This is the second installation in the Harvest for Sustainable Neighboorhoods series I'm writing for Earth Day Coalition's 14th Annual Instrumental Evening for the Earth fundraiser. Amy Wainright from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) and David Celebrezze of the Ohio Environmental Council were gracious enough to weigh in on Lakewood's anti-idling ordinance and Clean Fleets' innovative technology.
You can read my first feature, "East and West Cleveland Work Together for Sustainable Green Spaces: Mount Pleasant" here.
HARVEST FOR SUSTAINABLE NEIGHBORHOODS: LAKEWOOD
Rethinking the Future of Clean Air
"In the past year, the city has brought together groundbreaking technology with forward-thinking law development to create new standards in everyday sustainability measures."
Consider the things we often do without a second thought: we take our trash to the curb at the designated time every week, turn our cars on and off as we run our errands daily, inhale and exhale 20 times each minute. Our lives are shaped by these habits and instincts, the familiarity of day to day life.
But when we start to crunch numbers with Ohio’s most densely populated city, our conventional schedules quickly turn into an issue of health for Lakewood’s 52,131 residents and 20 breaths a minute become a shared 1,042,620. It is with this in mind that the city of Lakewood has made great strides in partnership with Earth Day Coalition to rethink the future of clean air.
Although it may be difficult to visualize the impact of our daily routine, the effects of air quality raise important questions about public health and what we can do as a community to combat rising rates of asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Amy Wainright, an air quality planner at Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, a key partner in Lakewood’s anti-idling ordinance, explains, “As people are moving towards a more environmentally conscious attitude, they are much more receptive when they understand why changes must be made.”
For Lakewood, this progress has come in the form of preventative actions, innovative engineering and most importantly, education. While many may only see a garbage truck or idling car without the knowledge of the hazardous particulate matter being released into the air we breathe -- or why our region exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency standards for those same emissions -- together Lakewood and Earth Day Coalition are changing the public’s understanding of air pollution. “In America we love our cars, we love to use trucks for delivery,” says Wainright “Because we cannot change some of these cultural behaviors, we must change the way things happen.”
In the past year, the city has brought together groundbreaking technology with forward-thinking law development to create new standards in everyday sustainability measures. With Earth Day Coalition’s upcoming Instrumental Evening for the Earth fundraiser theme being “Harvest for Sustainable Neighborhoods”, a few of the most successful highlights of EDC’s work throughout Cleveland has been aiding in the launch of Lakewood’s Clean Fleets program and the passing of the city’s anti-idling ordinance.
When the city of Lakewood was given $166,400 in grants to retrofit 11 of their 90 garbage trucks with diesel particulate filters (DPFs), the Division of Fleet Maintenance became a model for sustainable waste management. Through a modern filtering system, the DPFs allow the truck’s exhaust to heat up the ceramic structure and break down harmful particles into disposable components. From the original time the grant was awarded in 2008, and throughout the entire retrofitting process completion in 2010, Earth Day Coalition has worked alongside the City of Lakewood as a constant proponent, supporter, and grant administrator of the initiative.
Because the grant afforded Lakewood the retrofitting of 11 vehicles the fleet division had decisions to face. Of all the intricate routes within the community, the trucks chosen to be retrofitted aligned with stops that had the highest exposure to children and the elderly. With the installation of the DPFs decreasing particulates by 98%, nearly all harmful emissions have been successfully eliminated from the neighborhoods of many of Lakewood’s residents who are most susceptible to damage from air toxins.
While the Clean Fleets retrofitting worked with technology to improve air quality within Lakewood’s service sector, local sustainability organizations were busy pushing for anti-idling laws in Lakewood to raise awareness and prevent particulate emissions among the public. “The Lakewood anti-idling ordinance has a huge educational impact by giving people a concrete way of understanding air pollution, seeing the effects of air pollution, and preventing air pollution.”says Wainright. Through aid of the Clean Air Zone (Northeast Ohio Air Quality Improvement Campaign) collaborative, which brings together Earth Day Coalition, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and the Cleveland Clean Air Century Campaign, Lakewood passed the ordinance in March 2010.
The ordinance works hand-in-hand to dispel common myths about the unnecessary habit of idling. “Think about how often we see idling in everyday situations: at gas stations, train tracks, dropping or picking up a child from school, bank teller lines, drive-throughs,” explains David Celebrezze, who has worked to improve air quality for 7 years at the Ohio Environmental Council. In response, the Clean Air Zone proposed the ordinance to remind vehicle owners that in addition to being an avoidable health risk, idling actually costs drivers more money and wastes more gas than simply restarting their engine.
Lakewood is one of six cities in Northeast Ohio to pass anti-idling ordinances, helping to create a huge movement within the region to promote and educate the public on steps toward a healthier neighborhood. “We are thrilled Lakewood has adopted the anti-idling ordinances,” Celebrezze says. “It’s showing their leadership by being proactive about their impact on clean air. It also shows that they understand the connection between individual action and air quality as well as the health and economic impact of air quality.”
The advancements Lakewood has made in collaboration with Earth Day Coalition toward a cleaner community are revolutionary new standards for the future. While air quality may at times be overlooked in our hectic day to day lives, the million breaths taken every minute within Lakewood make a clear case for the importance of re-examining every city’s potential for progress. The story of Lakewood’s sustainability efforts is one of the possibilities city services can provide to individuals, the possibilities individuals can provide to their neighbors, and collectively, the possibilities we can all offer to our planet, our air, and the health of generations to come.
For more information on Earth Day Coalition's Clean Transportation program and to learn how you can engage your community on paths to healthier air quality through adopting measures similar to those in Lakewood, contact either John McGovern, Clean Transportation Program Coordinator (extension 223) or Scott Sanders, Executive Director (extension 228) at (216) 281-6468.