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City explores energy-efficient options

City explores energy-efficient options

August 6th, 2017 by Nicole Roberts in News

Ann Stratman refills a water bottle Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 on the first floor of Jefferson City Hall, where the city has installed water energy efficient water stations that feature a counter that displays how many plastic bottles worth of water have been refilled using this system.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Jefferson City offers different energy-efficient features to residents, but the city is still looking for ways to improve.

Recycling

The city provides a variety of recycling options, the most popular being single-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling, along with normal trash services, is offered to all city residents through Republic Services.

Single-stream recycling means residents can put all recyclable materials in one bin, which is sorted at a later time.

"It's the most easy and convenient for most residents, and it makes it really easy for people who want to recycle to just put it in one bin at their homes instead of having to drive to different locations around the city or to separate it out," said Lauren Henry, the city's neighborhood service specialist. "People don't have the means to do that or the time, so single-stream recycling is a convenient option for them."

Different types of plastics, cardboards and chipboards, aluminum, tins, steels, papers and cartons are accepted. Plastic bags, hazardous chemicals, Styrofoam and glass are not allowed.

Along with this, there are dropoff areas around the city — Mckay Park, Memorial Park, City Hall and Fire Stations No. 1, 2 and 5 — that accept cardboard, newspapers and magazines. City Hall and Memorial Park dropoff locations also accept plastics.

Glass is recycled separately from these products and are placed in four purple glass recycling bins around the city — 1228 E. McCarty St., 2284 Hyde Park, 2730 W. Main St. and 1700 Southridge Drive. This service is provided through Ripple Glass — a company in Kansas City — and residents can place any colored food or beverage container glasses in the bins.

The glass is either reused for bottles or grounded down and used in insulation.

Both Jefferson City and Cole County residents can also drop off household hazardous wastes. These items can range from paints, batteries, antifreeze, swimming pool chemicals and oils. While some of these hazardous wastes can be recycled, others are disposed of properly, Henry said.

Dropoff times for hazardous waste are by appointment from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. on Aug. 23, Sept. 27 and Oct. 25. Henry said the city does not reveal where the dropoff location for hazardous waste is located until someone calls City Hall to arrange an appointment. This is to ensure people do not drop off the waste on days not listed.

There are also water-refilling stations around the city, which Henry said can cut down on the amount of plastic water bottles recycled or thrown away.

She said offering different types of recycling options provides more opportunities for residents to not only reuse the products but also help the environment.

"Recycling is really important to adding life years to the landfill because no one really wants another landfill in their backyard if they can help it," Henry said. "It keeps us from using raw materials because we can use what we already have, and it helps keep the environment clean for future generations (because) if trash doesn't end up recycled or in a proper trash receptacle, it could end up in stormwater or somewhere else inappropriate and cause harm to the environment."

Lighting

Along with recycling, the city is working toward providing energy-efficient lighting. When a street light goes out around the city, Jefferson City now replaces the lights with light-emitting diodes (LED) lightbulbs.

All of the historic lightpoles downtown currently contain LED bulbs. The city is also changing the street lights at intersections to LED lights.

Britt Smith, operations division director of the Jefferson City Public Works Department, said light changes at the intersections also allow less maintenance on the streetlights and provide more safety.

"Every time you had to go out there and change a lightbulb, you're in the middle of an intersection, which is potentially dangerous, and you're shutting the intersection down," Smith said. "By going to the LEDs, we very rarely have to get up there now and work on the lights, so we're saving manpower and energy all at the same time."

The cost of energy-efficient lightbulbs is normally more expensive than normal lightbulbs, though. Smith said while the upfront cost is more expensive, sometimes the long-term cost can outweigh that. He said an intersection could cost the city $50-$75 a month in electricity, but after changing the lights to LED lights, the cost could be $25.

"In the scheme of things, it doesn't sound like much, but $25 every month for every intersection tends to add up very quickly," he said. "We have a certain amount of dollars, so anywhere I can cut costs and not decrease service, I'm all for it."

The city is also working to replace the flashing lights on some speed limit signs to solar-power lights.

Bicycling

Recently, the city has been pushing to become a bicycle-friendly community, which Jefferson City resident Jeff Holzem said could lessen the city's carbon footprint.

The city's Environmental Quality Commission resurrected its bicycle subcommittee last month, and the city is applying for a bicycle-friendly designation through the League of American Bicyclists.

The Capitol Avenue project will also include bicycle lanes, and Discover Jefferson City recently bought more than 30 bike racks that will be placed around the city.

"If you're able to reduce vehicular trips by 5 percent, then you would certainly expect a corresponding improvement in air quality because we're running that fewer engines and that fewer exhausts being produced," City Engineer David Bange said.

There is always room for improvement though, Holzem said. Last month, he presented ways the city could be more energy-efficient to the Environmental Quality Commission. One suggestion was doing a citywide energy audit, which several commission members agreed would be beneficial.

Holzem said the energy audit would be like a baseline for the city so it knows what it currently is achieving and areas where it could improve.

"Anything you do, you don't know if you're making progress unless you know where you are now, so if you're trying to improve things, you're going to want to know where you stand now, like students getting tested at the beginning of the year," he said.

Holzem also suggested providing more solar-power panels on buildings' roofs and education on recycling. He said the city could also set up a plan so new vehicles purchased by the city are energy-efficient, beginning with the city vehicles Mayor Carrie Tergin currently has funded in the 2018 draft budget.

Smith and Bange said an area they want to improve in is conserving energy through the city's buses. The city applied for a grant recently to purchase an electric bus but did not receive it. Columbia currently has some electric buses.

When the buses stop at traffic lights and bus stops, the diesel engines continue to run, but with electric buses, the electric engines would stop running to conserve energy.

Smith said they have also considered compressed natural gas for the buses.

"The bus system is a very valuable system to provide to our community, but it's also very expensive to operate," he said. "If we can come up with more efficient ways to do that, whether it be electric buses or compressed natural gas, I would be all for it."

Holzem said the energy-efficient features the city offers and could provide in the future would not only benefit the city now, but also future residents.

"We could do something good for the city, something good for the environment, something good for our families, our kids, future generations," he said.