Yesterday, I posted the first half of my interview with Jonce Walker, the Sustainability Manager at Maricopa County and the author of the latest Green Government Program. Today, read how the County collaborates with other municipalities and within its various departments, what specific transportation measures the County is taking to go green, and what other cities and counties can learn from Maricopa County’s success.
Blooming Rock: What are some of the coordination efforts you’re undertaking with other agencies and municipalities to implement the Green Government program? For example, I noticed you have tree planting as one of your measures which coincides with the Tree and Shade Masterplan. What do you do to make sure everything fits together?
Jonce Walker: Before the Sustainable Cities Network, there really wasn’t a hub that helped everyone out. That’s probably the best way to share practices, because they’ve done a great job of finding what the common challenges are, all the government organizations, cities and towns and communities, who is doing what, who is working on shade and how can we help each other accomplish that? ASU has a handle on that. We have an extensive database of best management practices and all the cities and towns have data in there of what’s worked and what hasn’t and who’s doing what. That’s probably the best way which is good. When Green Government version 1 launched, that (Sustainable Cities Network) didn’t exist. But it’s just within the county. For Pima County and Pinal County, I know their sustainability directors so I just talk with them on a one on one basis.
In terms of internal departments, the County has a lot of people and it’s very hard to communicate (with everyone). We have a monthly meeting, it’s the Green Government Council, and we discuss, similar to what ASU does with the cities and towns, what’s working with different departments. One small success story about that is that the county leases a lot of buildings, we don’t own all of our buildings and we were running into the problem of recycling in some of these buildings. There were a lot of departments that said, “Jonce, we want to recycle, but we don’t have a way to do it.” (The department of) Air Quality was there (at the Green Government council) and they were saying that they lease their space and didn’t have a way to recycle. (The department of) Solid Waste was also there, and they said they had some big roll-offs, and asked if they could work with the building management to place a roll-off on the site, and Air Quality could manage all the recycling and call Solid Waste to come pick it up with the container was full. So (something like) that would never have happened otherwise (without this monthly meeting). The Environmental Services and Air Quality departments banded together and formed a coalition of recycling. They filled three 40-yard roll-offs of recyclable materials within one year.
Blooming Rock: How does the Green Government program specifically address commuting and transportation?
Jonce Walker: We have about two thousand vehicles in our fleet and all of the diesel vehicles, about 600, run on B-20 biodiesel. B-20 is a blend where it is 20% bio-based and the rest is regular diesel. It reduced emissions, clearly. And we’re not spending as much on overseas fuel and (the bio-based diesel) is grown in the States. The other part of that is all our vehicles are being retrofitted with an AIMS system. That is is a software that plugs into the CPU of the vehicle and it tracks idle time. So now we can track how long vehicles idle. If we have two guys who have the same job, drive the same amount of distance, but one guy is idling 2 or 3 times more than the other guy, we want to know why. So we can say, “what’s going on? You’re wasting a lot of fuel. Why are you idling?” We have an old policy and procedure on anti-idling, it’s from 1982, but we had no way to enforce it because we never knew (if drivers were idling). Now we have a way to enforce it without being too Big Brother, but through educating the drivers. A lot of the drivers still think that you have to warm up a vehicle or it’s hard on the starter if you just turn it off or start it. That’s not true since fuel injection. So we have a big anti-idle outreach. We also are looking into electric vehicles. We’ve been talking to ECOtality about doing some charging stations and maybe getting some Nissan LEAFS. We also have a green fleet policy, so when we go to swap out vehicles, we have to go to super-efficient vehicles or hybrids. We also have a really robust trip-reduction program. We’re trying to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips, so we’re trying to eliminate one person in one car trips. We won 5 awards in 2010 from the Valley Metro Clean Air Awards for trip reduction.
Blooming Rock: Are there any incentives around the Light Rail?
