Green Umbrella in the News

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  • April 16, 2018 12:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer, Community Press guest columnist Kristin Gangwer

    This year, as Green Umbrella celebrates 20 years as Greater Cincinnati’s hub for environmental sustainability, we are excited to reflect on the sustainability successes our region has achieved.

    Notably, in 2017, Greater Cincinnati was named the nation’s No. 1 metro area for sustainability by Site Selection Magazine. Additionally, we now have 116,000 acres of protected green space in the region, points of purchase for local fruits and vegetables have quadrupled since 2010, and we saw over 2 million visits to outdoor venues in 2017 alone.

    Even with all of our success, as we move towards 2020 and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, this is not a time to rest. Through Green Umbrella’s seven Action Teams, individuals, organizations, corporations, and government agencies throughout the region continue to make progress on a range of sustainability priorities.

    For example, the Greenspace Action Team’s Greenspace Gems campaign recognizes and celebrates natural areas with outstanding scenic value, biological diversity, scientific importance or historic interest. Likewise, the Waste Reduction Action Team’s Save the Food Cincy campaign strives to reduce wasted food in schools, businesses and households.

    This Earth Day, we hope you will act locally with Green Umbrella and make a difference in the places where you live, work, and play.

    At home

    • Support local farmers, your health, and the local economy by shifting 10 percent of your food budget to local food. Find a farmers’ market or sign up for a CSA.

    • 40 percent of food (about $1,500 per household) is wasted each year. Shop with a plan, and store your food well so it doesn’t go to waste. Compost plant-based food scraps. Find great tips on how to reduce food waste and save on grocery bills.

    • Green your home! Switch to LED lightbulbs, explore solar energy, replace aging appliances with energy-efficient ones, and prevent air leaks around doors and windows. Looking to purchase or sell a home? Search for, or list, a home’s green features using the new Green MLS tool.

    • Plant native trees and plants, which require less water and maintenance to grow and help absorb excess rainfall. Join our region’s effort to plant 2 million trees by 2020.

    At work

    • Bike, walk, or ride the bus to work – even if it’s just one day a week. Download a free transit app (CincyEZRide, Bus Detective, Transit) to purchase fares and plan your route. Ask your employer to become a Transit-Friendly Destination.

    • Advocate for healthy, local food options in your cafeteria, and for practices that minimize wasted food. See if you can start on-site composting at work.

    • Advocate for low-mow landscaping at your work site, which helps reduce stormwater runoff.

    At play

    • Get outside! Visit one of the region’s Greenspace Gems to see the best of what our region has to offer.

    • Take part in May Bike Month. Attend movie screenings and join in on rides to get the whole family excited about cycling.

    • Get involved in your community and learn something new at the same time. Check out the hundreds of events hosted by our members on our Events Calendar.

    Together we can improve the quality of life and the environment in Greater Cincinnati. To learn more and become a member of Green Umbrella, visit greenumbrella.org.

    Kristin Gangwer is Green Umbrella interim executive director.

  • April 10, 2018 2:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Soapbox Media, Jerry Jackson

    Earth Day is a celebration of the natural community we share and one regional group is leading the efforts to educate the families of Greater Cincinnati on Earth Day.

    The Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition is a community of not-for-profit organizations, businesses, government agencies, and individuals from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana tri-state region who work cooperatively and actively to promote the beauty and environmental quality of the tri-state area.


    Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition’s sole activity is to produce the Cincinnati Earth Day event at Summit Park in Blue Ash on Saturday, April 21 from 12-5pm. That includes helping more than 125 exhibitors with hands-on displays representing environmental groups, government agencies and businesses. You'll also find local music, local foods, and regional craft beer on display.

    The theme for 2018 will be “Food Waste” and promote activities with Green Umbrella’s Waste Action Team and its plan to reduce food waste, which makes up more than a fifth of our landfill volume.

    This year, the Earth Day event will kick off with a Scavenger Hunt at noon along with a Kids Zone including inflatables, games, face painting and animals. Families can learn tips and tricks to reduce grocery bills, learn more about recycling, and find out how to setup your own composting at home thanks to lessons from Gorman Heritage Farm.


    Live music starts at 2pm and includes performances by Room For Zero, the Brandon Coleman Quartet, and Hickory Robot.

    Although there will be plenty to see, hear and do at the event, the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition is still in need of individuals to help with the Greater Cincinnati Earth Day celebration.

    "We need individuals to help set up vendor booths before the event starts, individuals to help run specific booths during the event, and to help tear down the event after 5pm," says Lauren Campbell, the volunteer coordinator. 

