Chicago Hosting Conference For Greener Airports

Sustainability Initiatives Transforming Air Transportation

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), in partnership with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), is pleased to announce its 8th Annual Airports Going Green Conference to be held October 26-28, 2015 at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza River North in downtown Chicago.

sustainable airport strategy

The Airports Going Green Conference is the largest aviation sustainability forum, bringing together sustainability leaders, experts, and innovators from around the world.  More than 400 attendees from 11 different countries participated in last year’s Conference.  There were 30-plus airports represented, including small, medium, and large hub airports.

Airports Going Green creates an atmosphere that advances federal, regional, and educational partnerships. The Conference provides an opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned across the aviation industry with stakeholders in the U.S. and around the world including airports, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), airlines, concessions and tenants, consultants, construction managers, governmental agencies, and others.

The 2014 Conference featured more than 20 sessions, 70 speakers, 40 sponsors, 20 exhibitors, and 10 local businesses. Highlights included a “Sustainable Fabrics Fashion Show” featuring recycled airline seat fabric, the industry’s first and only “zero waste” conference, more than $38,000 donated to the Airports Going Green Sustainability Education Fund, a sustainable foods happy hour, the Airports Going Green Awards, and an electric vehicle test drive on future O’Hare Runway 10R-28L.

The CDA is also pleased to announce that United Airlines has agreed to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Conference. United is a longstanding sponsor and supporter of the Conference. Last year, United donated airline seat fabric used by the Fashion Studies Department at Columbia College Chicago to create fashion designs for the 2014 “Sustainable Fabrics Fashion Show.” United staff also participated on a panel describing their weather resiliency planning and future aviation sustainability considerations.

United Airlines’ Eco-Skies program affirms its commitment to operating sustainability. As a founding member of the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative (MASBI), United is continually working to support aviation biofuels and to improve aircraft fuel efficiency. For its efforts in this area, the airline received the World Bio Markets Award for Excellence in Advanced Biofuels on March 2, 2015.  It was also awarded the Global Business Travel Association Foundation’s Sustainability Outstanding Achievement Award in 2014; was named Air Transport World magazine’s Eco-Aviation Airline of the Year Gold Winner in 2013; and was awarded an Airports Going Green Award in 2011.

Visit for more information.

South Korea Will Host World EcoMobility Festival

Located 30km from South Korea’s capital of Seoul, Suwon is one of the fast-growing Asian cities battling with mounting urban challenges associated with climate change, including road nightmares.

The road to a sustainable future requires sustainable transportation alternatives. Suwon, South Korea will become a showcase for case studies and best practices in September.
The road to a sustainable future requires sustainable transportation alternatives. Suwon, South Korea will become a showcase for case studies and best practices in September.

But the city is determined to bid farewell to bottle-neck traffics and congestion, as well as the energy and pollution problems associated with urban transportation. This September, Suwon will host the EcoMobility World Festival with ICLEI and UN-Habitat.

Held in Suwon, South Korea from 1 to 30 September 2013, the EcoMobility World Festival 2013 offers a peek into the ecomobile city of the future by transforming an urban neighborhood into a people-oriented environment.

By designating one of the most crowded neighborhoods Haenggung-dong as a car-free zone for an entire month, where the world’s most cutting edge sustainable vehicles will also be showcased, the city will demonstrate to cities worldwide that alternative – eco-friendly, healthy and resource-efficient – means of transportation and lifestyle are possible in the age where climate change and its impacts are becoming more visible and relevant to the urban population.

To transform the car-centered neighborhood into a more people-friendly one, works have already been done to regenerate the city old town. For example, more trees have been planted and footpaths were widened to create more space for pedestrians. During the Festival, these usually crowded streets will also see ecomobile vehicles running on designated lanes, while all kinds of cultural activities, concerts, street art, bike and film shows will take place in other parts of the Festival area.

Describing the Festival as a meaningful attempt to create an “alternative urban transportation system that does not rely on fossil fuel in an era of oil depletion”, Yeom Tae-Young, Mayor of Suwon City, is calling his fellow citizens to change their mindsets and help create a greener and more sustainable community by adopting an ecomobile lifestyle – but also to cities worldwide, where heavy traffics are happening daily and costing commuters a huge amount of time and financial costs, not to mention the environmental costs that we have already been paying for decades.

To learn more, please visit Find out how you can participate now!

