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Portland City Council approves new goals for Sustainable City Government operations

Portland City Council approved a new set of Sustainable City Government Principles and an update to the Green Building Policy for City Facilities. Together, these resolutions will guide city bureaus to implement long-term operational efficiencies with a focus on sustainable approaches.

“City bureaus have a long track record of sustainability, but it’s important that we periodically revisit our policies and goals, and push ourselves to continue to look for innovative solutions,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Council passed a resolution to update the City’s green building requirements for facilities that the City owns and manages. Building green reflects the City’s commitment to saving natural resources, while creating healthy spaces for workers and visitors. It also helps the City save money on energy, water, waste and stormwater management.

“From solar installations to recycling to energy efficiency lighting — all City of Portland bureaus are making government operations more cost and resource efficient,” said BPS Director Susan Anderson. “Cities from around the world look to Portland as a leader. Local residents and businesses have invested in resource efficiency, and it's essential that City bureaus walk the talk, too."

The City owns and operates hundreds of buildings, tens of thousands of streetlights and traffic signals and several large-scale industrial plants. Like businesses and other organizations, it must examine every facet of operations for possible energy, resource and cost saving opportunities. Portland adopted the first set of sustainability principles in 1994, a year after Portland released the first-in-the-nation local Climate Action Plan. Through implementation of the first set of principles, the City has saved more than $50 million over 20 years.

"Incorporating sustainability into our operations and our culture helps us improve our operations and service to the public," said Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat. "We are making differences large and small, in everyday projects and all our operations. By converting street lights to energy-saving LEDs, we are saving dollars and energy in virtually all neighborhoods in the city. We also have turned the leaves collected last fall as part of Leaf Day service into compost that is now available for sale to the public. These principles will help us achieve even more. We support these principles because they're the right thing to do and because they make sense operationally."

In recent years, bureaus have partnered to achieve impressive savings projects, including:

  • Portland Bureau of Transportation’s (PBOT) sustainability-related projects are saving dollars through lower electricity bills and reduced maintenance costs. PBOT is currently converting 45,000 street lights to Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting. This conversion will result in a savings of 20 million kilowatt-hours of electricity – cutting energy use in half and saving $1.5 million annually. The new LEDs are expected to last up to 20 years without changing bulbs or major maintenance. 
  • Portland’s fire bureau has been making stations more efficient and healthier for over a decade, including two LEED buildings.
  • Portland Parks and Recreation is the first and only park system in the country certified for salmon-friendly parks management. The bureau makes energy efficiency improvements a priority as a routine part of the ongoing work for the Parks Replacement Bond.
  • The Office of Management and Finance’s sustainable procurement program is 13 years old and has received national and international attention. OMF also manages the City Fleet, which will be 20 percent electric by 2030.
  • Today, approximately 44 percent of City-controlled impervious surfaces are managed via sustainable stormwater strategies like green street projects. The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services has overseen the construction of over 2,000 green street facilities since 2006. BES staff at Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant have reduced electricity consumption by 40 percent. In 1991, power use was at 30 million kilowatt-hours; in 2015, the number was roughly 18 million kWh. One of the more exciting future initiatives at the plant is to use surplus biogas and make it suitable for use as a transportation fuel. This kind of innovation brings cost savings and significant carbon and emission reductions for the community.
  • “We talk about ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland,’ which means building, maintaining, and operating our parks and recreation system in order to promote ecological health,” said Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “Portland Parks & Recreation enthusiastically supports the new Sustainable City Government Principles, and looks forward to participating in the City’s national green leadership.”

These resolutions renew and refresh Portland’s longstanding commitment to walk its talk when it comes to sustainability.

Project contact

Pam Neild, Sustainable City Government Partnership Program Coordinator