Dallas Toots Its Green Horn

DALLAS, Texas, January 21, 2008 (ENS) – Dallas city officials are encouraging residents to make a commitment to “go green” and play an active role in building a greener city.

To inspire change, the city has launched www.GreenDallas.net, a new website that focuses on green initiatives such as saving energy and water; recycle; keeping the air clean; and cultivating a green home and lawn. And the site lets visitors know how green the city has become in the past year or two.

“People understand how important it is to address the environmental issues, and they also understand that that’s the way to continue to build Dallas as a great place to live and a great place to do business,” said Mayor Tom Leppert. “The city of Dallas is proud to be building a greener city.”

Dallas has taken a leadership role in developing green initiatives, according to Director of Environmental Quality Laura Fiffick. “The city has to be an environmental leader because we need to show our residents that we are committed to conserving water, to recycling and to reducing emissions if we expect residents to do these things,” she said.

Fiffick says that long before there was a “green movement,” the City of Dallas was taking steps to protect the environment. The city purchased its first alternative fueled vehicle more than 15 years ago, in 1992. Ten years later, Dallas was the first city in Texas to use biodiesel.

Today, Dallas is proud to have nearly 2,000 cars and trucks (41 percent of its fleet) running on alternative fuels or a hybrid mix – the largest fleet in Texas and one of the largest in the United States.

Dallas was ranked fifth out of the 50 largest cities in the nation for its Alternative Fueled City Fleets by SustainLane, an online media company empowering people, businesses, and government to go green.

The city has made a decision to purchase 40 percent of its power in 2008 from renewable energy sources, primarily wind.

Although Dallas air quality still does not meet federal standards, the city’s air is improving.

Dallas is the only city in the nation to partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, on Sustainable Skylines, a pilot program focusing on improving air quality by reducing emissions. If this initiative is successful, it could become a model for other cities across the nation.

“Dallas has been a leader among cities and stands ready to be a model for the rest of the nation,” said EPA Regional Administrator Richard Greene. “We hope more cities across the nation will take up the challenge of making cleaner air and healthier communities a reality.”

The city has embraced the Environmental Management System, EMS, enabling the setting of environmental goals; tracking regulatory compliance and creating initiatives to improve overall environmental performance.

“An EMS is not a static device, but rather a living and dynamic tool designed to allow for gradual changes to be made over long periods of time in order to achieve realistic and measurable goals,” said City Manager Mary K. Suhm.

The city has reduced per capita water consumption through leak detection, main repair, audits of irrigation systems at city facilities, educational initiatives, and a xeriscape program.

In April 2005, the city began sending treated wastewater from one of its treatment plants to the links at Cedar Crest Golf Course. In 2005 alone, this new system irrigated Cedar Crest with 81.7 million gallons of treated wastewater, leaving 81.7 million gallons of drinking water for use by local residents.

The city has reduced its overall energy use by five percent for each of the last five years by using lighting upgrades, solar panels, high efficient heating and air conditioning systems and automated building controls. Nearly half of the street lights in Dallas are now lit by renewable energy.

Regular incandescent traffic signals cost Dallas about $2.1 million annually for electricity. By converting to energy efficient LED traffic lights at 11,000 city intersections, energy consumption has been cut by 14.5 million kilowatt hours per year, equaling 1.56 million in savings, city officials say.

Between three and four million cubic feet of methane gas is captured every day at the McCommas Bluff Landfill. The gas is then purified and sold to Atmos Energy to heat homes and businesses in place of more costly, deep well drilled natural gas.

Last year, 994.7 million cubic feet of renewable energy was captured from the Landfill – enough to heat every home in University Park, Highland Park and Duncanville for a year.

Over the next three to five years, the city plans to increase its capture of methane by as much as 300 percent. If this much methane is either transformed into or swapped for electricity, managers believe it can save the city between 30 and 50 percent of its current electricity purchases.

Dallas City Hall (Photo by Miguel
Casanova courtesy City of Dallas)

In 2003, Dallas started its Green Building Program, with construction of the Jack Evans Police Headquarters. The program requires all municipal buildings over 10,000 square feet to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, Silver Criteria. These facilities are built to save energy, water and other resources.

“Designing a building that uses less energy and less water lowers operating costs and also allows us to receive the environmental benefits of having a green building,” said Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan.

All new city buildings over 10,000 square feet are being constructed according to standards set by the LEED program. The city has completed or will complete more than 25 green facilities through 2010, including 10 libraries, seven police and fire stations, a cultural center, three recreation centers, three service centers, an animal services center and shelter, and a homeless assistance center.

A companion to the Green Building Program is Dallas’ Green Renovation Program. The idea is to replace regular roofs with green roofs planted with vegetation that promote energy savings by cooling the buildings’ interiors.

Buildings also are being retrofitted with high-efficiency heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and lighting systems. Even Dallas City Hall is not exempt. There, a comprehensive energy project has resulted in annual savings of about $1.49 million.

View This Story On Eco-mmunity Map.