Korea A Leader In Sustainability

Korea was among the first countries to support green growth as a national development strategy, and it is spreading its green philosophy and knowledge. Few countries are as committed to growing in an environmentally sustainable manner as Korea.

When President Lee Myung-bak was inaugurated in 2008, he hailed “low carbon, green growth” as the nation’s new guiding economic development philosophy, stressing that environmental stewardship can be an engine for economic growth.

“If we make up our minds before others and take action, we will be able to lead green growth and take the initiative in creating a new civilization,” Lee said in his speech. And his government has followed through.

Korea was among the first countries to enshrine green growth in its national development strategy. During the global financial crisis in 2008, the country dedicated 80% of its fiscal stimulus plan to green growth projects, particularly infrastructure and transportation. In 2009, it announced plans to invest US$85 billion in clean energy technologies and implementing its green growth plan, estimated to create more than one million new jobs and bolster a clean-tech export industry. That emphasis on environmental sustainability is partly credited for Korea’s early recovery from the economic crisis.

As part of its Five-Year Plan, implemented in 2009, Korea committed 2% of its GDP through 2013 to create a knowledge and technological foundation to sustain a green growth economy for generations. The investment fuels some ambitious goals, including:

  • Developing the world’s first nationwide “smart grid” system by 2030.
  • Increasing the country’s renewable energy to 11% of energy supplies by 2030.
  • Reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2020.
  • Building 1 million green homes by 2020.

The emphasis on green growth doesn’t stop at the border. For the past decade, Korea also has been out front in helping to forge the path to green growth, and it is further committed to playing a bridging role between advanced and emerging countries in preparing for post-industrial means of producing wealth and reducing poverty.

Shifting Course

Korea’s economic development during the last century was swift, but it initially overlooked the environment.

Korea moved from an impoverished, war-torn country to an economic powerhouse and the world’s 15th largest economy in less than 50 years. It used an aggressive export policy to become one of the world’s most competitive economies, dominant in automobile manufacturing, ship-building and electronics. It is also became a case study of the need to change historical patterns of production and consumption, and to more efficiently use and manage natural resources. Korea’s meteoric growth lifted living standards, but its greenhouse gas emissions almost doubled between 1990 and 2005, the highest growth rate among OECD countries.

Today, Korea is showcasing green growth in action and is aiming to be a leader in green technology.

In Songdo, for example, Korea is building a digitally-connected city that comprehensively intertwines physical and technological infrastructure on 1,500 acres.

Seoul. Credit: Adam Inglis (cc)Water from the mountains reaches Seoul before exiting into the Han River. This stream had been filled with earth and covered with a road. Credit: Adam Inglis (cc)

Designed to set the standard for urban centers and become a regional trading hub, Songdo might be one of the first truly “smart” cities in the world. It embodies the need to build up rather than out to reduce costly road construction, reliance on single-person transportation, productivity loss, pollution and wasted energy. Grey water from baths and sinks will be recycled on-site; and a subway system, water taxi fleet, bike and car sharing services, and buses powered by renewable energy fuel cells are designed to limit traffic.

Spreading Green Growth

Korea is also leading by example. It has quadrupled its foreign assistance budget since 2000, to US$800 million in 2009, and it has pledged to boost financing of green energy, conservation and development projects to 30 percent of the total aid budget by 2020.

Some of its outreach efforts include:

Technology: Developing countries suffer disproportionate losses from storms and weather-related natural disasters, due in part to a lack of adequate of forecasting capability. This is especially true in Sri Lanka, which has been ravaged by landslides, flooding and a tsunami. Knowing what the weather is going to be like has a great bearing on human activity patterns, for engineers and public safety officials to devise solutions and sound alerts, deciding when to plant, irrigate and harvest or head out to sea to fish.

The Korean government recently finalized the installation of a COMS (Communications, Ocean and Meteorological Satellite) system to help Sri Lanka by allowing officials to share data, analysis, and forecasting capability.

The system is part of the East Asia Climate Partnership, a US$200 million initiative announced in 2008 to bring Korea’s know how and resources to foster green growth, adaptation and improved resource management to developing countries.

Water: Azerbaijan is plagued by upstream industrial pollution of the Kura-Araks River and insufficient groundwater resources. Only 50 percent of the population has access to piped water. The Korea International Cooperation Agency has pledged to build reservoirs and treatment facilities that will clean, recycle and better manage water resources for more than 300,000 people.

