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Greening Golden Fields

Greening Golden Fields. Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology , Chicago, IL , 2010.
The city council of Golden Fields, a small town in the Midwest, has set the goal of reducing carbon emissions for municipal operations and the community as a whole by 30% by 2012. To achieve this plan, the city government has formed a partnership with the Energy Dynamics Lab and the School of Business at Nebraska State University who assisted them in doing a feasibility study and adopting the “Roadmap to Sustainability for Golden Fields,” an extensive plan for how the community will seek to reach their 30% reduction goal, as well as the goal of getting 50% of all new homes and businesses built in Golden Fields city limits to conform to LEED and other green building standards. In August of 2010, the meeting agenda included a progress report by the Community Carbon Advisory Board on how Golden Fields was doing meeting these goals. Many of the recommendations made in the original report were in the process of being adopted, such as switching the city’s fleet of buses to running on natural gas and installing solar panels on city buildings, but the Carbon Advisory Board reported that response to their public awareness campaign was sluggish. A survey done in 2010 showed that homeowners were recycling more but only 7% of respondents said they were interested in receiving information on how to make their homes more energy efficient. Even more depressing, no new homes or businesses built in Golden Fields since 2008 conformed with nationally- recognized green building standards, even when information packets were sent to contractors and new businesses applying for city building permits. Breaking the silence after the conclusion of the report, one councilwoman suggested offering incentives, such as tax breaks for homeowners who could prove they made energy-saving improvements to their homes. A number of other suggestions were raised, but finally the chair of the Carbon Advisory Board stood up. “Unless we can get more participation in this program, we are not going to meet these goals,” she said, holding up a copy of the Roadmap plan. “We can offer carrots, but we might also want to think about using the stick as well. So far, everything in the Roadmap Plan is voluntary. We can’t make residents ride bikes to work, but we can force new buildings to be energy efficient. We should adopt building codes for the community that require new construction to meet energy efficient standards.” A few voices approved this suggestion but others were less sure. A local businessman summed up these doubts. “Maybe rich communities can afford to worry about sustainability, but in these hard economic times, we can’t force people to spend more money on building their homes and businesses. If it costs too much to build here, businesses and new residents will decide to go somewhere else.” Discussion continued, some council members agreeing that more stringent building standards would hurt Golden Fields’ economy, others arguing that the city council has an obligation to consider Golden Fields’ environmental impact. “Sustainability isn’t something we should consider only in good economic times, like putting in more flowers around City Hall,” A councilman added, “it should be something we consider in every decision we make.”