Seattle Leads by Example with Green Buildings

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Most of us are familiar with the popular Earth Day catch phrase, “Make Earth Day Every Day.”  While we might not always live up to this ideal, I try to keep this quote from Denis Hayes, founder of the Earth Day Network and president of Seattle’s Bullitt Foundation, in mind when I need a little extra motivation to be a better environmentalist: “Listen up, you couch potatoes: each recycled beer can saves enough electricity to run a television for three hours.” If there ever was inspiration to imbibe, that’s it.

NLC celebrated Earth Day and Earth Month this year by hosting a four-part “Spotlight on Sustainability” webinar series that profiled the sustainability programs of large and small cities across the country. The series started in the coastal community of Miami Beach, Fla., then hit the Midwest with a stop in Falcon Heights, Minn. The third presentation came from the southwest via Flagstaff, Ariz. Finally, the series was capped by a timely presentation from Seattle, Wash. on their green building program.

Seattle has a robust Green Building program that facilitates green building policies and programs in both municipal operations and the private market.  The city is a national leader in the development of standard practices for green buildings, and has chosen to lead by example by ensuring that, to the extent possible, new construction and retrofits/redevelopment of public buildings are green.

Over the last decade, almost 30 of Seattle’s public buildings have been certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver or gold. These LEED gold buildings are 15% beyond code in energy reduction, 30% beyond code in water reduction and have a 90% waste diversion rate.

Seattle doesn’t just talk the green talk, they walk the green walk and in doing so have shown the private market that the benefits of green buildings, such as increasing a project’s market value, lowering operating costs over the life of a building and providing businesses with a healthier and more productive work environment, outweigh the initial higher costs that these buildings can entail.

In addition to being a leader in green building, Seattle has numerous city-led sustainability initiatives, ranging from green infrastructure, energy efficiency, urban agriculture and urban forest restoration. The city is also home to countless groups and organizations focused on sustainability and environmental protection, the Bullitt Foundation being a prime example.

We’re excited to be holding our annual conference, the Congress of Cities, in Seattle this November.  The Congress of Cities brings together over 2,000 local leaders from cities across the U.S. Model sustainability practices from Seattle as well as other cities will be a key component of the program. Join us in the Emerald City from November 13-16 for learning and networking opportunities highlighting successful city programs and initiatives from communities across the country!

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