    The Coalition will provide water bottle filling stations during the event so volunteers and attendees can bring refillable water bottles instead of the disposable variety. The event runs from 12-5 pm this year and the Coalition needs volunteers from 8 am-7 pm.


    "There are a myriad of tasks that we need volunteers for, from crafts and face painting, to heavy lifting and logistics," says Campbell. "It is my goal to leverage individuals’ strengths and passions for this day, please let me know if you consider yourself crafty or enjoy painting or if you can lift heavy objects (up to 75 lbs) as I need those specific, hard-to-fill tasks, filled." 

    The Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition will provide volunteers with free t-shirts and free food as a thank you for their hard work. Anyone interested in volunteering for the Earth Day celebration should contact Lauren Campbell at volunteer@cincinnatiearthday.org now.

  • April 10, 2018 2:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Green Cincinnati News, Chuck Lohre

    Sustainability in Cincinnati has come a long way since 2002 when they received the results of an urban renewal report: 1. Establish a bridge fund to renovate OTR buildings for families, 2. Renovate Washington Park, and 3. Build a streetcar. 

    16 years later we are reaping the benefits of the implementation of those suggestions.

    Thanks to the Fortune 500 companies in downtown Cincinnati for contributing to the "Bank" that would lend money to those that wanted to rebuild in OTR but couldn't get a loan. Traditional banks could find no comparables so no loan. Even in 2014 one homeowner at the corner of 14th and Elm Streets went to 46 banks seeking a loan to renovate a 1800s building into three units. It got LEED Platinum in 2017.

    Holzhauer-Residence

    Sadly in 2011, I witnessed a police car run over and kill a homeless person that lived in Washington Park. I saw it from my second floor window looking south over the park from 14th Street. The park was a wonderful place for the homeless although it also it had the highest crime rate in the city. Since the homeless shelter moved to Central Parkway and all the other improvements, the park really has become a center piece for the neighborhood and a magnet for dogs, kids and moms. 

    You would think that they paved the streetcar route with gold based on all the development at every building. I have never seen such growth. Others might poo, poo the cost but the streetcar saved one of the most incredible architectural treasures in the world. The city of Cincinnati was built in 1850s as a walkable neighborhood with cisterns under the sidewalks and ideal three brick thick thermal masses.

    LEED-Gold-Store-1

    The start of the sustainable growth in Cincinnati really took off with the administrations of Roxanne Qualls and Mark Mallory. They re-established the office of Environmental Quality and the tax abatement for building LEED in the city. 

    At the same time the new USGBC Chapter joined with Ginny Fraizer to make the new Cincinnati Schools LEED. Ginny has a severe allergy to chemicals and could;t work in the first new schools. Contrary to popular belief "New Car Smell" is carsenigenic as well as stinky carpet. All the school building taught the local architects and contractors how to build LEED. But besides the new "Net Zero" Police Station on the west side, designed by Emersion Design, there are few other advancements in commercial sustainable construction. One big exception is the Cincinnati Zoo's Living Building Challenge African painted Dog House. We are very fortunate to have such an example of the future right here in the mid-west. You would have to go to Seattle, Pittsburg or Napa Valley to see another. Living Building Challenge buildings don't have a foot print. It's like they are a spaceship that landed on another planet, improving the environment. No combustion, no waste, no water use, no nothing. 

    IMG_8449_HDR_400

    My 800 square foot LEED Platinum office on 14th St. is an example of doing sustainability on a shoe string. Total cost was $9500: $3000 for USGBC fees, $3000 for materials and $3500 for a fun but unnecessary settle stove to demonstrate a renewable energy source. In contract to the Living Building Challenge, the USGBC considers pellets made from sawdust or agricultural waste renewable.

    And that brings me to what I want to have you take away from this presenation. It's not expensive to be sustainable. In fact, it always saves money and is more healthy. The city's leading clearing house for sustainability is the Green Umbrella. Started in 2004 by Brewster Rhoades, it now has over 200 member organizations and hundreds of individuals that get together every first Thursday at a local watering hole. I encourage you to join one of their Action Teams: Energy, Water, Waste, Outdoor Spaces, Food, Transportation and the Built Environment. Their success is based on "Measurable Environmental Improvement" just like LEED. It a language that just about everyone can agree on and foundations can contribute to.

    And sustainability can pay you in the city of Cincinnati. For a $500,000 home the tax abatement offered will garner you about $40,000. That's more than enough to cover the LEED fees and minor upgrades required. Plus you'll get a third party inspected home that proves it's built to premium standards. The local chapter o the USGBC has a very successful series of Green Home tours every year since 2014. There you will learn from the homeowners how they did it and how they love it all the way to the bank.

