Cities Can Offset Carbon Footprint With Reforestation

Program Includes Urban Forestry

The Kilimanjaro region of East Africa is one of the most threatened ecosystems on earth. Millions of people and several endangered species depend on the snows and rains of Kilimanjaro for survival. As land use encroaches further into local forests, water flows are changing and conflicts with wildlife are rising. A nonprofit organization in Tanzania hopes to reverse those trends with a comprehensive forest conservation, reforestation and community-engagement program.

reforestation and climate change

The Mellowswan Foundation Africa-Tanzania will defend the greater Kilimanjaro ecosystem with more than 10 million new seedlings, community engagement, wildlife conservation strategies and more. They will educate local stakeholders about sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife management. Unlike past reforestation efforts in the region, it will focus on local needs and long-term sustainability. The seedlings are indigenous species that can help restore and protect the integrity of the ecosystem, while helping rural communities thrive as stewards of the land.

Unfortunately, forests across the region are retreating under the pressures of agriculture and communities that depend on firewood.

Climate change is impacting every continent. Deforestation and intensive agriculture are contributing to the problem. Fortunately, forest conservationreforestation, and sustainable agriculture are part of the solution.

carbon capture and reforestation

The foundation plans to save wildlife, capture carbon and reduce deforestation on a massive scale. This investment will benefit the entire planet, while preserving a world treasure.

water conservation

“Cities can help sponsor the program and claim the carbon credits as one of the many benefits,” said Gary Chandler, founder of Sacred Seedlings, a global coalition that promotes forest conservation, reforestation and coexistence with wildlife. “This is much more than a carbon capture program. Our sponsors will help defend entire ecosystems.”

For more information about reforestation across East Africa and beyond, please visit

reforestation and climate change solution

public affairs and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting sustainable, resilient and livable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at to join our network.

Frankfurt A Model For Sustainability

Most Cities Failing On Sustainability

Cities around the world are failing to meet the needs of their people, according to the inaugural Sustainable Cities Index. However, on a broad scale that measures people, planet and profit, Frankfurt is the world’s most sustainable city. London is the runner up.

The research was conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research. It examines 50 cities from 31 countries ranking them across a range of indicators to estimate the sustainability of each city. The cities included in the study were selected to provide a sampling of the planet’s greenest cities.

sustainable Frankfurt green city

The 2015 report finds that no utopian city exists, with city leaders having to manage a complex balancing act between the three pillars of sustainability (people, planet and profit). The overall Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index ranks the cities as follows:

  1. Frankfurt
  2. London
  3. Copenhagen
  4. Amsterdam
  5. Rotterdam
  6. Berlin
  7. Seoul
  8. Hong Kong
  9. Madrid
  10. Singapore
  11. Sydney
  12. Toronto
  13. Brussels
  14. Manchester
  15. Boston
  16. Paris
  17. Melbourne
  18. Birmingham
  19. Chicago
  20. New York
  21. Houston
  22. Philadelphia
  23. Tokyo
  24. Rome
  25. Washington
  26. Kuala Lumpur
  27. San Francisco
  28. Los Angeles
  29. Dallas
  30. Santiago
  31. Sao Paulo
  32. Mexico City
  33. Dubai
  34. Abu Dhabi
  35. Shanghai
  36. Istanbul
  37. Johannesburg
  38. Buenos Aires
  39. Beijing
  40. Rio de Janeiro
  41. Doha
  42. Moscow
  43. Jeddah
  44. Riyadh
  45. Jakarta
  46. Manila
  47. Mumbai
  48. Wuhan
  49. New Delhi
  50. Nairobi

The index takes into account 20 different indicators ranging from green space to income inequality to ease of doing business.

sustainable Amsterdam

Although mature cities achieve the best balance, they cannot rely on historic investment. In a rapidly urbanizing world, the way in which cities are planned, built, operated and redefined has a huge social, environmental and economic impact.

Arcadis defines a sustainable city as one that works well for their citizens in the present without causing problems for themselves and the rest of the world in the future.

Roughly half of Frankfurt’s surface area is green, according to the city’s environment department, which notes that 52 percent of the city area has been set aside for recreation and to offset climate change. It consists of parks, woodland, farmland, orchard meadows, grassland, allotments and hobby gardens, cemeteries, roadside grass verges and bodies of water.

