Cities' Green Building Catching On

Our hearts go out to the people living in cities hit by the devastation in the Midwest. Unfortunately, the scene of record-breaking rain and massive floods is becoming all too common. This spring ranked in the top 10 wettest ever recorded. We are seeing the face of global warming with growing frequency, a scenario that scientists have been warning us about for three decades.

But there's hope in the aftermath of disaster too. After suffering a devastating tornado last year, Greensboro, Kansas is rebuilding green and sustainable so there can be a brighter future for their town (check out the town's efforts in a new series on Planet Green).

So this week our shout-out goes to American cities for taking the initiative to think green! For those rebuilding green after the devastation of extreme weather and those who are looking for ways to protect their city's future by going green - we salute you. Cities have taken bold steps to do their part while improving the quality of life in their communities.

A perfect example is Chicago. Green roofs, great recycling and sustainability programs, and last year's Cool Globes outdoor art exhibit are just a few of the Windy City's recent greening efforts. Little known fact: Chicago has more alleys than any other city in the country - a whopping 2,000 miles of alleys - all lined with the pavement equivalent of five midsize airports. So some clever Chicagoan came up with the idea to retrofit them. The city will rip up the old concrete and replace it with environmentally sustainable road building materials that will allow water to penetrate the soil through the alley surface itself. That means rainwater will recharge the underground water table instead of ending up as polluted runoff flowing into rivers and streams. What a perfect example of rethinking old ways!

Another city taking action is Minneapolis. The city recently approved an ordinance that will limit idling in the city to three minutes, except in traffic. Cutting down on idling is one easy thing that everyone can do, and while we hope that the ordinance will be pushed to 30 seconds, we think it is a great step in the right direction and hope other cities will follow suit!

Kudos to Mayor Michael Bloomberg for experimenting with the Summer Streets program in New York City this summer. On three Saturdays during the month of August, all vehicles will be banned along a 6.9 mile route in an effort to promote walking, cycling and mass transit use among Gotham City's visitors and residents.

Three cheers to the beautiful city of Denver and Mayor John Hickenlooper who is hosting the Green Frontier Fest on August 24, the day before the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Green Frontier Fest will be a celebration of everyday positive choices that individuals, families and organizations can make now to address global warming. The Fest will also include a special presentation by green jobs advocate Van Jones. Go Denver!

When the federal government doesn't act, it's the cities and states that can lead the way. What's your hometown doing?

My favorite action tip for the week is to stop idling. On average, a car will burn more than half a gallon of fuel for every hour spent idling. In general, 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the car, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Signing off from the Green Zone, Laurie David