    Sustainability-in-Cincinnati

    One of the largest Action Teams of the Green Umbrella is the Food Team. Partnering with the Civic Garden Center which has over 50 neighborhood gardens, and local farmer markets; there are hundreds of volunteers and grass root organizations working to eliminate "Food Deserts;' and "Food Waste." The theme of the Greater Cincinnati Earth Day April 21, 2018, at Summit Park in Blue Ash will have four presentations on Food Waste, what it means and what you can do about it. The next day in Washington Park, another Earth Day event will allow you to recycle many hard-to-recycle items like electronic waste, fluorescent light bulbs, cell phones, and batteries.

    So get involved, share your accomplishments and ideas at the next Green Drinks.

    Read more in Green Cincinnati News.

  • March 23, 2018 10:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Yale Climate Connections, Sarah Wesseler

    With extreme weather events becoming more common, the city is ramping up its investments in solar and its mitigation efforts.

    Cincinnati may seem an unlikely location for the nation’s largest city-owned solar array. But when Mayor John Cranley announced last year that he intended to create just that, the plan was in many ways a natural fit. Over the past decade, the Ohio city has taken increasingly aggressive steps to decarbonize its energy supply – and it’s seeing impressive results.

    Unusual weather patterns have added new urgency to these efforts.

    “Over the last few years we’ve seen a surge in major storm events that’s triggered a rash of stormwater related issues – sewer backups, flash flooding, landslides,” said Oliver Kroner, who works in the city’s Office of Environment and Sustainability. “We’ve even had some river flooding just over the last couple of weeks for the first time since 1997.”

    Flooding in downtown area

    February 2018 flooding in downtown Cincinnati. Credit: Johanna Liming.

    Last year, the city spent $50 million responding to storm-related issues.

    As climate impacts become more visible in southern Ohio, government officials and citizens alike increasingly support bold action, Kroner said.

    “As we see these changes, they suddenly feel pressing. Where for a long time people may have said they really need to do something about climate change, the narrative has shifted, and the question now is, ‘What can I do?'”

    Cincinnati’s renewable energy push

    The city’s renewable energy efforts have grown out of its climate change action program, known as the Green Cincinnati Plan.

    The plan was first adopted in 2008, after the city council voted unanimously to act on climate change. A second version was passed in 2013, and a third is being finalized.

    Each iteration has added new layers, but the plan’s core objectives have remained consistent throughout: reducing greenhouse gas emissions while supporting broader municipal goals of saving money, creating jobs, and improving the local environment.

    The 2008 version established emission reduction targets of 8 percent below 2006 levels by 2012, 40 percent by 2028, and 84 percent by 2050. The city’s official statistics indicate it is on track to meet these goals: By 2015, emissions stemming from government operations had fallen by 36 percent, and those generated by the community at large were down by 18 percent.

    Cincinnati emissions and targetsCincinnati’s greenhouse gas emissions and future targets. Source: City of Cincinnati.

    Renewable aggregation program

    Some of the decline in emissions can be attributed to population loss, but municipal actions have played a key role. In particular, a renewable electricity aggregation program launched in 2011 has proven to be an effective tool for reducing carbon emissions. By pooling local residents and small businesses to create a critical mass of consumers, the government says it has been able to negotiate with energy suppliers to secure lower prices on renewables.

    As a result, Cincinnati is now the nation’s fourth-largest buyer of residential green energy, and more than 80 percent of its homes run on renewable electricity. Last year, it became the first U.S. city to add green natural gas to its aggregation offering.

    The program has been a win-win for customers and the environment, saving households millions on their collective energy bills and cutting annual emissions by approximately 250,000 tons.

    As the first of its kind in a major U.S. city, the aggregation initiative has drawn attention from across the nation. On its strengths, Cincinnati was designated a 2013 Green Power Community of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and, in the same year, named a finalist in the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour City Challenge.

    Bulk buying leads to growth in residential solar

    Another city-led renewables program, Solarize Cincy, has led to significant growth in residential photovoltaic arrays since it launched in 2015. It uses a bulk buying program to help households reduce the cost of solar installations.

    Reaching the public with the message that solar panels are cheaper and more effective than ever has been crucial to the effort. Marketing materials emphasize the program’s potential to substantially reduce household utility bills, and a simple online formoffers free personalized assessments that describe financial incentives and estimate monthly savings.

    The result: Residential solar installations in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, shot up by 81 percent during the program’s first year.

    ‘Do what we can in our corner of the world …’

    Building on these successes, Mayor Cranley, a Democrat elected to a second term in November 2017, in recent months has announced a round of ambitious new initiatives. “I believe that we have to do what we can, in our corner of the world, to live up to our moral responsibility to care for this Earth,” Cranley said in a September speech.