Frankfurt also is a founding member of the Climate Alliance of European Cities, pledging to continuously reduce its carbon emissions by 10 percent every five years, resulting in a 50 percent cut by 2030.

Across the world, cities are performing better for being sustainable for Profit and Planet purposes than they are for People factors. Many of the world’s economic powerhouses are becoming less affordable for their citizens, with the cost of property in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong penalizing their rankings. There is also a tradeoff globally between strong education and poor work-life balance, particularly demonstrated in Hong Kong.

“City leaders need to find ways to balance the demands of generating strong financial returns, being an attractive place for people to live and work, while limiting their damage to the environment. To truly understand how sustainable a city is, we must understand how it ranks in People, Planet and Profit. Only then can city leaders act to assess their priorities, and the pathway to urban sustainability – for the good of all,” said John Batten, Global Cities Director at Arcadis, which produced the new urban index.

For more information about the Sustainable Cities Index, visit

Beijing Smog Sparks First Red Alert

Schools, Factories Close As Millions Of Vehicles Forced To Park

Beijing has issued its first pollution red alert as acrid smog enveloped the Chinese capital for the second time this month. The alert will begin at 7am on Tuesday and should see millions of vehicles forced off the roads, factories and construction sites shut down and schools and nurseries advised to close.

air pollution Beijing

“It is history – this is a precedent set,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public an Environmental Affairs in Beijing. “This is extremely important to stop children from being exposed to such a high level of pollution.”

Chinese authorities faced fierce criticism last week when they failed to issue a red alert even as Beijing’s residents choked on smog levels that in some areas rose to 40 times those considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

Greenpeace complained that the government’s insufficient alerting system compounded the effects of Beijing’s latest “airpocalypse,” in which readings of the hazardous airborne particle PM2.5 exceed 900 micrograms per cubic meter in some parts of the city.

Monday’s emergency announcement appeared in part to be a reaction to those criticisms. Ma Jun said it would have been a “very tough decision” for China’s leaders to declare the red alert in a city of about 23 million inhabitants.


“It is going to involve some very challenging actions like stopping half of the cars. In a city with more than five million cars you can imagine that is going to be a big challenge,” he said. “It is not about the political or financial cost, first and foremost it is about the great difficulty in trying to organize such an emergency response.

“But this will definitely help protect people’s health. With the red alert, primary schools, middle schools and kindergartens will be [advised] to stop having class. This will be very helpful in preventing extra exposure of the most vulnerable group of people to the air pollution hazards.”

Chinese state media said the latest bout of pollution would linger over Beijing until Thursday, when rain is expected to clear away the toxic smog. “Coal-fired power plants are the major culprit at this point,” said Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

Last year the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, vowed to declare war on pollution, but despite such pledges smog continues to blight cities right across the country. Scientists blame air pollution for about 4,000 deaths a day.

Ma Jun said Beijing’s first red alert underlined how serious the smog problem remained. “It just shows that air pollution is still a very big challenge to the city of Beijing and that the government has paid greater attention to this issue,” he said.

air pollution China

The crisis is even more severe in the regions surrounding Beijing, where hundreds of millions of tons of coal are still being burned each year even as the capital tries to slash its use of the fossil fuel.

Ma Jun said government action in those places was also needed in order to solve Beijing’s smog problem. “Beijing actually isn’t even in the top 10 polluting cities in the region [any more]. There are others which are significantly more polluting,” he said.

Sustainable City News via

Living Near Trees Is Good For Your Health

Neighborhood Green Space Good For Mental, Physical Health

Studies have shown that natural environments can enhance health. But how much could a tree in the street or a nearby neighborhood park improve our health? Several scientists examined this issue by studying the relationship between health and neighborhood green space. They compared the impacts of trees along streets vs. tree canopy in parks and private residences.

urban trees and public health
Trees make people in urban environments feel, healthier, wealthier and younger.

It is a known fact that urban trees improve air quality, reduce cooling and heating energy use, and make urban environments aesthetically more preferable. Importantly, several studies have shown that exposure to green spaces can be psychologically and physiologically restorative by promoting mental health, reducing non-accidental mortality, reducing physician assessed-morbidity, reducing income-related health inequality’s effect on morbidity, reducing blood pressure and stress levels, reducing sedentary leisure time, as well as promoting physical activity. In addition, green space may enhance psychological and cardio-vascular benefits of physical activity, as compared with other settings.

