San Jose’s Green Vision

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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four-part series looking at the environmental efforts of the city of San Jose, California.

 By Debra Atlas

SAN JOSE, CA — The City of San Jose’s Green Vision Plan is a forward-thinking, 15-year plan to grow the local economy while simultaneously cutting in half the carbon footprint of the 10th largest city in the country.

Below are the goals of the Green Vision Plan, as stated on the City of San Jose’s Web site, with notes about its progress to date:

  1. Clean-tech: To create 25,000 clean-tech jobs as part of becoming the World Center of Clean Tech Innovation. As of 2010, the city has created more than 4,300 clean tech jobs.
  1. Energy Efficiency: To reduce per capita energy use by 50 percent.
    “That is a monumental task,” says Michael Foster, manager for the city’s community energy efficiency and solar and green building program. “It’s a paradigm shift in how individuals use electricity.” San Jose is working with Santa Clara County and PG&E to educate the community on energy efficiency. The city also is using the Energy Upgrade California program, which provides up to $4,000 in rebates to do energy efficiency retrofits in homes. The city then hires people to do the retrofitting, which helps the local economy by creating jobs.
  1. Renewable Energy: To receive 100 percent of the city’s electrical power from clean, renewable sources. To date, the city produces 15 percent of its energy from renewables.
  1. Green Building: To build or retrofit 50 million square feet of green buildings. So far, 7.4 million square feet have been certified as green building space. The city is working with its planning department to get more green building, LEED certification and to create more Green Point-rated homes.
  1. Waste ReductionTo divert 100 percent of the waste from landfills and convert waste to energy. San Jose already has one of the highest diversion rates in the country (60 percent for residential recycling), and in July 2012, the city plans to launch its new commercial collection recycling program that will offer enhanced recycling and food waste composting options to the business community. “We expect the city’s diversion rate to be over 80 percent shortly thereafter,” says Foster.
  1. Water Conservation: To recycle or beneficially reuse 100 percent of the city’s wastewater (100 million gallons per day). San Jose currently uses approximately 21 million gallons of recycled water per day.
  1. General Plan: To adopt a general plan with measurable standards for sustainable development. The city council is currently drafting the general plan and is scheduled to hear the draft Environmental Impact Report in early November.
  1. Emission Reduction: To ensure that 100 percent of public fleet vehicles run on alternative fuels. San Jose has made real headway here; so far the city converted 42 percent of its fleet to alternative fuel-based vehicles.
  1. Green Street: To plant 100,000 new trees and replace 100 percent of the city’s streetlights with smart, zero-emission lighting. The city has planted almost 4,500 new trees so far, and it is currently in the process of retrofitting all 62,000 streetlights with energy efficient LED light bulbs. These lights have other advantages in addition to being eco-friendly, according to Foster. “[LED streetlights] are a better, whiter light for more safety for citizens,” he says.
  1. Trails: To create 100 miles of interconnected trails. San Jose created more than 50 miles of trails throughout the city and subsequently was awarded the Transportation Planning Excellence Award by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2010. “[With] usable trails, people will get out of their cars, [which] will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Foster points out.

The city’s elected officials are completely on board with this plan, according to Foster, but he emphasizes that they cannot achieve the green vision goals without working with residents, businesses, and everyone else in the geographic space of the city.

So far, San Jose’s green vision is putting people back to work and encouraging exciting new economic opportunities.

For related articles, see:
Northern California City Reinvents Itself as Green
The Solar Power of San Jose
Solar Clovers and Gadgets Galore

Check out more articles by Debra Atlas.

© 2011 SCGH, LLC.

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