While Northeast Ohio has yet to match the eco-friendly mindset of some areas of the nation, particularly the West Coast, Akronites should be proud of the innovations being made throughout our area. Last year, in our first-ever Green Issue, Akron Life & Leisure acknowledged our area’s dedication to maintaining its abundant green spaces and widespread availability of recycling. Furthermore, we publicized the goals of the city’s then newly implemented Greenprint for Akron. This year, we highlight a few more of the “green” innovations to take place right in our own backyard.
For those who don’t know, Mayor Don Plusquellic announced the creation of a Greenprint for Akron in August 2007, stating: “We know how to use blueprints for constructing buildings. We need to have a new plan on how Akron can compete effectively in a world that is increasingly concerned over environmental issues—a greenprint, if you will.” He also asked Keep Akron Beautiful, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public land beautification, to lead the community in this effort.
Last year, Akron joined more than 700 other communities worldwide in participating in the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, a project of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, and the city has used information provided by the organization to measure local greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and enhance urban livability. In March, Akron City Council approved a resolution endorsing the campaign, which consists of five milestones: conduct a local inventory and forecast greenhouse emissions; adopt an emissions reduction target; draft an action plan to achieve the target; implement the action plan; evaluate and report on progress and update plans.
In order to achieve these goals, Plusquellic appointed a “Green Ribbon” panel of city employees. Paula Davis, executive director of Keep Akron Beautiful, convenes the panel on a regular basis to develop momentum around the goals. Although the plan is a constant work in progress, Akron has already marked achievements such as the recycling of asphalt and oil, an award-winning forestry project, the pursuit of “brownfield” development and more.
Two wheels are better than four
Another breakthrough in 2008 was resurgence of a bicycle movement in the city, as the University Park Alliance began an initiative to promote the bicycle as a mode of transportation, rather than just a form of recreation. Thanks to a $15,000 grant from the city, UPA was able to make University Park the first neighborhood in the city to provide bicycle-friendly amenities such as designated bike routes and additional bike racks. Throughout the neighborhood, you’ll find symbols, referred to as sharrows, that indicate shared bicycle-vehicle roadways, as well as streets striped with bike lanes, and others designated as bicycle boulevards. The organization also provided additional education programs on bike safety. To cap off the project, UPA and The University of Akron organized “Bike Week,” which was held Aug. 22-30, with many events held in University Park and on the UA campus.
Environmentally friendly freeway
In August, Mayor Plusquellic announced that he would be working with the Ohio Department of Transportation to put an end to the mowing of lawns along the Akron expressway, citing a concern for employee safety, environmental issues, appearance and the economics of mowing the grass as reasons.
However, that decision has been a long time coming. “Mayor Plusquellic actually started our expressway beautification plan back in the ‘90s,” says Bill Hahn, arborist for the City of Akron. “We have planted thousands and thousands of hearty shrubs, perennials, trees and ground cover that have replaced grass we used to have to mow.”
Adds Paula Davis: “Akron’s expressway system has been, in many ways, ahead of the curve on green issues. The mayor’s expressway beautification program of the past decade has given motorists something nice to look at, while saving the city money and improving safety issues for workers.”
Alternative sources of energy
In June, it was announced that Dr. Stephen Chuang, University of Akron professor of chemical and biological engineering, would receive $1.18 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding to continue development of a 5-kilowatt, coal-based fuel cell, which will help provide clean, affordable and reliable energy. In an 18-month period Chuang and UA received nearly $4 million for fuel cell development and carbon cell sequestration.
Although coal is our nation’s most abundant resource, there is significant concern over pollutants released by power plants. And according to Chuang, the efficiency of the typical coal-fueled power plant has peaked at about 33 percent, limited mostly by steam turbines that produce a significant amount of waste heat.
“This limited efficiency, compounded by the growing energy consumption and concerns over air pollution and global warming, demands the development of a viable alternative,” says Chuang, who is recognized worldwide for his expertise in fuel cell and carbon dioxide capture technology. “This promising coal fuel cell technology offers a cost-effective, super-clean, multiuse electric generation alternative.”
UA’s fuel cell laboratory pioneered the development of carbon-based fuel cells fed by high-sulfer content coal.
Chuang’s prototype will serve as a model for large-scale fuel cells that could lead to commercialization of this promising technology.