Moreover, experimental research has demonstrated that interacting with natural environments can have beneficial effects – after brief exposures – on memory and attention for healthy individuals and for patient populations. In addition, having access to views of natural settings (from a home or a hospital bed, for example) have been found to reduce crime and aggression and improve recovery from surgery.

Although many studies have shown that natural environments enhance health or encourage healthy behaviors, to our knowledge, fewer studies have quantified the relationship between individual trees and health. In addition, studies have not separately estimated the treed area beside the streets and other urban green spaces and related those variables to individuals’ health in various domains, including cardio-metabolic conditions, mental disorders and general health perception. Knowing the kind of green space that may be associated with health benefits would be critical when deciding the type of green space that should be incorporated into built environments to improve health.

urban forests and public health

The typical method for quantifying exposure to green space for individuals in large population studies is to use the percentage of area covered in green space in an individual’s neighborhood. The size of the areas and the accuracy (and also definition) of green space quantification vary across different studies. For example, used data containing >10 m2 accuracy for green space and geographical units of 4 km2 on average in their study, Richardson et al. (2013) used >200 m2accuracy for green space and geographical units that averaged 5 km2, and used the presence of public “natural” spaces in areas within a 5 km radius from schools to quantify exposure to nature for school-aged children.

In this study, we were interested in examining green space with lower granularity (i.e., higher geographical resolution) and quantifying associations that are specific to exposure to trees, as opposed to exposures to any green space, such as grass or shrubbery. Here, our definition of green space consisted of tree canopy only and not of urban grass or bushes (or other “natural” settings). This choice is based on the assumption that trees are the most consistent green components in an area and potentially the most important component for having beneficial effects.

We also used a much higher geographical resolution for the following reasons. First, we wanted to distinguish between trees along the roads and streets versus those in domestic gardens and parks, and other open areas. To do so, we used individual tree data from the ‘Street Tree General Data’ and tree-canopy polygon data from the ‘Forest and Land Cover’ dataset to construct our green space variables. Both datasets came from the city of Toronto. Second, to ensure that the tree variables were less confounded by health insurance policies as well as demographic parameters (age, sex, education, and income), we used a single urban population (Toronto) in Canada, a country with a universal publicly funded healthcare system that, compared with the United States, guarantees access to health-care services independent of income and/or employment status.

These health-care equalities facilitate the interpretation of the relationships between individual urban trees and health in this urban population. Although financial barriers may not impede access to health care services in Canada, differential use of physician services with respect to socio-economic status persist; Canadians with lower incomes and fewer years of schooling visit specialists at a lower rate than those with moderate or high incomes and higher levels of education despite the existence of universal health care. In particular, we examined the relationship between tree canopy density beside the streets and in other areas such as parks and domestic gardens with an individual’s health.

The health variables evaluated include:

  • Overall health perception;
  • Presence of cardio-metabolic conditions such as hypertension, high blood glucose, obesity (both overweight and obese), high cholesterol, myocardiac infarction, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes; and
  • Mental health problems including major depression, anxiety, and addiction. Subjective self-rated health perception was chosen as one of the health outcomes because self-perception of health has been found to be related to morbidity and mortality rates and is a strong predictor of health status and outcomes in both clinical and community settings.

Furthermore, on the tree variable side, we distinguished tree canopy of trees beside the street from those planted in other areas, such as parks and private backyards. A distinction of these different sources of tree canopy may be helpful for urban planning policies. We hypothesized that street trees could have stronger beneficial associations with individual’s health because they may be more accessible to all residents in a given neighborhood as residents are likely exposed to street trees in their daily activities and through views from their windows.

Our results suggest that people who live in areas that have more (and/or larger) trees on the streets report better health perception. this increase in health perception is equivalent to the effect of a $10,200 increase in annual household income. This same increase in health perception is also, on average, equivalent to being 7 years younger.

Results suggest that people who live in areas that have more (and/or larger) trees on the streets report significantly fewer cardio-metabolic conditions. Results suggest that people who live in areas that have more (and/or larger) trees on the streets report significantly fewer cardio-metabolic conditions. This decrease in cardio-metabolic conditions is also, on average, equivalent to being 1.4 years younger.