    On the same day that President Trump announced his intention that the U.S. would pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, Cranley committed to powering all municipal operations with renewable energy by 2035. To make headway on this goal, he proposed building a 25-megawatt solar installation on city land. When complete, it is projected to produce enough energy to power the equivalent of 3,000 homes. Construction is expected to begin in 2019.

    “Those are obviously big investments that the city does not have to do, by any means,” said Ryan Mooney-Bullock, the communications and program manager at local environmental nonprofit Green Umbrella. “[Local officials] have been really committed to decreasing the city’s contribution to climate change.”

    To reduce the government’s carbon footprint in the short term, Cranley recently signed a deal with a local energy supplier to provide 100 percent green power to most municipal buildings through 2021. This initiative is expected to lead to a 9.1 percent cut in emissions stemming from city operations, and to reduce annual expenses by more than $100,000.

    City’s new focus on fairness and equity

    For the latest iteration of the Green Cincinnati plan, the authors added a new lens of evaluation for each of the proposed actions: equity.

    Reflecting this new focus, the plan’s revised energy section proposes to build on current programs; the plan is to promote renewable generation and energy efficiency by targeting low- and moderate-income residents with tailored financing options and communications strategies.

    Because these households often spend a disproportionate amount of their income on utilities, they are expected to benefit significantly from cost savings associated with these programs.

    Kroner says he and his colleagues hope this and similar efforts can help struggling communities today while lessening their climate-related challenges in the future.

    “We’re realizing that when you look at climate change and who it will impact, in a lot of ways it’s a risk amplifier and will make existing problems worse,” he said. “We need to do better to prepare our low-income communities.”

    AUTHOR Sarah Wesseler is a Brooklyn-based writer focusing on cities, culture, and climate change.

  • March 15, 2018 4:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier, Bill Cieslewicz

    Cincinnati’s parks already rank in the top 10 among the largest 100 U.S. cities by the Trust for Public Land’s Parkscore index. Now, the region is being recognized for 116,000 acres of protected greenspace.

    A new initiative called “Greenspace Gems” celebrates five natural areas in the Tri-State for their outstanding scenic value, biological diversity, scientific importance or historic interest. They are:

    Greenspace Gems were selected by a team of conservation experts from Green Umbrella’s Greenspace Action Team. By telling the stories of these protected places, Green Umbrella – Greater Cincinnati’s hub for environmental sustainability – seeks to grow public support for greenspace conservation and the organizations that are leading this work in the region.

    “These sites not only provide valuable field study opportunities for scientists and students, but also allow visitors to observe the natural, pre-settlement communities that once covered the Tri-State region,” Stan Hedeen, emeritus professor of biology at Xavier University, said in a statement.

    Green Umbrella was founded 20 years ago to conserve greenspace and unite citizens and groups concerned about preserving and restoring the abundant diversity of wildlife and plants that thrive in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana area. Launching this initiative now, two decades later, highlights the region’s great achievement in having protected over 116,000 acres of greenspace to date.

    In 2017, Greater Cincinnati was recognized as being the nation’s No. 1 metro area for sustainability by Site Selection magazine, an important resource for economic development professionals and corporate leaders looking for where to expand and locate their businesses. 

    For more information, click here To recommend a site as a Greenspace Gem, send a description of what makes the site unique, who manages it and how it was protected to communications@greenumbrella.org.

  • March 13, 2018 4:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Soapbox Media, Emily Dillingham

    The third update to the Green Cincinnati Plan, first initiated in 2008, pairs field experts with Cincinnatians to formulate a strategy based on sustainability, resilience, and equity. In the hopes of creating an inclusive plan that will work for the City as a whole, the Green Cincinnati Plan seeks solutions to combat severe flooding, extreme heat, increased storm events, flash flooding, landslides, sewer-backups, and changes in precipitation, as well as creating efficient and more sustainable practices for the City.

    The plan evaluates resilience to climate change, equitable solutions, and sustainable improvements through eight categories: energy, transportation, waste minimization, food, natural systems, education and outreach, and resilience and built environment.

    Task teams for each category are led by industry experts chosen by the City’s Office of Sustainability, who host community recommendation meetings.

    Public events inviting Cincinnatians from all neighborhoods to share their ideas and participate in task team meetings allowed the City to hear the residents directly. And, for those unable to make the meetings, an online portal, in both Spanish and English, on the City’s website provided an alternative opportunity for input.

