diverters eliminates most auto traffic while permitting bicycle and pedestrian through traffic. The result is significantly reduced auto traffic and much higher bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

Restore Wetlands with Recycled Water from Your Water Treatment Facility

Bottom Line: Wastewater recycling plants can recycle water using ultraviolet disinfection and use the water to restore wetlands using the hydro geomorphic model (GHM).

Restore Wetlands_Water Treatment PlantThe Calera Creek Waste Water Recycling Plant (WWRP) in Pacifica can treat 4 million gallons of sewage per day (up to 20 MGD during storm events) using its innovative treatment techniques. This plant helped pioneer the use of ultraviolet disinfection for wastewater effluent in California. UV treatment allows release of recycled water into wetlands because residual chlorine is not allowed in the permitting process. To minimize visual impact, the entire facility except for the filters and control building are buried in a hillside covered with native plants. Odor control scrubbers pull air from all process areas to neutralize odor-causing gases.

Initiate a Polystyrene Ban in Your Municipality

Bottom Line: Using polystyrene food packaging is bad for the environment and the associated marine debris is expensive for local governments. Be one of the many local governments across the nation to enact a Polystyrene Ban.

InitiateaPolystyreneBaninYourMunicipality-imageLocal governments across the nation are prohibiting the use of non-recyclable plastics such as foamed polystyrene in takeout disposable food packaging because they are frustrated with the increasing amount of non-recyclable food packaging waste in our marine environment, streets, storm drains and landfills. Studies have shown that in the some areas of the Pacific plastic outweighs plankton by a factor of 46! Polystyrene is impractical to recycle due to its light weight, takes thousands of years to decompose and is the most common form of marine debris. Managing the debris costs local governments millions in storm drain clean up costs.

Innovative Financing Makes Clean Energy Affordable

Bottom Line: New financing programs make solar energy cheaper than carbon based energy.

SolarFinancing_BerkeleyThe City of Berkeley’s Financial Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology (FIRST) is a game changing financial instrument. Berkeley officials brainstormed the idea of paying for residential solar panel installations with a City bond. Homeowners who agree to join the program pay off the bond through special assessments on their property tax. Under the program, which began on Nov. 5, 2008, the City will pay up to $37,500 per home for new solar panels. The homeowners get to choose solar panel brands and installers from a list approved by the City. The term of the bond is 20 years. After solar rebates and subsidies are applied to the installation cost, monthly payments for homeowners are around $120.

Manage Stormwater with Sustainable Green Streets

Bottom Line: The Sustainable Green Streets and Parking Lots Design Guidebook (First Edition: January 2009) is Now Available!

GreenStreets-image1In 2007, the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County enthusiastically supported the development of a local guidebook for developing sustainable streets and parking lots. In January 2009, the first edition guidebook was released and made available for easy download. This guidebook is intended to inspire small but widespread changes that will improve San Mateo County’s watershed health.

Sustainable streets integrate sustainable design principles, promote least-polluting ways to connect people and goods to their destinations, and make transportation facilities and services part of livable communities. The guidebook covers a wide range of topics, including: site layout and stormwater facility strategies, discussion on key design and construction details, and conceptual designs for demonstration projects being constructed in the county. The goal is to provide designers, builders, municipal staff, and other interested groups with practical and state-of-the-art information on creating low-impact development roadways and parking lots within San Mateo County.

City of Millbrae Uses Kitchen Grease to Power Wastewater Treatment Facility

Bottom Line: The City of Millbrae completed a $6 million facility at its Water Pollution Control Plant that will turn grease from local restaurants into biogas and pay for itself in 17 years.

The City of Millbrae (with the help of Chevron Energy Solutions) recently completed a new $6 million facility at its Water Pollution Control Plant that will turn inedible used kitchen grease from local restaurants into biogas — generating renewable energy to treat the city’s wastewater. Their old plant was aging and too small to support the installation and use of modern cogeneration equipment that can capture and reuse biogas. Instead of wasting a valuable energy source, the City took on the challenge of building a custom system that can be replicated anywhere.

Resources to Promote Infill Development / Transit Oriented Development (TOD)

Bottom Line: Transit Oriented Development is a smart approach to accommodate future growth in San Mateo County, and reduce our communities’ environmental impact.

TODTransit Oriented Development (TOD), sometimes called “Smart Growth” or the “New Urbanism” is an approach to planning communities which concentrates more dense, mixed-use development along transit corridors and near transit hubs. Mixed-use is usually interpreted as developing housing above commercial/retail space, but can also include residential/office use or offices combined with retail shops. On the peninsula, TOD is most appropriate when built near CalTrain stations, but TOD can also be included along major bus routes such as El Camino Real.

Promote Urban Gardening With a Victory Garden

Bottom Line: Victory Gardens, which lost popularity after the end of World War II, are making a comeback in San Francisco. Campaigns like Slow Food are energizing the resurgence.

victorygardens1943 was the first time San Franciscan’s planted a Victory Garden in the Civic Center Plaza. It was part of a nation-wide movement to grow food stateside because most food supplies were shipped to the soldiers overseas. Backyard vegetable gardens provided forty one percent of all vegetables consumed in the nation. Fifty-five years later, with help from the arts community, the Civic Center Plaza became the epicenter of a new Victory Garden campaign. Started in 2008, the focus of this new campaign is local food and slow food. Local and slow are really interchangeable terms when it comes to food; the idea is grow nutritious, organic food as close as possible to the consumer.