By Karalee Browne.
The Beacon Program, from the Institute for Local Government, honors local leadership in addressing climate change and celebrates cities and counties efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy and adopt policies and programs that promote sustainability.
One of the most important aspects of ILG’s Beacon Program is the peer-to -peer learning that takes place among the participants. I am continually impressed by the staff and elected officials from the County of Sacramento who seem both eager to learn from others and willing to take the time to share their best practices.
I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of the Sacramento County’s Green Team meetings, and am inspired by the vigor with which each member of the team participates in the dialogue, searching for innovative ideas to enhance the sustainability of their operations in a way that best serves their constituents.
Particularly impressive is the County’s Waste Management and Recycling Department headed up by Director, Paul Philleo. In 2015, Sacramento Clean Cities awarded Sacramento County Waste Management & Recycling with its Clean Air Champion Award for Outstanding Public Agency Fleet Achievement. With more than 150,000 customers and 75 different collection routes, the department continually seeks opportunities to serve its community in the most efficient and sustainable way.
In August of this year, Sacramento County held the grand opening of a new compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station, the first of its kind in the region. Before it opened, drivers used to have to wait around for 45 minutes to fill their trucks, but with the new CNG station, drivers can fuel vehicles overnight, allowing multiple vehicles to fill up at the same time, with no wait time. The new CNG time fill/fast fill station is expected to save the county $200,000 per year in staff time and fueling costs.
While most of the Waste Management and Recycling Department’s fleet runs on either liquid or compressed natural gas, the county will be adding two battery-electric heavy-duty refuse trucks to its fleet, as part of a demonstration project. These electric vehicles are not only expected to save the county money in fuel costs, but they produce zero emissions during operation and collect trash more quietly and efficiently.
Another efficiency measure the county employs is using Global Position Systems (GPS) in their trucks. The high tech trash tracking technology provides information on the total number of stops made, miles driven and amount of idle time. This allows the county to determine the most efficient collection routes, which helps reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
But it’s not all about the trucks. Waste Management and Recycling’s climate action and sustainability efforts are evident at Sacramento County’s Kiefer Landfill, where sheep and goats help reduce unwanted vegetation, which has cut the use of highly polluting gas trimmers. Additionally, the landfill converts raw methane and carbon dioxide emitted by decomposing waste into electricity at its onsite power plant.
This methane to electricity conversion works to remove harmful greenhouse gases and is the equivalent of taking 117,000 cars off the road annually. And to top it off, earlier this year, volunteers gathered to plant 135 native oak trees on a vacant hillside adjacent to the county’s landfill in an effort to beautify the landscape and provide a habitat for the native wildlife.
Congratulations Sacramento County on your continued efforts! Keep up the good work. For more information about Sacramento County’s sustainability initiatives visit, www.ca-ilg.org/beacon-participant-profile/county-sacramento.
To learn more about siting and financing recycling infrastructure projects in your community, visit ILG’s Recycling Resource Center atwww.ca-ilg.org/recycling-resource-center.
Currently seven counties participate in the Beacon Award Program: Sacramento, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Yolo. At this year’s CSAC Annual Meeting, one of these counties will become the first to receive a full Beacon Award for its achievements in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving energy. Find out which one, on December 1st!