    “We wanted to hear from the community and what is needed here,” says executive director of Green Umbrella Kristin Weiss. She explains that this time around the Green Cincinnati Plan is “Looking to be more inclusive, more equitable.”

    A facilitator of sustainable efforts in the Cincinnati Area, Green Umbrella has been involved in the Green Cincinnati Plan since the second updates. Weiss stresses that the think tank doesn’t need to be limited. One doesn’t need to be a professional to be in the space. This round of the plan allows more participation.

    Between the meetings, held intermittently since September 2017, and the online portals, hundreds of recommendations have been collected.

    This update of the plan is more “Inclusive and collaborative,” says Charlie Gonzalez sustainability consultant and head of the resilience task team. He emphasizes the importance of empowering residents and examining their strengths and weaknesses to formulate solutions that will work for everyone.

    While the plan focuses on the city as a whole, part of the updates include a neighborhood vulnerability assessment to predict climate change impacts. As storms increase, the city desires to strengthen resilience — water management has been a major issue, and some neighborhoods remain more vulnerable than others.

    Ensuring equitable solutions is a strong concern for this update. Certain areas are more vulnerable to storm water flooding, but extreme heat events, power outages, and sewer back-ups also hit some areas harder than others.

    As major heat events increase in severity and frequency, neighborhoods with less access to air conditioning remain at higher risk.

    “Extreme heat events, especially in neighborhoods less well off,” Gonzalez explains need attention and immediate solutions.  Urban heat island effect, tree canopy coverage and impermeable surfaces can be manipulated to decrease the risks associated with heat emergencies.

    One proposed plan is to ensure an air conditioning unit in at least one room per rental dwelling.

    Yet, those solutions can be challenging to enforce. Sustainability incentives most often only pertain to property owners rather than renters, thus leaving out a major percentage of the City’s population. Ways to encourage and enforce renters and landlords can solve those issues, along with “Mandates or incentives on newer developments,” says Gonzalez.

    Multi-lingual alerts and alternative ways to reach those without access to smart phones can help bridge the equity gap as more severe weather events increase in the area.

    “The steep increase in intense storms” Gonzalez says, is a major concern for the City. The question his resilience task team asks: “How resilient is our power grid?” In the event of power outages, back-up power systems for hospitals, recreation centers, and other emergency centers need to be ready and reliable.

     Pictured: Ollie Kroner, City of Cincinnati Sustainability Coordinator (courtesy of Soapbox)

    Tremaine Philipps, head of the Built Environment Task Team and Director of Strategic Initiatives at Empower Saves, a company dedicated to connecting small businesses and homes to energy saving products, explains that the past year gave great insight into the nation’s consequences from unpreparedness to the changing climate, with the tumultuous hurricane season and the major effects on cities like Houston. It’s causing Cincinnati to question its preparedness and resilience to changing climate threats.

    In 2017, waste water flooding and especially high temperatures gave insight to the changes and places that Cincinnati needs to adapt. Storm damage cost the City over $46 million in damages; the most costly year, yet.

    So far, 2018 has presented several major storm events including flooding, severe thunderstorms, severe wind, landslides, and even a recorded tornado. The concept of resilience offers ways to better prepare for these increasing severe weather events which also includes extreme heat, flooding and sewer back-ups.

    In February of this year, the Ohio River reached almost ten feet above the flood stage at 60.5 feet, the highest in 20 years, impacting over 1,000 structures.

    Resilience to climate change also pertains to securing energy. Ensuring the City is running on renewable energy is crucial to keeping up with climate change. Sustainability means not only saving the City and residents funds on energy, but also ensuring the city can remain strong and minimize our carbon foot print. Improving infrastructure is crucial here. “Buildings in Cincinnati result in 65% of greenhouse gases,” explains Phillips.

    Cincinnati’s sustainability coordinator, Oliver Kroner explains that the City is “Analyzing [its] carbon footprint.” In September 2017, Mayor Cranley proposed the construction of solar panels on city-owned properties which could produce 25 mega-watts of energy—the equivalent of 33 million kilowatt hours per year: enough to power 3,400 homes and cover 20 percent of the city’s total energy.

    The city hopes to convert to 100 percent renewable energy, by 2035.

    It’s important to strive for “Regenerative, not just sustainable,” Gonzalez says and stresses the importance of “Mitigating urban metabolism.”

    “Cincy is ahead, some partner regions haven’t created their first plan and we’re already on our third”, Weiss says.

    One of Green Umbrella’s initial tasks was to examine baseline metrics and ways to track and measure progress over time, progress on these initiatives can be tracked immediately.

