FEBRUARY 16, 2013 BY 

During his short tenure as Sustainability Manager for the City of Hillsboro, Oregon, a rural, growing community just west of Portland in what is nicknamed the Silicon Forest, Peter Brandom has been working hard to achieve attainable goals, set higher standards, and praise the work that the city departments have already done.  Brandom’s two sessions yesterday, Friday February 15th, gave insight and inspiration to the City of Steamboat Springs and many partners.  Present at these sessions were representatives from Routt County, City of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Springs Chamber, Steamboat Ski and Resort, City of Steamboat City Council, individuals from environmentally focused businesses, and other concerned citizens, as well as the two hosting organizations of Yampatika and YVSC.

Much of what Brandom presented is available on the City of Hillsboro’s website for their Community Vision Plan – Hillsboro2020.org, and he touched on immediate goals, long term goals, successes, partners, and accolades.  For us, it gave hope that together we can create and attain similar goals for our own rural community, insight into how to make small progressive steps to do so, and who our partners could be.

Some interesting points garnered from these talks range from recycling incentives and ordinances to revolving sustainability funds to encourage and sponsor energy-saving and other sustainability-focused projects.

Hillsboro’s 2030 goals are lofty, sure:

  • Zero toxic emissions
  • 100% recycling of waste from city
  • Zero construction and maintenance waste
  • 100% sustainable development
  • 60% reduced city facility energy consumption
  • 100% electric and gas from renewable  for city facilities
  • 80% reduction in greenhouse emissions
  • 80% production of energy from renewable
…but Brandom pointed out that many of their successes have already been achieved:
  • All LED bulbs on traffic lights
  • Green buildings and many with LEED qualifications
  • Solar facilities, 200kw in total
  • Alternative fuel fleet now transitioning from primarily CNG (clean natural gas) to electric
  • Community gardens
  • A  successful and progressive Green Power Challenge to challenge businesses to purchase green power
  • Sustainability Revolving Fund- capturing savings from energy efficiency projects, goes towards projects that employees suggest
  • Local energy efficiency incentives
  • Recycling collaboration and business recycling workshops
  • A business recycling ordinance that requiring businesses to offer recycling
  • Internal highlights newsletter for City employees
Of course, comparing Oregon to Colorado is apples to oranges when it comes to the hot topics of policies, funding, utilities, recycling, waste and taxes.  Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax, but there is a 3% tax on utility bills that funds their Energy Trust, which in turn funds their energy efficiency incentives.  The landfill system in the Portland area is also much different, and Hillsboro barges and trucks their waste up the Columbia River to distant locations where space is plentiful.  Local large corporations such as Intel are helping to lead the change in culture by offsetting as much as 80% of their total energy load with green power.
A seeming highlight of the lunch session was the idea of the Sustainable Revolving Fund, where the 50% of the money saved from energy efficiency projects of the city is put back into the fund during the first year and 25% the second and third years.  Another short-term, achievable highlight was the incentive for customers who choose to load solar onto their buildings are exempt from the building fees for the project.
The progressive, small City of Hillsboro impressively ranks second on both the country-wide Green Power Rankings list, second behind Washington, DC, as well as the Green Power Purchased list, behind Brookeville, MD.  The City’s latest project idea of GoPoint, a futuristic technology-based transportation-sharing system, made the top 20 finalists for the four million dollar prize of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge which drives innovation in local governments. (Look for a voting link to come up as soon as next week to learn more about the finalists and the GoPoint idea.)
YVSC and Yampatika would like to thank Peter Brandom for his time and insightful input during both of yesterday’s educational sessions.  We hope that the leadership in our valley can put many of these great ideas into motion.