City makes progress toward environmental sustainability
The City of Colorado Springs, with the support of our community, has a long history of providing "green" community services, such as preserving open space, Forestry Division tree planting programs, and natural ecosystem education through the Garden of the Gods and Cheyenne Canyon visitors centers. In recent years, efforts to increase the quality of our stormwater, encourage redevelopment on lagging pre-developed sites, and establish a volunteer employee "Green Team" have taken us further. The last few months have brought even greater progress.
In March of this year, the Colorado Springs City Council reviewed and approved a series of six guiding principles for a more environmentally sustainable City. The principles outline the City organization's need to:
  • Consider the long-term impacts of policy choices,
  • Mitigate the negative environmental impacts of population growth and consumption,
  • Implement planning policies that foster environmental quality and economic vitality,
  • Make procurement decisions that minimize negative environmental and social impacts,
  • Build community for successful sustainability programs and projects, and
  • Develop cross-sector and regional partnerships to achieve a healthy and vibrant community.
With grant funding assistance from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the City hired its first environmental Sustainability Coordinator to take these principles and create an action-oriented environmental sustainability plan. The plan will focus on how the City as an organization operates and find opportunities where community strategies intersect with municipal services.
At a time when personal and municipal budgets are stretched, some wonder how our community can make progress on sustainability. Although it sometimes does cost more to make the right environmental choice, more often it requires a new way of thinking and long-term vision. Here are a variety of environmentally cost-effective examples highlighting recent City efforts:
Towards the end of 2008, the Police Department converted to a "green-streamlined" officer background investigation process. The process, which takes place during the hiring phase, saved 18,241 pieces of paper, 2,750 envelopes, printer cartridges, fax toner, and postage for an estimated payback of $1,775 within six months. Not only did the paperless process reduce resource demands and transportation greenhouse gases, but it was also a significantly more efficient use of staff and applicant time.   
This spring, the City of Colorado Springs became a member of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and over the last year the number of Leadership in Energy Efficiency Design (LEED) accredited staff has jumped from one person to seven. The USGBC is an organization that works to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. The USGBC membership and expertise provides City staff with resources to help our development community build more sustainably, especially when working with the growing number of companies that will only consider relocating into ?green? buildings. Many of these facilities cost no more than their more traditional counterparts and show substantial long-term cost savings through energy efficiencies and employee productivity.
The Fire Department is currently partnering with Colorado College students to perform energy efficiency audits on its fire stations. The City plans to use energy efficiency grant funds to make changes and realize cost savings through reduced utilities. Meanwhile, the community realizes better air quality from fewer greenhouse gas emissions while students benefit from green industry job training and increased civic engagement.
As of this summer, the City uses 100 percent recycled-content paper, letterhead, and business cards. The cost of similar quality stationery turned out to be no higher than what the City had been previously been purchasing. And, using recycled products helps to reduce the need for virgin materials.
Companies who compete for City business may notice that up to 5 percent of applicant points can now be awarded to those who have an ability to help the City practice its sustainability principles. For example, the using recycled and recyclable materials, avoiding toxins, conserving resources, preventing pollution and even a company?s own sustainability practices can help it gain points for consideration during contract award.
Finally, this summer the City launched a employee volunteer effort with community partner BETTR Recycling to expand single-stream recycling in its facilities. Nearly 100 employees are dedicating their time on an on-going basis to ensure materials are recycled.
As the City continues making improvements, we are finding that environmental sustainability in Colorado Springs means using old-fashioned common sense combined with new technologies to maximize the community?s benefit. Visit www.SpringsGov.com/csgreen to watch for even more in the near future!
View Inaugural Edition