                                      Pictured: Solar Panels in Eden Park   

    Gonzalez emphasizes the importance of “Hearing each other. That’s why it’s important to have these collaborative events.”  He discusses how we are polarized as a City. The issue of climate change can become politically driven. In order to move forward, people need to feel like they’re being heard. Most people think the problems are too big. Gonzalez says, it’s all about “Changing the narrative.”

    At this stage, those behind the Green Cincinnati Plan are focusing on prioritizing recommendations based on community support and impact and examining feasibility and potential repercussions.

    From several hundred, the plan recommendations are down to about 80 that will be presented to the steering committee in April before making it to City Council.

  • March 12, 2018 4:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: The River City News, Staff Report

    A new initiative identifies "Greenspace Gems" in the Greater Cincinnati region and Big Bone Lick State Historic Site in Boone County is among the first five selected.

     
    Pictured: Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

    Greenspace Gems was launched by Green Umbrella, an organization devoted to environmental sustainability, and recognizes and celebrates natural areas for their outstanding scenic value, biological diversity, scientific importance, or historic interest. The goal, an announcement said, is to grow public support for greenspace conservation and the organizations who are leading this work in our region.

    Greenspace Gems are selected by a team of conservation experts from Green Umbrella’s Greenspace Action Team.

    “These acres of conserved greenspace help preserve the quality of our air, water and soil. Embedded within the protected landscape are geologic, topographic and historic places that often support species with declining populations. These sites not only provide valuable field study opportunities for scientists and students, but also allow visitors to observe the natural, pre-settlement communities that once covered the Tri-State region,” said Stan Hedeen, Emeritus Professor of Biology at Xavier University.

    The first five Greenspace Gems were just released:

    20 years ago, Green Umbrella was originally organized to conserve greenspace and unite citizens and groups concerned about preserving and restoring the abundant diversity of wildlife and plants that thrive in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana area. Launching this initiative now, two decades later, highlights the region’s great achievement in having protected over 116,000 acres of greenspace to date, a news release said.

    “Greenspace protection is another way our region is staying on the leading edge of sustainability,” said Ryan Mooney-Bullock, communications and program manager for Green Umbrella.

    Last year, Greater Cincinnati was recognized as being the nation’s #1 metro area for sustainability by Site Selection magazine, an important resource for economic development professionals and corporate leaders looking for where to expand and locate their businesses. 

    Green Umbrella finds inspiration in the work of other cities. For example, Vancouver, which seeks to be the world’s greenest city, has a goal that every resident lives within a 5-minute walk of a park, greenway, or other greenspace by 2020. Vancouver’s latest progress report indicates that 92.7 percent of its city land area is within a 5-minute walk to greenspace. 

    “Cincinnati can tout its greenspace stats too," said Margaret Minzner, member of Green Umbrella's Greenspace Action Team and senior environmental planner for OKI Regional Council of Governments. "In the City of Cincinnati, 94 percent of the land area is within a half mile or about 10-minute walk to greenspace.

    "And 96 percent of our Tri-State population lives within 2 miles of protected greenspace."

  • March 07, 2018 2:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer, Carrie Blackmore Smith

    Attention residents of Butler and Warren counties: A trail system plan near you is moving forward.

    Don't you want to know where?

    Tri-State Trails, a regional trails advocacy group under Green Umbrella, has reinvigorated the idea of connecting the region's two longest existing trails, the Great Miami Trail to the west and Little Miami Scenic Trail to the east. 

    Called the Miami 2 Miami Connection, the idea was first proposed in 2002, but Tri-State Trails has rejiggered the plan and gained support from all of the communities it would traverse. 

    The original plan was not all off-road and the route changed based on shifts in population and economic development. 

    The new vision for the Miami 2 Miami Connection is a paved off-road trail for walkers, runners and cyclists that would travel through the communities of Hamilton, Fairfield Township, Fairfield, West Chester Township, Liberty Township, Mason and Deerfield Township.

    The prioritized routes for the Miami 2 Miami Connection.

    The prioritized routes for the Miami 2 Miami Connection. (Photo: Provided by Tri-State Trails)

    When fully complete it would link downtown Hamilton, Miami University Hamilton, Union Centre, Olde West Chester, downtown Mason, Voice of America MetroPark, Liberty Center and Countryside YMCA Trail.

    The short-term priority route is the most feasible and cost-effective connection, said Wade Johnston, Tri-State Trails director. Money still needs to be raised for build-out of the trail system, however.

    The light green portion in the map above follows the old Miami and Erie Canal route. That's an attractive option because much of that route is publicly owned by the community or county, Johnston said, and owning the land is one of the biggest challenges in trail construction.

    An open house is planned for those who want to see more detailed maps and provide feedback.

