Salt Lake City Implements Environmentally-Friendly Measures

Salt Lake City Implements Environmentally-Friendly Measures

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John Daley reportingSalt Lake County's top elected official says he likes many of the environmentally-friendly measures pioneered by Salt Lake City. And simply helping the environment isn't the only reason.

Salt Lake City has aggressively invested in its environmental programs in recent years, doing things like switching to energy-efficient light bulbs.

It turns out that going green is also saving some green, and that has other government leaders taking notice.

Think global, act local. When it comes to global warming and taking concrete steps to fight it, Salt Lake City is taking that bumper sticker slogan to heart.

Consider a lovely field of human waste at the city's sewage treatment plant, which is giving off invisible methane gas. That potential energy source was once completely unused. But the city recently invested $3.5 million in what's called co-generation.

That's a big price tag, but that gas will provide half the power for the sewage treatment plant.

Vicki Bennett Environmental Programs Manager: "What comes in is your raw products and it's either going to go out as something useful, as some kind of waste. We want to limit the waste which costs money and turn it into something useful."

Salt Lake City government has reduced its overall greenhouse gas emissions to 76% of the goal set by the international Kyoto Treaty. How? By buying more fuel-efficient cars and buses, and requiring new city buildings-- like the just-completed Intermodal Hub-- to meet stringent environmental standards.

At the City and County Building they replaced nearly 15-hundred traditional lightbulbs with compact florescents which use two-thirds less energy.

They cost perhaps four times the normal bulb. Despite that, the change, including the cost of each new bulb, is saving the city $33-thousand a year, reinvesting $12-thousand of that in Utah Power's wind energy program.

They've also switched out all the city's traffic signals, exchanging the old lights for the LED variety, and ultimately spending less green, saving taxpayers $53-thousand a year. Again, that includes the cost of the new lights.

Vicki Bennett/ Environmental Programs Manager: "I think the important part about the environmental program is that it's really cost savings that we're looking at."

At last week's Sundance Summit, 46 mayors from around the country met to tackle the thorny issue of climate change.

In Chicago, for instance, they're even putting gardens on rooftops-- including City Hall-- cooling the building and cutting energy costs.

Richard Daley/ Mayor of Chicago: "We have more and more private sector and public sector buildings putting in rooftop gardens, solar panels, all those things really make the environment acceptable and friendly in the city."

Other mayors, like Salt Lake County's Peter Corroon, pledged to adopt a series of similar green-saving green measures.

Peter Corroon/ Salt Lake County Mayor: "It actually saves money over the long run. So maybe a year or two or three years it'll cost a little more money for the payback. But after that, you're saving the taxpayers money."

Saving money while trying to help the planet, and scientists say it couldn't happen at a more vital time.

Jean-Michel Cousteau/ President, Ocean Futures Society: "There are things that we can do. Time is of the essence. The longer we wait, the more it's going to hurt. And we don't like to suffer."

At the end of last week's event, the mayors announced that they now plan to hold this summit each year to keep looking for more they can do to act locally on this global issue.

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