Columbus strives to go green in 2008

As the residents of Columbus strive to start the new year off on the right foot, Mayor Michael Coleman is working to ensure that 2008 is the city’s greenest year yet.

Since early 2005, Coleman has led Columbus on a crusade to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. His newest goal is to find ways to make every vehicle in the city’s fleet a little greener.

The nearly 6,000 vehicles in Columbus’ fleet include an estimated 3,100 on-road and 2,800 off-road vehicles. According to press release from the mayor’s office, those vehicles consumed “approximately 3.6 million gallons of fuel in 2007, and were responsible for more that 1,100 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Columbus’ Green Fleet Policy went into effect Jan. 1. The policy consist of four goals: Cut fuel consumption, get rid of dirty diesels, buy greener vehicles and teach green driving skills. Also included in the policy is a step by step plan extending through 2012 to help the city reach these goals.

The policy instructs each department and division to take the needed steps toward improving the energy efficiency of the vehicles used by that department. This will not only help the city move towards a cleaner, greener future, but also save Columbus a large amount of money over time.

The new policy also calls for strict monitoring of the city’s process in implementing these plans. Suggested ways to do this include requiring departments to submit Green Fleet reports and the development of a Green Fleet committee.

Cut fuel consumption

The Green Fleet Policy calls for a three percent reduction in fuel consumption by 2010. There are several ways to reach this goal, such as reducing the total amount of driving by city employees and a reduction in the amount of time a vehicle is permitted to idle. This includes the city’s anti-idling policy that took effect in December, 2005. All new refuse trucks shut off automatically when a vehicle idles for more than 10 minutes.

This goal also includes buying more fuel efficient vehicles, such as hybrids. Hybrid vehicles achieve nearly twice the energy efficiency of standard vehicles. Although the Green Fleet Policy calls for the purchase of additional hybrids, the city only owns one hybrid at the present time. The new policy recommends calling for separate bids for hybrids in 2008. It also suggests the possibility of replacing some heavy duty vehicles with hybrids in the future.

Get rid of dirty diesels

“Dirty diesels” refers to diesel engines made before 2002. These engines are much dirtier than engines manufactured after 2002. These older engines can be retrofitted with emission control devices that reduce emissions by 30 to 90 percent. The city is currently in the process of seeking grants that would allow these devices to be installed on over 100 of Columbus’s fleet.

The Green Fleet Policy states that all eligible pre-2002 diesel vehicles are either retired or retrofitted by 2012.

Buy greener vehicles

The Green Fleet Policy calls for 100 percent of the city’s new light duty vehicle purchases to be green. It also calls for most of the city’s new off-road fleet to be non-petroleum powered if the option is possible. Non-petroleum powered vehicles include those that run on biodiesel, compressed natural gas and flex fuel.

Teach green driving skills

No matter what steps the city takes to ensure that drivers are equipped with the most environmentally safe vehicles, the Green Fleet Policy will not be a success without the full cooperation of the city employees behind the wheel.

In May 2006, all city employees received a pamphlet detailing conservation of fuel and emissions reduction.  

The new policy recommends that the city develops an employee education program designed to teach drivers way to help the city meets its green goals. Points addressed in these programs should include fuel conservation, defensive driving, and education on city policies such as the anti-idling policy. The policy also recommends that this program be mandatory. This education program is slated to be in place by April 1, 2008.

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