The second important finding is that the health associations with tree density were not found (in a statistically reliable manner) for tree density in areas other than beside the streets and along local roads. It seems that trees that affect people most generally are those that they may have the most contact (visual or presence) with, which we are hypothesizing to be those planted along the streets. Another possible explanation could be that trees on the street may be more important to reductions in air pollution generated by traffic through dry deposition.

This does not indicate, however, that parks are not beneficial. This study only shows that planting trees along the roads may be more beneficial than planting trees in parks and private residences at least for these health measures.

Read The Full Report About Greening Our Cities:

Technical Solutions Not A Silver Bullet In Battle Against Climate Change

Economic Incentives Must Change On Many Levels

By Laurie Goering, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Dealing with climate change and its risks will require not only technical responses like drought-resilient crops and higher sea walls but also reshaping economic and political incentives that are driving global warming, scientists said on Wednesday.

“The biggest risk of all that we face is that we’re addressing the wrong problem,” University of Oslo sociologist Karen O’Brien told a week-long conference of climate researchers in Paris.

Using more renewable energy and setting up crop insurance schemes and early warning systems is important, she said. But climate change “is more than a technical challenge.” Finding genuine solutions will have to involve “looking at who has power and how that might need to change,” she said.

sustainable cities
Climate change solutions will require a different set of incentives for government, industry and consumers. Will it take crises of epic proportions to force changes?

The rush to secure oil drilling rights in the Arctic, for instance, is painted by some analysts as the potential start of a new Cold War, as countries compete to gain access to some of the planet’s last untapped oil deposits in pursuit of profit and energy security, she said. But it is happening despite science that shows a third of the world’s already discovered oil reserves – as well as half of gas reserves and 80 percent of coal reserves – must stay in the ground to avoid runaway climate change that could see food supplies collapse, O’Brien and other experts said.

Climate risks will not be tackled effectively unless such contradictions are dealt with, O’Brien said. One way to achieve that could be through people stepping up to try and change the way governments and institutions behave.

“Small changes can make big differences, and individuals, especially when working together, can generate big social change,” she said.

Bending political and economic power to solve climate problems will be difficult, but “we are transforming either way,” O’Brien said, as a world four degrees Celsius warmer – the current trajectory for 2100 – would reshape life on Earth.

trees a climate change solution

Adapting to some of the accompanying problems, including a rise in deaths from extreme heat in South Asia, would be largely impossible, she said.

Some of the biggest opportunities to put the world on a different pathway may lie in fast-growing cities, said Shobhakar Dhakal of the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand.

Already more than 70 percent of global emissions caused by energy use come from cities, according to scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. By 2050, urban areas will have 2.6 billion more people, most of them in Asia and Africa, Dhakal said.

green infrastructure
Sustainable cities are resilient cities.

If rapidly urbanizing areas can build homes close to jobs and services, while making walking and public transport good options, climate-changing emissions could be reduced dramatically, he said.

“Our ability to make deep cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions depends to a large extent on what kinds of cities and towns we build,” Dhakal said.

Real progress on climate change and reducing vulnerability to its impacts will also require efforts to coordinate a huge range of activities, including social policy, urban planning, insurance, weather monitoring and deploying the right technologies, said Nobuo Minura, president of Japan’s Ibaraki University.

Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Resilience Centre warned that “we as humanity are now in a position to disrupt the stability of the entire world by driving climate change.

Many economic and government systems have been designed around a high-emission way of doing things, he said. Now, “we need a new relationship between people and the planet.”

Greener City News via


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.

The Most Eco-Friendly Cities In The World

Earth Day Every Day In Sustainable Cities

Innovations in technology and environmental friendliness are not mutually exclusive — in fact, the smarter a city is, the more eco-friendly it can (and should) be. Since we’re always talking about the most well-connected smart cities, here is a list of cities that are doing great things for the planet, too.

sustainable cities leaders

These aren’t in any particular order, as they make various rankings every year on different lists by many organizations. There are some usual suspects, but hopefully, some cities that surprise you as well.

All 10 cities are notable for their recycling and composting programs, bike friendliness, sustainable construction, clean-tech advancements, and energy conservation.