    It will be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, March 8 in Council Chambers at the City of Hamilton, 345 High St.  

    Here are some detail shots of the map. 

    Miami 2 Miami Connection, west of Interstate 75.

    Miami 2 Miami Connection, west of Interstate 75. (Photo: Provided by Tri-State Trails)

    Miami 2 Miami Connection, east of Interstate 75.

    Miami 2 Miami Connection, east of Interstate 75. (Photo: Provided by Tri-State Trails)

    For more information, contact Tri-State Trails at wade@greenumbrella.org.

  • February 15, 2018 5:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO Cincinnati, Kevin Eigelbach

    Revised Green Cincinnati Plan is in the works

    In national news, there hasn't been much lately for those concerned about the environment to cheer about. The Trump administration appears determined to roll back regulations on coal-fired power plants, offshore oil drilling and coal mining.

    Locally, however, the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County government are treating global warming as a real thing -- a thing they can do something about.

    With input from Hamilton County government, Cincinnati is updating the Green Cincinnati Plan, a set of recommendations for addressing global climate change and for powering the city with 100 percent renewable energy. 

    The city is paying local nonprofit Green Umbrellaa regional sustainability alliance, $25,000 from the mayor's budget to help update the plan, Green Umbrella executive director Kristin Weiss said. That money will pay for benchmarking research of peer cities and their sustainability plans, technical writing and research for Cincinnati's plan update, a facilitator to lead public input meetings, as well as graphic design and a small print run of the plan.

    The eight teams updating the plan have so far held three public input meetings apiece, she said, and in February, there will be another round of presentations to groups typically under-represented in the plan revision process, Weiss said. 

    In addition to recommendations from the public, Green Umbrella has pulled together some of its own from a 2017 study it did of similar sustainability efforts in 15 of Cincinnati's peer cities. From that study, Green Umbrella created an "idea bank" of 1,300 ideas from those cities, including one that seems timely this time of year, using less harmful treatments for winter road conditions. 

    The update steering committee hopes to bring the revised Green Cincinnati Plan to city council for approval in April, according to the city's Office of Environment and Sustainability.

    Planting trees offers triple benefits

    According to the Office, the revised plan will likely see more than 70 recommendations, grouped into eight topic areas. Among the areas with the biggest impact would be:

    • Renewable energy from sources such as solar power, prices for which have dropped by 75 percent over the past 10 years;
    • Electric vehicles, which can be powered by cleaner sources of energy;
    • Trees, which soak up carbon emissions, improve air quality and reduce stormwater runoff;
    • Food, because what we eat and where it comes from can have significant environmental impacts;
    • Energy efficiency, through use of LED lights, high-efficiency heat pumps and better home insulation.

    The revised plan is also expected to renew Mayor John Cranley's call for creation of a 25-megawatt solar array, a first step to fulfill his vision of having the city use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035

    The solar array would cover 125-150 acres of land, and would be the largest solar array in Ohio or any adjacent state. 

    Inventory of May 2015 showed city meeting goal

    As with many of the initiatives recommended in the Green Cincinnati Plan, the solar array would help the city reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, those chemicals created by burning fossil fuels that trap sunlight and cause the air to heat up.

    When it was created in 2008, the plan called for the city to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about 2 percent every year, a goal that was reaffirmed when the council readopted the plan in 2013.

    The city government did its part by making streetlights more energy-efficient, by installing solar panels on some city facilities, and other energy-saving measures. But its biggest reduction by far came from improvements at its wastewater and water-treatment facilities, which dropped emissions from 300,000 tons to 179,000 tons, a cut of about 41 percent.

    Residents and businesses did their part by using less energy, spurred by incentives for commercial energy upgrades offered by Duke Energy, as well as the de-carbonization of electric power. Burning coal produced 86 percent of the region's energy in 2006, but by 2015 that had fallen to 59 percent. Cleaner-burning natural gas, on the other hand, created 2 percent of the region's energy in 2006 and 23 percent in 2015.

    In spite of improvements in fuel efficiency, emissions from vehicles went up from 2.25 million in 2006 to 2.4 million in 2015, an increase of 6 percent. 

    And while this is probably not the ideal way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, there's no question that all other things being equal, having fewer residents equals less energy use and a smaller carbon footprint. The city's population fell by about 10 percent from 2006 to 2015.

    Hamilton County government also working on plan

    Some of those residents probably moved to Hamilton County, taking their carbon footprint with them. So it's hard to see how the region as a whole gained.

    Hamilton County government set the same 2 percent annual reduction goal as the city did in 2006, said Holly Christmann, director of the Department of Environmental Services. But it has not done an inventory of greenhouse gases since then, she said, so the department doesn't know if it's attaining that goal.

