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U of L, schools help fertilize 'Green City' with ideas

In Seattle, utility customers have an option to pay an extra amount on their electric bill earmarked for investment in renewable energy sources such as solar power.

Funds collected by the program, called Green Power, are regulated by city government.

It’s just one example of how municipalities and large public organizations are teaming up to make cities cleaner, protect the Earth and encourage citizens to “buy green.”

It’s also the kind of example the city of Louisville is learning from. As part of its own “green city” initiative, the city recently announced the Partnership for a Green City, a consortium that includes the University of Louisville, Louisville Metro government and Jefferson County Public Schools.

Students from U of L and area public schools conducted extensive energy audits on campus in March as a part of the Green City initiative. The Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center at U of L co-sponsored the effort.

The three partners—which have a total of 26,000 employees, 120,000 students, thousands of vehicles and hundreds of buildings—want to combine both their buying power and brainpower to create an infrastructure that leads to waste reduction, energy efficiency and improved health and education for children, among other things.

Combining purchasing power to buy “green” products and services cost-effectively is just one idea the group recently forwarded in its 41-page report.

Another idea is to combine the partners’ resources and expertise to reduce, reuse and recycle waste ranging from paper, plastic and aluminum cans to obsolete electronics, scrap metal and corrugated cardboard. The group also will investigate ways to reuse construction materials.

Research and information sharing will be a big part of the mutual effort.

“One critical aspect of this project is that we will share information in a way it has never been shared before,” says

U of L President James Ramsey. “We will trade ideas on how to save energy, how to recycle effectively and how to improve public health and environmental education. We will seek new methods of preventing pollution, and we will develop systems to ensure that the way we buy things reduces waste and protects the environment.”

David Tollerud, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences in U of L’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, agrees that the project promises many research possibilities. Tollerud, an investigator on several studies examining health issues in Louisville, chairs the partnership’s environmental health committee.

“The project overall has three major thrusts: environmental health, environmental education and environmental management, or how the entities can coordinate their buying power and abilities to really make a difference,” he says.

“One project we’re looking at would be an outreach program on asthma,” he continues. “We want to look at ways to educate families, health care providers and others on how to reduce exposure to asthma triggers and how to better manage asthma in school-age children.”

Tollerud says another project with an even stronger research component would be to develop a registry for environmental health issues. It could combine existing registries of patients with cancer and birth defects with other records or databases in an effort to link environmental factors to specific diseases.

“We really don’t have a good handle on observable illness resulting from environmental exposures,” Tollerud says. “Having some way to combine information—routinely collecting health data to analyze health exposure—would help us get our arms around this problem and help us to know where to target our resources.”

So far, Tollerud says everything is in the planning and discussion stage, and no research responsibilities have yet been assigned.

“Still, there’s a lot of buying power and pollution control we can do among ourselves,” he adds. “That’s one layer. The other is the power that these three organizations have to affect change throughout the community.”

U of L’s Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development (KIESD) administers the Partnership for a Green City, which is paid for in part by a $51,000 U.S. Department of Education grant.

In addition to the KIESD, 23 other U of L units

are participating in the effort.

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