Oslo, Norway

Several Scandinavian cities consistently rank as the greenest in the world, and one of them is Oslo, the most populous city in Norway. For many years, sustainable environmental practices have been part of this city’s plan. The government has a committee focused specifically on strategies for sustainable development, and aggressively protects wild, natural areas from development, which reduces its carbon footprint.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is one of the cleanest cities in the world and has a lot of environmental planning initiatives. The city has a goal to be free of fossil fuels by 2050. According to research from HouseTrip, 93% of residents walk, bike, or take public transportation to work.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, with a great infrastructure built for bike routes. Amsterdam is also one of the cities that conserves the most water, according to HouseTrip research. The city also has an array of eco-friendly hotels. In 2014, Cisco signed an agreement with Amsterdam to make it a green and hyper-connected place, the “Internet of Everything” city and one of Cisco’s showcase metropolises.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver is known as one of the greenest cities in North America, and is definitely the most eco-friendly in Canada. The government enacted a Greenest City 2020 Action Plan several years ago, and though many people drive, it has plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 33% by 2020, and is a world leader in its use of hydropower.

Curitiba, Brazil

On the South American Siemens Index of green cities, this is the only South American city that ranks above average in eco-friendly rankings. Curitiba has long had a rapid-transit bus system and great recycling program, and plans to build a better bus system and more bike routes. Compared to other cities in the region, it’s faring pretty well for its carbon footprint.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, Africa’s second largest city, is making some great progress environmentally. About five years ago, the country built its first wind farm, and has a goal of generating 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. It’s also very bike-friendly and has a lot of environmental initiatives in the communities.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen consistently ranks as Europe’s greenest city, with most residents living near and using public transportation, and half of them riding a bicycle for their commutes. Though it’s large in size, this makes the city’s carbon footprint relatively small. Citizens also compost and recycle, and work hard to conserve energy. Copenhagen has a plan to be carbon neutral by 2025.

San Francisco, California

Of course, San Francisco is one of the greenest cities in North America, with a 77% recycling rate and wide city regulations on recycling and composting. The city is extremely bike-friendly and is constantly ranked as one of the best cities for organic, sustainable food. The Bay Area is also the headquarters of many environmental and cleantech startups, an area of technology which is growing rapidly.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis has been on several green city lists throughout the past few years. The city has a program called Minnesota GreenStep Cities, which enacts sustainable practices and programs across the state. And with 92 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street paths, good air quality, and a nice park system, Minneapolis is both clean and eco-friendly and becoming more known for its energy conservation every year.

Freiburg, Germany

The city of Freiburg, Germany, which is on the edge of Black Forest close to Switzerland and France, has been on lists for green cities since 2008. Germany is a world leader in renewable energy, especially solar. Freiburg takes great measures to reduce energy consumption, particularly with residential homes. Apparently, home builders plan to use almost no energy and less than 40 gallons of oil to heat homes.

Sustainable City News via

Arab Future Cities Summit Next Month

Smart Solutions For Sustainable Cities

The Middle East’s premier smart cities event will take place April 13 and 14, 2015 at the Ritz-Carlton in Doha, Qatar. In its 4th year running, the event will attract over 300 senior level executives to discuss progress, efficient management of resources, future developments and ways of making future cities more efficient and resilient in the Middle East.

green cities Qatar
Qatar is making sustainability a priority. It’s a leader in the region and the world.

The Middle East is at the forefront of developing Smart City Solutions to meet the rising demand for energy and resources from a large and growing urban population. The region’s transition from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy is further fueling the concept of smart cities.

Smart Cities enhance quality of life through integration of ICT within the infrastructure framework. Upon successful implementation, smart cities will not only boost commercial and capital investments but will be the best approach for reducing the tremendous strain on the present day infrastructure.

The Arab Future Cities Summit 2015 will showcase city development best practice strategies through presentations from some of the world’s leading experts and the innovative solutions that will integrate citizens, systems and services. There will be opportunities for networking along with knowledge sharing on the various sustainable technologies promoting smart city developments.

Connecting government authorities, developers, urban planners, investors, academics, and cutting-edge technologists, this event focuses on sustainable city development across the Middle East region and is a must-attend for key stakeholders committed to developing smarter cities.

Sustainable City News via

Portland Defends Its Trees To Defend City

Urban Forests Benefit Citizens, Wildlife, Planet

Property owners in Portland need to think twice before chopping down trees. A new city tree code took effect in January. It brings new protections to trees on both public and private property, along with stricter regulations and tough penalties for violators.