    County government has done an amazing job improving energy efficiency in its buildings, she said, through things like installing solar panels on the roofs of the Hamilton County Courthouse and the Hamilton County Justice Center.

    "We've done a lot of things that we're very proud of," she said.

    Her department plans to create a sustainability plan for county government that it hopes to present to the county commissioners for approval in late April or May.

  • January 30, 2018 8:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer, Polly Campbell

    Two years ago, Alice Chalmers, newly moved to Cincinnati from Maryland, bought a 20-foot refrigerated van and a software program and set out to save a way of life. 

    Her new venture was called Ohio Valley Food Connection, with an overarching goal of supporting a local food system. That means helping farmers make a full-time living raising tomatoes and greens or pastured pork or eggs. It also means keeping them on their farmland, contributing to the local economy. 

    Her small part of that multi-faceted system was to create a better way to get local farmers' crops to local restaurant chefs. There was supply, and there was demand, but the mechanism between was difficult and inefficient.

    So she offered a website where farmers listed what they had available, and chefs could order what they wanted for delivery. It's one form of what's called a food hub. When we wrote about her first, in 2015, she was in "proof of concept" phase, hoping to show that what she intended was possible, even if she didn't make any profit from the venture. 

    Patsy Carter, of Ohio Valley Food Connection, receives

    Patsy Carter, of Ohio Valley Food Connection, receives food from suppliers, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Newport, Ky. In the warehouse, farmers drop off their produce, which they packages and then supply to restaurants. (Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer)

    As predicted, she's still not making a profit, but she has met with enough success to show the concept is viable. In its third year, Ohio Valley Food Connection has broken even. That's a win, considering the razor-thin margins she is operating within. 

    A lot has happened in the last year or so. There are now three full-time and one part-time employees. In October of 2015, she had 25 restaurant customers, and 30 farmers signed up. Now she's added Lexington and Louisville customers with over 100 accounts registered, with 50-75 of whom shop regularly, plus a household and workplace program.

    She works with 42 suppliers, mostly farmers, plus a few food artisans. She has customers small and large, including local chain Currito. Owner Joe Lanni said they signed up as part of the burrito chain menu's makeover to include a wider variety of healthy options, like salads and bowls. All nine of the local stores use some produce from the food connection. 

    Now, she's set to make another huge step forward. Green Umbrella, a local environmental non-profit, is partnering with her and another food hub, Our Harvest, to reach a goal they have of doubling local food production and consumption by 2020. They won a highly competitive grant from the USDA that they'll use to make it easier for potential customers like hospitals, school systems and retirement homes to buy produce locally. 

    Patsy Carter, of Ohio Valley Food Connection, receives

    Patsy Carter, of Ohio Valley Food Connection, receives food from suppliers, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Newport, Ky. In the warehouse, farmers drop off their produce, which they packages and then supply to restaurants. (Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer)

    "With the thin margins we have, we need volume," said Chalmers. "But big institutions aren't as nimble as a small restaurant. We need to make it easier."  

    The grant provides a salary for a consultant who will sign up more institutional clients, and work with them and farmers to plan the crops they'll need. It will help farmers get training to meet new, stringent food safety rules. And it provides funds to help Ohio Valley Food Connection and Our Harvest create efficiencies by working together on refrigeration, vehicles, and ordering. 

    The goal is to increase sales through these two food hubs by 65% by 2020.

    "It can be done," said Kristin Weiss, executive director of The Green Umbrella. "They've had an impressive growth story already." 

    Carmelle Wasch, of Ohio Valley Food Connection, receives

    Carmelle Wasch, of Ohio Valley Food Connection, receives food from suppliers, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Newport, Ky. In the warehouse, farmers drop off their produce, which they packages and then supply to restaurants. (Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer)

    Even at a larger scale, OVFC is still about a truck and a web page. Chefs can order exactly what they want for the week from one or a dozen farms, and make one payment. That means more fresh, local and colorful food for their customers.

    It also means easier sales for farmers. Annie Wood is the owner of Dark Wood Farm in Petersburg.  She started selling her produce by going to farmers markets. She added a an arrangement for customers to pay ahead for a whole season of produce and signed up with OVFC. Now, she doesn't go to farmers markets at all. 

    That may be a disappointment for customers of farmers markets. But each market takes a whole day. It's only Wood and her friend Chris Pyper running the farm, so that's a lot of time for them to be away from actual farming. 

    "If we made a shift to getting just 10% of our food locally here," said Weiss,"That's a 56 million dollar local food economy."

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