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Mayor unveils plan for a green Providence

Mayor David Cicilline '83 last week presented his plan for Greenprint Providence, a long-term environmental plan that will "position Providence at the leading edge of a green economy poised for explosive growth," according to a press release. The broad initiative, which has been in the works for a year, aims to render eight areas of city planning more environmentally and economically efficient.

Greenprint is not a piece of legislation, but a collection of ­existing or planned environmental initiatives which City Councilman Seth Yurdin, D-Ward 1, said was a way of centralizing the city's "comprehensive commitment to environmental issues."

In the last few years, the city has already installed low-wattage CFL lights in city hall, and LED lights in traffic lights and exit signs, among other minor energy-saving measures. The city is also planning to install wind turbines within three years, and is looking into the development of a hydroelectric generator at the Scituate Reservoir, from where Providence's water supply originates.

Chris Wilhite, director of Rhode Island's Sierra Club chapter and a Greenprint contributor, said developing energy in-state is the most important step in increasing Providence's economic and environmental efficiency.

"The longer we stay stuck on imported fossil fuels, the worse our economy's going to get," Wilhite said. "Rhode Island doesn't have fossil fuels, so by continuing to stay stuck on the old energy sources of the past, we are not going to have a competitive advantage to other regions."

Through investing in clean energy, the city has projected it has already saved over a million dollars from March 2007 to May 2008 - 11.7 percent of the city's energy budget for this period. Under Greenprint, at least 20 percent of Providence's energy will come from renewable sources by 2010.

In addition to energy initiatives, Greenprint will develop green buildings, public spaces, transit and transportation, recycling and waste management, purchasing (appliances, supplies) and water consumption.

Specifically, the city has already invested in tree-planting, added bicycle lanes and created incentives for businesses and private citizens to recycle more, in an effort to raise the recycling rate to 35 percent by 2012.

Director of Public Works John Nickelson said that though he was encouraged by recently added bike lanes on Blackstone Boulevard and in Olneyville, increasing the use of alternate transit options like bikes, RIPTA buses and carpools is still "a long-term thing - a big hurdle to get by."

Several proponents of Greenprint, including City Councilman Cliff Wood, D-Dist. 2, praised the plan for its connection to already existing Providence initiatives.

"I think we're taking into account environmental initiatives that not only stand alone but are also integrated into other initiatives," Wood told The Herald. "We're building schools. That's an initiative, but that we're building them with energy efficiency in mind. That's perfect."

Wood, who has worked extensively on education reform, was a primary planner in the revival and reconstruction of the new environmentally friendly Nathan Bishop Middle School.

Steven Hamburg, associate professor of environmental studiesand a Greenprint contributor, said there were several important steps that both Providence and Brown should adopt immediately to save themselves - and the environment - some green. For example, Hamburg said that over-irrigation in Rhode Island could mean the difference between having ample water supply and a shortage, which he said may be imminent.

"The economy (is) struggling. Is it worth spending money putting in an irrigation system to have green lawns everywhere?" Hamburg said, who said he thinks Brown should only be irrigating high density lawns like the Main Green.

Wilhite, who said many of Greenprint's initiatives were "nothing new," nonetheless praised Cicilline for drafting a plan with potentially far-reaching positive effects.

"He is packaging it in a way that it's all in one single plan - it's a vision for Providence. He's really the first leader in Rhode Island to put something like that together," Wilhite said.

Rhode Island is already considered one of the nation's most environmentally friendly states, Wilhite said, but, he added, "we still have a lot of work to do.",

"It's great that people are changing their light bulbs ... but if we're going turn the economy around and move towards the clean energy economy of the 21st century, we need bold leadership."


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