The aid agency is also committed to sharing water management technology and constructing dams and irrigation channels needed to efficiently and effectively sustain agricultural production in the Philippines, where agricultural production has decreased dramatically due to sustained drought.

Policy Advice: The Global Green Growth Institute is an outgrowth of President Lee Myung-bak’s commitment to next generation energy sources and technologies in order create the kind of growth necessary to stamp out poverty without a heavy environmental footprint. The institute’s catalyzes innovation from subnational and sectoral sources, offering a policy laboratory intersection for leaders of industry, finance, academia and government.

Another center, the OECD Korea Policy Center, established in 2007, fuses the expertise of four disciplines to provide tax, economic, governance and health policy advice to enhance the competitiveness of developing nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

“As responsible members of the global village, we have an obligation to work together in order to fight climate change, and take action to make sustained prosperity on Earth possible, not only for the current generation, but also for generations to come,” Korea’s Presidential Committee on Green Growth states on its website. “The future of our nations today, and of humanity tomorrow, depends on how we respond to climate change now.”

Largest Real Estate Company Attracts Tenants With Sustainability Systems

As e-commerce siphons an ever-larger portion of retail sales, what keeps businesses and consumers congregating at shopping malls?

For Simon Property Group, the largest real estate company in the world with approximately 326 retail properties in North America and Asia, at least part of the answer is tied its innovative sustainability agenda.

Eco amenities can help attract tenants and shoppers.
Eco amenities can help attract tenants and shoppers.

By testing groundbreaking new energy-efficiency and waste-management processes, for example, the mall operator hopes to encourage successful retailers to take up residence because their operating costs might be lower in a Simon Property than elsewhere.

“These systems range from very simple to very complicated, but the common theme is how can we make it easier for our tenants,” said George Caraghiaur, Simon Property Group’s senior vice president of sustainability.

Energy management systems have been installed across a large portion of its facilities, which cover a massive 245 million square feet. Daylight harvesting technology helps handle tasks such as turning lights on and off when appropriate, while telematics applications are being deployed to help malls automate their cooling and heating settings according to ever-changing variables, such as outside air humidity. The team also is evaluating its demand-response options, in order to earn price breaks when utilities face peak load situations.

Managers can access all of the data that Simon Property collects so they can compare consumption to other sites.

Aside from what it can do for tenants, Simon Property seeks to attract the sort of shopper who cares about his or her individual environmental footprint. One demonstration is its substantial investment in electric-vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, meant to help assuage lingering range anxiety associated with EVs.

“Malls are somewhere between work and home, so it’s a natural place to put them,” he said. “If people come to the mall, they will spend time here.”

Caraghiaur is the first to acknowledge that some programs Simon Property is trying are challenging and unproven, which is one reason the company lets individual property managers take the lead when tackling new initiatives. But two ongoing pilot programs make it clear the company is willing to take risks.

In North Carolina, for example, the Concord Mills outlet mall has created a dedicated “Plastic Room” where a hydraulic baler is used to compress clear packaging materials such as shrink wrap, garment bags and other shipping materials generated by the local retailers and notoriously difficult to sort out. Local partners pick up the 160-pound bales at regular intervals for recycling.

Over the past six months, 140 retailers at the Concord Mills site have helped the mall staff collect about 20,000 pounds of materials, diverting it from landfills, according to Caraghiaur.

One big challenge was figuring out where to install the baler and store the bales.

“Most malls are designed to house tenants and make the shoppers’ lives comfortable, but they are not necessarily configured to make it easy to do recycling,” he said.

The plan is to collect a year’s worth of data to document costs versus benefits. That information will be used to identify other locations where similar projects might be feasible.

“Our goal is to learn what issues we will face,” Caraghiaur said. “In the end, we will take the lessons learned and apply them elsewhere.”

Simon Property has been aggressive in installing charging stations as a perk for EV drivers, placing about 100 systems at more than 40 properties so far, mirroring EV adoption trends.


It hasn’t stopped there: Its location in Carmel, Ind., agreed in early 2013 to test a first-of-its-kind system developed by several technology companies, including Toshiba, Duke Energy, ITOCHU Corp., Tom Wood Automotive Group and Indiana’s clean tech program, called Energy Systems Network.

The fast-charging system relies on 10 kilowatts (10 kW) of solar generating capacity and it comes with an integrated, 75-kW battery from Toshiba to store that power, so the chargers still work when it’s cloudy or after dark.

