Cleveland builds a sustainable future

For Cleveland, 2011 is the year of energy efficiency with the goal of creating a common vision that is regional and sustainable. These efforts focus on green building, green energy job creation, and sustainable design and manufacturing.

On March 31, Levin College in Cleveland hosted a forum, “Sustainable Cleveland 2019: Celebrating Energy Efficiency in 2011”  on the importance of energy conservation and energy efficiency as a driver for economic transformation. Video is available from various speakers, as well as presentations from the day.

The forum asked the question: How is Cleveland transforming its economy into a sustainable ecnomy by 2019, or, as Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson told the audience, “position Cleveland to be where the world is going, not where it is today”?

A sustainable future, he said, “blends environment, human, and economic concerns to create a sustainable economy. Leave out any one of those and we’ll be back at the table discussing what we should have done.”

Presenters at Sustainable Cleveland 2019 offered examples of how energy efficiency projects are driving economic innovation in the area.

One of the first speakers, Michele Kilroy, with the Northeast Ohio Green Building Commission, outlined why energy efficiency is important and how to reduce our consumption. Americans, she says, spend 90% of their time indoors in buildings, and buildings are the largest sector contributing to carbon dioxide emissions.  In but one example of the shift over time to greater energy consumption, home sizes are now double what they were than in the 1950s. And inside the home, we like our conveniences and we like to be entertained. Home entertainment, appliances, chargers for our electronics, processed foods– it all adds up to energy drains. As a result, we rely on others–often in volatile regions– for our energy.

Jennifer Kuzma, executive director of the First Suburbs Development Council, talked about the Northeast Ohio Advanced Energy District, an idea hatched two years ago. As Kuzma said, her organization is always looking for ways to cut costs for city businesses and “to keep them in our cities.” This fit the bill. And it offered opportunities for a regional approach to sustainability. The district, which does not need to involve contiguous communities or neighborhoods, is a designated area where propoerty owners pay an additional fee to fund public improvements, in this case, clean energy.  The project has worked to refurbish and retrofit old buildings with energy efficient windows, materials, and HVAC to bring down costs.

Other guests discussed additional innovations and projects underway. Check out the videos here.

The next forum is scheduled for May 18, 2011, on the opportunities for businesses and individuals presented by the national health care reform legislation.

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