It takes away a lot of the confusion about what you can do with trees, says Portland landscape contractor Greg Schifsky. “It also sends a message that we treasure our trees.”

reforestation and climate change solution
Reforesting cities can help fight climate change, while making them more resilient.

Schifsky was part of a core group of neighborhood activists who started lobbying the city back in 2005 to 2006 to improve its jumbled tree-cutting regulations. For a city that prided itself on its greenery, a lot of important trees kept disappearing, he says, “and a lot of them were being taken down for not very good reasons.”

Developers also were frustrated, because patchwork tree regulations were embedded in many parts of the city code. Regulations were inconsistent and administered by seven different city bureaus, which in Portland can seem like seven different local governments.

“The department of transportation would tell you to take out a trees and the planning department would say ‘No, we don’t want you to do that,’ ” says Justin Wood, associate director of government relations for the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland.

After several years of citizen pressure, stakeholder meetings and public hearings, the City Council adopted a new tree code in 2011. Though some homebuilders still don’t see why a city tree code is necessary, “as tree codes go, I think it’s a pretty fair tree code,” Wood says.

The biggest shock will come from homeowners, he predicts, who aren’t accustomed to being told they can’t cut down trees on their property. One-third of all the trees in the city are on single-family lots, and most of those previously were unregulated.

“The old tree code was not consistent and as fair as it could be,” says Meryl Redisch, who worked closely on the tree code as a member of the city’s Urban Forestry Commission. It had very different treatment for trees in development situations and those that aren’t, Redisch says.

The new code seeks to change that, but it may make some people unhappy. From now on, residents will need to apply for a $25 city permit before taking down any tree on their property with a diameter of 12 inches or greater, measured 4.5 feet off the ground. They will have the right to remove up to four trees per year from their yard if the trees have a diameter of 20 inches or less — though that will require permits. Residents may be required to plant a higher number of replacement trees elsewhere, so the city doesn’t see its overall tree canopy reduced.

deforestation and global warming

Permits also are required before pruning tiny branches off street trees with diameters of a quarter-inch or greater. Generally, the city will only allow full removal of street trees on the public right of way if they’re dead, dying or dangerous. Residents won’t be able to take them down just because they produce a lot of leaves, make too much shade, or obstruct views.

“A big part of it is going to be education,” Redisch says. City arborists will seek to counsel residents who might otherwise be too hasty about removing trees from their property, she says. Neighbors will be notified of some tree-cutting permit applications, giving them a greater voice in protecting iconic trees in a neighborhood.

The message from the new code is that saving big trees has benefits that extend far beyond an individual homeowner, applying to future generations on that property, neighbors and the city as a whole.

The Benefits Of Saving Trees

“What we get are air-quality improvements, shade, storm water benefits, wildlife habitat, beauty, enjoyment — those are the easy ones,” says Redisch, the recently retired executive director of the Audubon Society of Portland.

Trees also have been shown to reduce asthma, make people calmer and absorb pollutants. Perhaps most importantly, they counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

A greater tree canopy over Portland also can help lower the “urban heat island” effect, which makes the city much hotter than surrounding areas because of the loss of tree canopy here and preponderance of roads, sidewalks, parking lots and rooftops that retain the sun’s rays. That’s expected to become more significant as the climate warms.

The new tree code will preserve more trees on developable land, says Jeff Fish, a homebuilder who was involved in framing the regulations. But the code is more flexible in some cases than before, he says, an acknowledgement that meeting the city’s goals of boosting density means building more homes.

“We have to take some trees down to build a house,” Fish says. If the ordinance makes it much harder to do infill and other development in the city, it will cause more sprawl — and greater tree removal — on land outside the urban growth boundary, he says.

But Fish and others still wonder how well the advice of stakeholders and citizens gets put in practice.

“We’ll find out as we implement this in January how good the code-writers wrote the code to make this work,” he says.

Contrary to stereotypes, homebuilders often recognize the merits of preserving trees.

“A tree can add $2,500 worth of value or more” to a home on the market, Fish says, “so most of us don’t take down any more trees than we have to.”

It also can cost them up to $2,000 to $4,000 to chop down and remove a large Douglas fir.