Simon Property doesn’t charge for usage. Instead, Caraghiaur said, it views the chargers as an amenity for shoppers who happen to be parked at the mall.


Innovative Urban Planning in Singapore

As competition for resources increases and urban populations expand, Singapore embraces sustainable development.

Singapore is one of the cleanest and most efficient cities/countries in the world.
Singapore is one of the cleanest and most efficient cities/countries in the world.

Singapore has been a model for urban efficiency for years. Cities around the world can learn a great deal from this city state.

Cities cover just 2 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet consume about 75 percent of the world’s resources, and given that more of the world’s population now live in cities than in rural areas, it’s clear they are key to tackling climate change and reducing resource use.

Urban administrators face huge challenges to make cities more sustainable. From traffic jams and inefficient buildings to social inequality and housing, the problems are complex and hard to tackle — but not insurmountable.

Some cities are forging ahead with the use of innovative urban planning, technological and governance models, showing that with the right focus and resources, cities can become smarter and more sustainable.

According to the latest Siemens’ Green City Index for Asia, Singapore is the best-performing city in the region, when measured against a range of sustainability criteria.

“Singapore is at the leading edge of sustainability,” says Nicholas You, chairman of the World Urban Campaign Steering Committee at UN-Habitat. “It’s an island state with limited resources so it had no choice but to go green if it wanted to survive economically.”

Singapore’s experiences have important lessons for other urban centers. Take its water treatment. In 1963, water functionality was shared between multiple ministries and agencies, which made it difficult to formulate a coordinated, long-term strategy.

With a rising population and finite freshwater resources, action was needed, so ministers set up a national water agency, PUB, which became the sole body responsible for the collection, production, distribution and reclamation of water in the city.

Today, its water operation has been transformed. Two thirds of Singapore’s land surface is now a water catchment area with water stored in 17 reservoirs, including the Marina Basin, right in the heart of the city.

Called NEWater, waste water is collected and treated to produce water that’s good enough to drink. This meets 30 percent of the city’s water needs, a target that will be increased to 50 percent of future needs by 2060.

Earlier this year, Siemens was contracted to identify CO2 reduction opportunities in transport, residential and non-industrial buildings, and IT/communications in the Tampines district.

As part of the city’s plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030, Siemens will report back in 2013 with implementation costs, a plan to implement the changes and the design of pilots to trail three technological solutions.

“This will be a good test-bed for new technologies to prove what we can do,” says Dr Roland Busch, Siemens’ CEO of infrastructure and cities sector. “It’s a way to demonstrate in the highly competitive environment that is Singapore, that we can bring energy efficiency to the next level in addressing all the basic needs of cities.”

EDF and Veolia recently signed an agreement with Singapore’s Housing Development Board (HDB), the city-state’s largest developer, to develop software that will help it develop sustainable, urban planning solutions in HDB towns.

ForCity will simulate the built environment of a city and its impact on resources, the environment, people and intervention costs to help the HDB make its towns function more efficiently and become more pleasant to live in. The tool will be trialed in the Jurong East district of Singapore.

Transport is another sector that has seen investment recently. On an island of 4.8 million people with limited space, moving people around as efficiently as possible is key to its economic viability. A decade ago, city administrators warned that congestion could cost Singapore’s economy $2-3 billion per year, if transport infrastructure was not improved.

Then, there were two separate transport-charging systems in the city: road tolls and public transport, including the metro and buses. But since 2009, after a series of smart card innovations, people have been able to use e-Symphony, an IBM-designed payment card that can be used to pay for road tolls, bus travel, taxis, the metro, and even shopping.

The card can process 20 million fare transactions a day and collects extensive traffic data, allowing city administrators to constantly tweak routes to ensure the most efficient journeys and minimize congestion.

All these measures combine to make Singapore a smarter city. “What we have done is to research and try to distill the principles for Singapore’s success in sustainable urban development – we call it a live-ability framework,” says Khoo Teng Chye, executive director at the Centre for Liveable Cities based in Singapore.

“Quality of life, environmental sustainability and competitive economics. These are the components that make cities liveable.”

As the competition for resources increases and cities expand to accommodate rising populations, even those without the geographic constraints of Singapore will have to embrace smart city principles. If they don’t, they will lose out financially, unable to attract businesses and talent from cities that do. The planet simply can’t sustain current levels of resource use and environmental degradation. It’s not a choice; cities have to change.

