Catherine Olsen

Celebrating Earth Day

Catherine Olsen, Environmental & Sustainability Manager, 509.625.6968

Monday, April 23, 2018 at 4:53 p.m.

Celebrating Earth Day

Looking south from the Post Street Bridge, two views of Earth Day become clear—one that celebrates the sheer natural beauty in our region and the other that shows how we can make a difference for our environment and future generations.

Below the bridge, the Spokane River, our greatest natural asset, is roaring. Look a little higher, and the view is of the construction of a 2 million gallon tank that will prevent pollution from going into the river.

That tank is part of the largest infrastructure program in the City’s history—an investment of $340 million in improving the health of the Spokane River. That program is a key success in our efforts to take actions that are both environmentally and financially responsible. We redesigned our approach to that work, saving $150 million dollars and gaining better pollution-reducing results.

As we celebrate Earth Day, we wanted to take a moment to reflect back and measure the positive impacts we’ve had on our environment, while also looking ahead to what more we want to do.

We have developed what we’re calling our Environmental Report Card, which tracks results going back to 2012. The numbers are impressive. As a City, we’ve learned that:

  • We generate more energy than we use, even factoring in the fuel we use for our large fleet of fire trucks, police cars, snow plows, and garbage trucks.
  • We have released 660 fewer metric tons of CO2 from our conversion to CNG fueled garbage trucks to date.
  • We’ve saved more than a billion gallons of water by chasing water system leaks and losses.
  • And we’ve added 50 miles of bike lanes and another 3 miles of multi-use trails.

Take a look at our Report Card to see more impressive results. But that’s just the beginning.

At the end of 2017, we adopted a joint Mayor and City Council Strategic Plan with a goal to create a smarter, more sustainable City that strives for smart use of water resources for economic growth and efforts to put renewable energy resources to work in our community, among other goals.

You’re going to hear more from us in the coming months, about things like a program that will encourage citizens to remove turf and replace it with “Spokane-Scape” landscaping to save water or upgrades at parks to reduce water use for irrigation.

We’re also evaluating how to market the excess steam created at the Waste to Energy Facility, how to use smart technology controls to save energy on lighting, and how to continue to support and grow our urban forest, all while closing in on the final projects in that $340 million program to improve the health of the river.

The river brings us back to the Post Street Bridge—which in itself is a nod to our past and our future. This 100-plus-year-old structure will be replaced soon to serve us for years to come, but hopefully with a way to keep the concrete arches that define its beauty throughout the past. The new bridge will help complete a loop trail around the Great Gorge of the Spokane River, bringing us more pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and allowing us to revel in the timeless beauty of the falls.

Happy Earth Day! Happy Spokane Day!

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