Feature Article - April 2018
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Still Going Green

Sustainability Plans & Equipment Help Create Eco-Friendly Facilities

By Deborah L. Vence

"Portland Parks & Recreation is a leader in the city of Portland's move toward renewable energy," said Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. "The bureau's efforts in this area have been remarkable, and have included grassroots involvement from the community as well as the full commitment of PP&R leadership and staff. PP&R's programs, sites and people are becoming a model of how city government can embrace sustainability, while reducing costs to taxpayers."

PP&R Director Mike Abbaté also said, "Portland Parks & Recreation continues to make a significant contribution toward the city's commitment of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. The bureau takes pride in leading the way as Portland looks for even more ways to increase sustainability, to reduce Portland's environmental footprint, and to lower costs and extending the life of our equipment and facilities. It's an effort that benefits every Portlander, now and in future generations."

Speaking from his own experience, Jose Avina, CEO of Sacramento Eco Fitness, a human-powered fitness facility in California, said "fitness facilities have begun to think smarter when it comes to the equipment they install in their facility."

For example, Avina's facility chose to purchase a line of cycles that works to harness the power gym-goers produce through their everyday workouts, and put it back into the grid. When plugged into a power outlet, the human energy that's generated converts to utility-grade electricity for the gym or facility.

Avina said the cycles store the energy created through the workouts that his facility's members produce.

"We can then store and use that energy to power our facility—helping us do our part for the environment," he said.

He added that the cycles "have allowed us to capture the energy generated by our gym and turn it into electricity. We also recently installed a battery wall that stores the energy created from the cycles, along with the energy from our solar panels, allowing us to run off of our own power."

Dustin Soderman, associate director, facilities and operations, Arizona State University, noted that "Parks and recreation departments around the country are looking for ways to be more sustainable.

"This can occur in both indoor and outdoor spaces. New construction (or older retrofits) are converting toilets and urinals to low-flow or waterless," he said. "Especially in the southwest United States where water is a premium, these programs and efforts are helping to make a direct impact on water use reduction."

Energy-Saving Strategies

There are different ways to save energy and reduce costs, with Thompson noting that Tacoma's sustainability plan, adopted in 2015, calls for major reductions in the use of water, electricity and natural gas.

The goal of Tacoma's sustainability plan is to further limit the park district's environmental impact and enhance the livability of Tacoma. For instance, part of the plan is to "reduce overall water consumption per acre by 3 percent per year for 9 percent savings by December 2018" for parks and outdoors areas, as well as "reduce electricity consumption by 3 percent by December 2018 to 17.66 kilowatt hours (kWh) per square foot" for facilities and buildings.

The plan's executive summary stated that, "Early in the process, the sustainability steering committee grappled with one basic question: 'How can Metro Parks Tacoma reduce its environmental footprint when the agency is growing to meet our citizens' needs and desires?' While MPT may not be able to reduce the overall consumption of utilities with the addition of new community centers, pools and parks, the District can set targets to ensure sustainability on a square-foot or per-acre basis. Therefore, applicable targets are calculated per area to account for and normalize growth within the district."

In another example, M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks in Maryland currently is constructing nearly 2.5 megawatts (MW) of ground-mounted solar arrays across two park sites, to help conserve energy.

"These projects, completed through a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA), allows Montgomery Parks to benefit from clean, renewable solar energy with no upfront costs," Aparicio explained. "These projects will simultaneously lower utility bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to clean and resilient energy resources within the region."

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), daylight fixtures or other efficient low-energy lighting solutions are prioritized and used in place of incandescent, halogen or fluorescent lights. Additionally, where practical, indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures are fitted with programmable or occupancy/motion sensors.

"The program to convert parking lot lights to energy-efficient LED technology began nearly 10 years ago with a pilot-project at Olney Manor Recreational Park that replaced 80 traditional metal halide and high-pressure sodium lights with LED fixtures," Aparicio said.