Cities Must Drive Sustainable Transportion

City leaders under pressure to deliver sustainable transportation

Cities account for more than half of the world’s population—by 2050, they will hold 75 percent of us. These people–increasingly from the middle class–will need ways to commute to work, travel, and carry out their livelihoods.

alternative transportation
Oakland’s magic bus–zero emissions.

At the same time, 1.27 million people die from traffic accidents every year—about half of these fatalities occur in cities. Even more people die due to respiratory disease fueled by air pollution. Cities also account for about 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, much of which is transportation-related. Cities face a huge challenge: provide reliable, safe, and affordable transportation systems that can benefit both people and planet. Meeting this challenge is a topic we discussed at length during the 10th annual Transforming Transportation conference in Washington, D.C. The two-day event looked at the various ways to scale up sustainable transportation and share lessons learned. Examples of city leadership were featured prominently throughout the event—and can serve as inspiration for how urban centers can meet transportation challenges.

Cities Lead On Developing Sustainable Transport Systems

Examples of cities taking the lead on sustainable transport are numerous. Beijing has built the longest metro in the world, moving 5.97 million people every single day. In China, Wuhan and Huanghzou have built the two largest bike-sharing programs in the world, surpassing Paris’s Vélib, with 90,000 and 60,600 bikes respectively. In Turkey, Istanbul pedestrianized 256 streets in its Historic Peninsula between 2010 and 2012. And we are now seeing 147 cities with bus rapid transit (BRT) and bus corridors around the globe, moving 25 million passengers every day. Some cities are even being recognized as global leaders in sustainable transport. Last week, Mexico City’s former mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, received the Sustainable Transport Award, and Eduardo Paes, received the honorable mention as Rio de Janeiro’s mayor. With assistance from EMBARQ, Mexico City implemented a BRT system to deal with the city’s mass congestion and high number of traffic-related deaths. The recent Transforming Transportation conference discussed ways to scale up sustainable transport systems across the world.

Investing in the Right Transport Systems

Despite progress in cities across the globe, every day, investment decisions are still being made at the international, national, local, and individual levels that threaten to lock new and existing cities into unsustainable transportation patterns. Because driving a car is what most policymakers experience on a daily basis, building more roads or wider roads is oftentimes considered a transport solution. Examples of sprawl and congestion are numerous in the developed world. This “business as usual” approach comes at a high cost—for people, economies, and the planet. Sustainable transportation decisions must be scaled up and expanded so that cities don’t get locked into infrastructure that pollutes, generates economic loss, limits opportunities, and endangers lives. An example of sustainable vs. unsustainable transport can be seen when you compare Beijing and Shanghai. Both cities have 20 million inhabitants. But while Shanghai decided early to invest in public transport and to limit the number of cars allowed in the city, Beijing did not. Beijing now has 76 percent more cars on its streets than Shanghai, amounting to a whopping 5.3 million vehicles. This heavy car load creates congestion, air pollution, endangers pedestrians and drivers, and generally diminishes quality of life in the city. Recognizing how unsustainable its transport system is, Beijing is now investing heavily in mass transit and taking action to limit its car sales – a major step forward in a country that ranks as the largest market for automobiles in the world. We cannot repeat this mistake on a global scale as existing and future cities consider their transportation options.

The Road—Or Bus Corridor—Ahead

Many cities around the world have already made great progress on embracing sustainable transportation. It’s important that these cities continue to move forward, and that decision makers at the local, state, national, and international levels empower other urban centers to make the right choices. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a coalition of leaders from megacities around the world that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is one initiative making great gains. EMBARQ recently partnered with C40 to further their mutual goals of combating climate change by scaling up sustainable transit systems. This partnership—and others like it across the world—can help ensure that cities continue to move sustainable transport forward. As the visionary former mayor of Curitiba and WRI board member, Jaime Lerner, says, “cities are the solution, not the problem.”

Sustainable Transport Award Honors Mexico City

Sustainability Lessons From Mexico City

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) announced C40 city Mexico City as the winner of the 2013 Sustainable Transport Award. Together with a committee of international transportation and development experts, the Institute recognized the city’s achievements in its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, parking program, cycling and walking infrastructure, and improvements to public spaces.

mexico city transportation award
Mexico City earns prestigious transportation award.

Mexico City’s BRT system in particular stands out as an example of how effective transit systems can transform cities.