Jonce Walker: Every County employee has a subsidized Light Rail pass. All Light Rail and Bus fares are free to any County employee that wants to take advantage of that. We have pretty high participation. A lot of County employees take the Light Rail to meetings. In version 2 of the Green Government program, there is now a mandate that every department has to have an email signature tag that says that if your department is on the Light Rail corridor, you can ride the rail to this location, click here for more information. Every piece of information, whether it be a letter or email correspondence, will say something like “Ride the rail. We’re at whatever stop.” Even if you get 10% of the people to view that, it’s sending the message that the County cares about this and we’re trying to reduce (vehicle) trips.
Blooming Rock: What are some of the sustainability education initiatives for the community the County is taking on?
Jonce Walker: There really is no uniform platform yet. It’s kind of just as we go. The public is welcome to Green Government Council meetings. In fact, I’ve brought in private-industry professionals, USGBC, Eco Aid, City of Phoenix and other non-County groups. I speak at different schools when I get invited. I speak at Build It Green and other events and forums. The Air Quality departments has a brown bag lunch series where they do 6 events a year. But there’s no Green Government (regular education event) yet. I don’t know if we will have a certain amount each year because it’s better to be more flexible. So as far as outreach, we have a YouTube channel, we have the mygreengovernment.com website, we have a Twitter feed, we have links from our regular County website and that’s what we’ve used so far. On our website, I try to gather all the education events going on and put it on the calendar. I’ll put all the Scottsdale Green Building Workshops, I’ll put all the Phoenix Permaculture Guild events, I’ll put Sierra Club events, I’ll put Phoenix Green Chamber and all of our Parks and Recreation activities, and whatever else I find.
Blooming Rock: What are some of the things other municipalities can learn from what you’ve accomplished with the Green Government program?
Jonce Walker: First of all, (they should understand) that it saves money. I think there is still a fear, unfortunately, and this has been going on for years and years, that green is cost prohibitive. That may have been true in the early 90s because it was all very new to the mass market, but it’s not true anymore. In fact, most of the time in a business setting, if you want to talk about sustainability, a lot of it is just doing things more efficiently. If you’re using less energy, you’re saving more money. If you’re driving less, you’re using less gas, it’s more efficient. I will stop short in saying that that (energy efficiency) can be everything. Bill McDonough, a famous architect, says, “Doing less bad isn’t doing good”. So just because we’re driving a hybrid, we’re still using fuel. What I’m trying to do is say, let’s work towards that, but let’s pass that. Let’s try to work towards zero carbon emissions and zero wastestream and almost all renewable energy. We can’t just stop at 50% reduction, we have to try to work towards net-zero.
I think the best thing you could tell governments is, start small, but have huge goals in the background. What you’ll find is that people will come out of the woodworks and say, this is great, we’ve been wanting to do this for so long, but we’ve never had a tool to do it. My personal experience is that, it (the Green Government program) has just grown on its own. But do it smart. Don’t do these lofty, weird – “add five hybrids to the fleet” (type of things). Have specific measures, and then if you don’t meet them, that’s ok. Things change.
Image Credit: A graphic representation of the triple bottom line, from version 2 of the Green Government document.Tags: AIMS system, anti-idling, asu, B-20 biodiesel, bio fuel, build it green, city of phoenix, clean air awards, commuting, diesel vehicles, eco aid, ecotality, green fleet, Green Government Council, Green Government Program, hybrid vehicles, Jonce Walker, Light Rail, Maricopa County, Maricopa County Air Quality, Maricopa County Environmental Services, maricopa county parks and recreation department, Maricopa County Solid Waste, net-zero, nissan leafs, phoenix green chamber of commerce, phoenix permaculture guild, Pima County, Pinal County, recyclable materials, renewable energy, scottsdale green building lectures, sierra club, sustainability education, Sustainable Cities Network, transportation, Tree and Shade Masterplan, trip reduction, usgbcaz, Valley Metro, wastestream, william mcdonough, zero carbon emissions