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August 31, 2009

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AROUND THE INDUSTRY

In Cleveland, Going Green Inside—and Out
BY DANIELLE WILLIS, Planning Team Leader/Sustainability Coordinator, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Cleveland, OH

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) knows what it takes to become a more sustainable organization: it has been recycling paper, fuel, antifreeze, metal, tires, fluorescent bulbs, and other products over the years.

As part of its long-range planning efforts, GCRTA has supported more livable communities with transit-oriented development projects and the creation of its HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit system, which has led to a substantial reduction in emissions since its launch in the fall of 2008. However, internal studies have shown that the agency needed to reduce more of its in-house consumption, prompting GCRTA to introduce its first sustainability initiative.

More than 2,600 agency employees will participate in the campaign, “Destination Sustainability: Know Your Impact—Campaign to Change,” which describes how they can become more environmentally responsible at every business level.

The purpose of the campaign is to help GCRTA employees look more closely at what they purchase and use, as well as the waste and emissions they produce, in an effort to reduce consumption and costs. The agency will integrate sustainability efforts developed under this initiative, which includes “green tips” and environmental policies, into its day-to-day management decisions and operations to fully recognize efficiencies and cost savings.

The project helps employees analyze their carbon footprint, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy efficiencies, recycling, waste disposal, and renewable energy solutions, among other sustainability benchmarks. It’s an overall conscious approach to get employees to use less and waste less.

The ultimate goal is to involve the entire organization while aligning structures with strategies to measure success and performances through these efforts.

Along with establishing environmental policies to support this program, GCRTA created 15 working groups to help guide and capture baseline and benchmark measurements of sustainable practices including energy/carbon reduction; GHG emissions; green technology; water conservation; materials flow; recycling; waste reduction, and renewable energy sources. Each working group received objectives, goals, and performance indicators to illustrate the level of commitment and achievement with implementing sustainable practices.

To motivate and keep employees aware of all these efforts, GCRTA launched its sustainability web site to report all information. This interactive site offers both the latest news and information on the agency’s sustainability initiatives and ways that employees can play an active role in moving toward economic stability and environmental preservation.

At the heart of the effort is an active educational forum where all GCRTA employees can learn how to apply environmental principles at every business level while on their journey to sustainability.

The agency is currently developing several environmentally conscious projects, including renovations to bring the University/Cedar, East 116th Street, and Stephanie Tubbs Jones/East Side transit facilities into compliance with LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) Platinum status; solar shelters; and a waste recycling program at GCRTA’s popular Tower City Station, which serves both heavy and light rail lines. Other internal projects include Lug a Mug (reusable mugs and no paper or plastic cups at meetings), Paperless Environment Project, Reusable Bag Luncheon Speaker Bureau Series, Be an Energy Star! Conservation Project, and Health & Wellness-Sustainability Initiative.

Pending grant funding approval, GCRTA hopes to implement a lighting retrofit at eight operating facilities and construct a fuel cell technologies/hydrogen fueling station.

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