“Mexico City was like a patient sick with heart disease, its streets were some of the most congested in the world”, says Walter Hook, CEO of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, “In the last year, Mexico City extended its great Metrobus BRT system straight through the narrow congested streets of its spectacular historical core, rebuilt public parks and plazas, expanded bike sharing and bike lanes, and pedestrianized streets. With the blood flowing again, Mexico City’s urban core has been transformed from a forgotten, crime ridden neighborhood into a vital part of Mexico City’s future.”

Established in 2005, the award is presented cities for visionary developments and leadership in the transit and urban livability sectors. Another C40 city – Rio de Janeiro – received an honorable mention this year. Past C40 member winners have included San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Seoul and Bogotá.

Transport in Mexico City is managed by the government of the Mexican Federal District through several public companies that administer the different means of transportation. The government of Mexico City operates the second busiest publicly owned transit system in North America after New York City, if private operators (which carry about 60% of the traffic) are included, the Mexico City passenger transport system handles about twice the passengers of the New York MTA. Often, ridership figures given for Mexico City do not include suburban traffic in Mexico City’s four massive bus terminals, each of which is similar in size to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

Oakland’s Zero Emission Bus

Transportation Part Of Sustainable Infrastructure

The buses are 40-foot-long behemoths, but they glide along downtown streets as silently as sleds coasting over snow; passersby barely turn their heads. The local AC Transit agency, which serves Oakland, Berkeley and other East Bay cities, hopes its fleet of three hydrogen-powered buses—the largest in the nation—will help to leave the environment just as undisturbed.

Oakland's green bus.
Oakland’s magic bus–zero emissions.

Jaimie Levin, AC Transit’s director of alternative-fuels policy, had his conversion experience in 1999 when he attended a demonstration. “I couldn’t believe the potential for addressing environmental-health issues,” he says. “The only emission from this bus was water vapor.” When the California Air Resources Board passed a regulation in 2000 requiring transit agencies to switch to cleaner buses, AC Transit had the impetus it needed to start a project. Over the next few years, it amassed more than $12 million in grants and forged partnerships with multiple companies that helped them design the hydrogen-powered buses. The first buses took to the streets in 2005, and the fleet should grow to eight in 2009.

Although the buses substantially reduce transit pollution (diesel buses emit 130 tons of carbon dioxide per year), initiatives like AC Transit’s remain largely showcase projects.

Custom components drive the price of each bus to $2 million, more than five times the cost of diesel buses. Levin believes this will change if U.S. authorities throw their full political and financial weight behind hydrogen—which seems a more feasible goal now that the Federal Transit Administration has started parceling out $49 million in research grants for fuel-cell buses. “Ultimately, this becomes a public-policy decision,” he says. “We can bring costs down by building the buses on a large scale, and local governments can help accelerate that.


In Many Cities, It’s Not Easy Being Green

(This article is from the New York Times in 2008. How far have we come since then?)

February 7, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. — This urban suburb of Washington seems well-prepared for a leading role in the green revolution embraced by hundreds of the nation’s cities, counties and towns.

For decades, Arlington County’s development has been consciously clustered around its subway line. There is abundant open space to plant thousands of trees. Residents also seem eager to cut back on their own energy use.

Jose R. Fernandez, who moved here last year and works at the nearby national headquarters of the National Guard, chose to settle in Arlington because he does not need a car. “I can go anywhere on the bus,” Mr. Fernandez said, “or I can ride my bike anywhere.”

But even in Arlington, county officials are reckoning with the fact that though green is the dream, the shade of civic achievement is closer to olive drab. Constraints on budgets, legal restrictions by states, and people’s unwillingness to change sometimes put brakes on ambitious plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Emissions are stubborn things. In Arlington, emissions per capita are now 15 tons annually and rising. In Sonoma County, Calif., the figure is close to nine tons. Arlington is not alone in bumping up against obstacles.

“We have been doing things like filling potholes and reducing crime since cities began,” said David N. Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., but energy efficiency requires “a whole new infrastructure to evaluate and measure.”

When Providence officials pushed for new police cars with four cylinders instead of six, to save gasoline, there was pushback — unsuccessful — from police officers who preferred more powerful engines to pursue speeders or criminals. Cleveland’s plans to retrofit a local hot-water plant, produce new electricity and save tons of greenhouse gas emissions, molder in a file. It would cost $200 million, and there is no money — the tax base, left ragged by the loss of population and industry over the last two decades, has been hit hard again by the subprime mortgage crisis.