By design, the new tree code should help meet the city’s goal of having one-third of its land area covered with tree canopy. The city estimates the new code will preserve one to two acres of tree canopy on private property per year and result in the planting of six to 30 acres of new tree canopy each year.

On development lands, the code is projected to preserve 44 acres to 88 acres of tree canopy a year, and result in the planting of 48 acres to 96 acres a year. Some of that is because the old standards only applied to single-family developments, while the new tree-cutting restrictions apply to all developable land. The city also is setting tree-density requirements; developers who don’t meet those can put money into a city tree-planting fund.

City officials delayed implementation of the new code until they could afford seven new city staff members to enforce it. As a result, the city is promising improved customer service. The Bureau of Development Services and Portland Parks & Recreation will administer the ordinance, down from seven bureaus before. Two staff members will be stationed at the city Permit Center downtown to answer questions and issue permits. A new hotline and website will serve as a clearinghouse for information about the new rules.

And, not surprising, stiff new fines will be imposed for those who don’t obey the new rules, including $1,000 for those who fail to get permits. The city has promised to go easy on enforcement in the early days at least, until Portlanders learn about their new responsibilities. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees both bureaus managing the program, has appointed a citizen oversight committee. That group, which includes Fish, will monitor how well the tree code is working out, and suggest any needed changes. It will make regular reports to the Urban Forestry Commission, now led by Redisch.

Urban Forestry News via

Eiffel Tower Now A Wind Turbine

Paris Climate Plan Revising History

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most popular sights in the world, and now it stands taller than ever. The historic structure is partially powering itself thanks to two new wind turbines that were just installed.

eiffel tower wind energy generator

Located above the second level, the turbines will produce over 10,000 kWh of electricity per year, offsetting the annual consumption of commercial activity on the Eiffel Tower’s first floor, which thanks to a larger refurbishment project now includes two panoramic pavilions with meeting and conference spaces, plus a new glass floor.

One of the major goals of the refurbishment project was to achieve a significant reduction in its ecological footprint as part of the City of Paris Climate Plan.

In addition to the wind turbines, other green enhancements include roof mounted solar panels–whose output will meet approximately 50 percent of the water heating needs of both new pavilions–plus a rainwater recovery system that provides flushing water to the toilet facilities, and also reduces the amount of energy needed to power the booster pumps used to pump water to the higher levels of the vertiginous tower.

To top off the green changes, in another energy saving move, almost all of the lighting on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower has been converted to LED.

The Eiffel Tower’s green upgrades come at a good time, with the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC due to take place in Paris this December.

Speaking about those upgrades, Eiffel Tower spokesman Jean François Martins shares, “The Eiffel Tower and its teams are constantly developing features, hospitality facilities and services offered to visitors, in ways that respect the principles of sustainable development and ensure high levels of safety.”

U.S.-based Urban Green Energy (UGE), the self-proclaimed global leader in distributed renewable energy, was the lucky company chosen to install the Eiffel Tower’s two VisionAIR5 vertical axis wind turbines, in partnership with the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), the Paris authority responsible for managing the Tower.

How does UGE CEO Nick Blitterswyk feel to have such a high (no pun intended) profile client? “The Eiffel Tower is arguably the most renowned architectural icon in the world, and we are proud that our advanced technology was chosen as the Tower commits to a more sustainable future,” he says.

Installing giant wind turbines into an iconic structure located 400 feet above ground level was no easy task for UGE. Mounting the turbines required each component to be hoisted individually and suspended with rope above the tower’s second level.

Noise from the turbines is not a concern because apparently the new additions are super quiet as far as wind turbines go, and in case you’re worried that the turbines will visually conflict with the Eiffel Tower’s original design, the turbines are “specially painted to match the iconic tower,” as UGE put it. Amazingly, the Eiffel Tower remained open to the public throughout the entire refurbishment project, including all of its sustainable development upgrades.

Given the precarious state of the environment, if he was alive today, who knows what Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the original Eiffel Tower, would think of the new wind turbines.

Hopefully he would see them as a step in the right direction–a symbol for the world to admire–that conveys the reality of humanity’s situation, which is that without a planet, nothing else will matter.

As for UGE, their dream is to power the world with renewable energy. Perhaps next they can try for the Golden Gate Bridge. It gets awfully windy up there.

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