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Taveras releases plan to promote sustainability in Providence

Plan aims to implement goals with cooperation among government, nonprofit, academia sectors

Last week, Mayor Angel Taveras unveiled a comprehensive proposal outlining plans to promote sustainability in Providence.

Developed by the Providence Environmental Sustainability Task Force and dozens of community stakeholders, Sustainable Providence — as the plan is dubbed — delineates goals in six areas: waste, food, water, energy and land use, transportation and development.

To ensure steady progress toward these goals, the plan devises a set of 28 metrics to be monitored, presents 25 implementation strategies and details 37 “high-priority actions” to be immediately addressed.

Sustainable Providence strives to incorporate members of city departments, nonprofit organizations, academia, agencies and other community representatives to ensure the plan’s implementation.

The plan features several components aimed at making Providence more sustainable. First, it strives to “fully implement a zero waste strategy” by 2033 with enhanced recycling through the Big Green Can program and composting programs, wrote Sheila Dormody, the city’s director of sustainability, in an email to The Herald.

The plan will guarantee access to “safe, affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food” to all city residents and provide better access to public transportation. It also looks to preserve bodies of water, reduce energy use in city-owned properties by at least 30 percent by 2030, and promote renewable and clean energy initiatives. Finally, the plan aims to expand open space and promote “green economic development opportunities.”

The Northeast in particular is in need of improved energy sustainability practices, given that it participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, said Dawn King, professor of environmental studies.

As part of his failed gubernatorial campaign, Taveras put forth a similar environmental sustainability plan, “Preserving Rhode Island,” in April, GoLocalProv reported.

Taveras has addressed environmental sustainability throughout his mayoral term, King said. “Taveras brought the Office of Sustainability to the mayor’s office and converted vacant city property into urban farms through the Lots of Hope program,” she added.

The Lots of Hope program, which is run out of the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Healthy Communities Office, is part of the effort to bring produce availability to Providence residents and better utilize available land, according to the office’s website.

A city press release announcing Sustainable Providence also noted that the city’s Office of Sustainability is pursuing the installment of solar panels on city property. The initiative is designed to cut energy costs and reduce carbon emissions.

The Office of Sustainability has selected a Rhode Island-based civil engineering company — Northeast Engineers and Consultants, Inc. — through a bidding process to assess the technical and fiscal feasibility of solar panel installment in Providence, according to the press release.

NEC will assess city-owned sites based on sun exposure and structural analysis of rooftops to select a site that can withstand extra weight and an increased wind load in order to determine their potential for solar energy development, said Daniel Szymanski, president and owner of NEC.

The company, which has done work for Providence College and other towns, will develop a report and then give that information to the city to illustrate which sites are strong candidates for solar panel installation, Szymanski added.

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