Nearly 1,200 miles away, in Austin, Tex., — a city that ranks high on any list of green strivers — some residents want to help but do not feel they can afford it. DeVonna Garcia’s family won an award for its beautiful outdoor display of Christmas lights — but she stayed with her old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, hearing that a friend paid $600 for energy-efficient lights.

Ann Hancock, the executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a nonprofit based in Sonoma County, a wine-growing area north of San Francisco, said that the county and its nine municipalities signed climate-protection agreements with enthusiasm more than five years ago, committing to bringing down greenhouse-gas emissions. Then they tried to figure out how.

“It’s really hard,” Ms. Hancock said. “It’s like the dark night of the soul.” All the big items in the inventory of emissions — from tailpipes, from the energy needed to supply drinking water and treat waste water, from heating and cooling buildings — are the product of residents’ and businesses’ individual decisions about how and where to live and drive and shop.

“They’ve seen the Al Gore movie, but they still have their lifestyle to contend with,” she said.

“We need to get people out of their cars, and we can’t under the present circumstances,” because of the limited alternative in public transportation, Ms. Hancock said. And the county’s many older homes are not very good at keeping in the cool air in the summer or the warm air in winter. “How do you go back and retrofit all of those?” she asked.

County governments are also finding that homeowners’ associations can be troublesome. Carbondale, Colo., would welcome people like Adam and Rachel Connor, who bought a lot in a subdivision outside town and made plans for a house with solar panels. But the homeowners’ association vetoed the proposal on aesthetic grounds. Such associations have rejected solar projects from Southern California to the Chicago suburbs to Phoenix, prompting at least two states to pass laws prohibiting such vetoes.

“Unrealistic and unreasonable expectations,” Ms. Connor said, “should not stand in the way of us taking climate change seriously and taking control of energy security with our own hands.”

Arlington, Providence and more than 300 other communities in the United States are members of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, which has developed software to help them determine the quantity of greenhouse gases their municipalities emit. They are still trying to figure it all out. Reductions and remedies are harder still.

Regional politics render ideas that are embraced in some cities unthinkable in others. In Burlington, Vt., and Berkeley, Calif., there are local laws requiring that people who are selling their homes upgrade the energy efficiency to meet current standards, whether by adding thicker insulation to the pipes, replacing the windows or putting in an energy-saving water heater. (The maximum amount to be spent is determined by the selling price of the house.)

Would the idea fly in, say, Cleveland? On a statewide level, “politically, it would be a non-starter,” said Andrew Watterson, the program director of Cleveland’s office of sustainability. “Legally, I’m not sure if we could do it” because of state limits on local taxing powers, Mr. Watterson said.

But Cleveland’s mayor, Frank G. Jackson, has backed the redevelopment of three old city neighborhoods in accordance with blueprints established by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program (for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.) Mr. Watterson said he hoped this sort of project would encourage a reverse migration of families who seek livable, walkable communities.

Arlington County is not having a problem attracting residents who are partial to the idea of a green revolution. But in the outer sections of Arlington, the problem is aging houses with inadequate insulation and inefficient appliances.

“We have an old house,” said Kevin Clark, who is 41 and a professor of instructional technology at George Mason University. “We got double-paned glass. We could feel the air coming in through those nice wood frames.”

Between the $13,000 cost of that repair and the money for a new refrigerator and other appliances, energy efficiencies have cost Mr. Clark and his family about $18,000. Though they have cut monthly electric bills, he is not sure how much he is saving.

Among the county’s biggest roadblocks in its effort to reduce emissions are the strict legal limits on Arlington officials. The state government in Richmond has the final authority in setting building codes, for instance. Like Cleveland, Arlington cannot require a house’s energy systems be upgraded when the house is sold. And Arlington cannot require commercial builders to install more insulation and more efficient heating, cooling and lighting systems than the state does.

As J. Walter Tejada, the chairman of Arlington County’s governing board, said, “Sometimes I think that even when you’re sneezing you need to ask the Legislature for permission.”

Laura Fiffick, the director of the office of environmental quality in Dallas — one vehicle in four is a pickup truck in Texas — said, “How do you reach an individual citizen and tell them: Everybody makes a difference.”

She added: “A lot of cities have said, ‘We’re going to be carbon-neutral by 2020.’ To me, the idea is to figure out what emissions we are going to go after and what we can do and then set the goal. When you set the bar too high, it becomes demotivating.”