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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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Take Energy Savings One Step Further

Home energy saving resources.

The Citywide Green Team has put together a list of free resources to help you save energy and money at home. Find the one that’s best for you, set yourself a deadline and get going. We’d like to hear from you. 

Top five ways to take your energy savings home

Now that you are turning off your computer when not in use, it’s time to think about energy saving actions to take at home. The Citywide Green Team has put together a list of free resources to help you save energy and money at home:

  1. Take five minutes to complete an online Home Energy Review. Take Energy Trust of Oregon’s online survey and get a free home energy review in just a few minutes.
  2. Find a friend and spend an hour or two finding phantom energy loads at home. Turn energy savings into a ghost buster challenge at home by checking out a Kill-A-Watt tester from a Multnomah County library. It’s a DIY project that gives you the power to find and destroy phantom energy loads at home. 
  3. Take a Saturday to attend a Fix-It-Fair to learn simple ways to save money on home energy projects and much more.
  4. Make the call and get a free consult with a home advisor from Community Energy Project. As a non-profit, CEP Home Advisors offer an objective, unbiased approach to making your home upgrade the best that it can.
  5. For the ultimate DIYer, use this tool to create a very detailed energy audit of your home. Seattle has put together this comprehensive home energy audit kit.

For the ultimate DIYer, use this tool to create a very detailed energy audit of your home. Seattle has put together this comprehensive home energy audit kit.

Modernizing the City’s fleet vehicles

Transforming the City’s fleet from gas to electric is underway

The City of Portland’s sedan fleet has transformed dramatically since 2013, from almost entirely conventional gas vehicles to over 20 percent electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid EVs.

The City is a leader in EV purchasing, EV charging infrastructure, education and outreach efforts, and fostering new markets for EV technology beyond sedans and light trucks. There is great support for EVs at the City, from Mayor Ted Wheeler who can be seen getting around town in his Ford CMax Energi to Bureau directors and staff. It’s truly a team effort and our collective hard work is paying off.

But this transformation is still underway, as there is more work to be done to meet key goals of the City’s 2030 Environmental Performance Objectives, Climate Action Plan (CAP), and the community-wide renewable energy goals established in 2017 by Resolution 37289.

  • The City’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2015, sets ambitious goals: a 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, using 1990 levels as a benchmark.
  • The 2030 Environmental Performance Objectives, also adopted in 2015, hold the City to even higher standards, aiming for a 53% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, using FY 06-07 as a benchmark.

With transport currently creating 40% of CO2 emissions in Multnomah County, “EVs are a vital tool to help the City and the region meet long-term environmental goals,” explains Ingrid Fish, EV Policy Lead with Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. While EVs are part of the solution, they are by no means the entire solution.

The City is also working hard to create and foster walkable communities, encourage active transport, and create policies for autonomous and shared transport. But in areas where cars are still a necessity, EVs are the way to go and they are also the future of the City’s vehicle fleet.

Modernizing an aging fleet

The opportunity to transform the City’s fleet fell heavier on the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) than on some other Bureaus, because their inspectors only use sedans. Other Bureaus require heavy duty trucks and for these there are currently few, if any, EV options. Katie Salazar, Facilities Coordinator for BDS, recalls that in 2013 their fleet was aging and not at all green. They had no EVs and more than half of their vehicles were due for replacement. In order to follow the then new Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) policies and to help meet City EV goals, BDS began buying exclusively hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

But Katie faced a challenge. “The Prius was seen as the ultimate green wimp car. I wanted to be sustainable, but also to keep my people happy.” So, Katie got to work. She explained to BDS staff how the Bureau needed to reduce its carbon emissions in order to do their part to meet the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) goals. She sold hybrids on convenience: “You won’t have to stop as frequently for gas.” And she gave staff voice and choice.

After test driving a number of vehicles, BDS staff chose the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Many staff objected to the Prius, which was under consideration, not only because of its image, but also because it was uncomfortable for taller inspectors and had difficult sight lines. Staff were happy to have voice and choice and, in general, there have been few complaints about the new vehicles. Today all of BDS' 108 vehicles are hybrids or plug-in hybrids.

Plug-in hybrids are projected to deliver meaningful cost savings over the lifetime of the vehicle. Hybrid vehicles last longer and need to be replaced only every 10-11 years, while conventional vehicles need to be replaced every 6-7 years. Hybrids also have lower operation and maintenance costs. And the cost difference of buying a hybrid or plug-in hybrid as opposed to a gas vehicle is getting less and less. For example, five years ago a standard gas-powered sedan cost about $20,000 and a plug-in hybrid cost $35,000, a 75% difference. Today that gap has narrowed to 20% with gas powered sedans at $24,000 and plug-in hybrid’s at $29,000. With the reduced purchase price and reduced maintenance, the overall lifecycle costs of these vehicles are less than that of a comparable gas-powered sedan.

Building EV infrastructure

With the City of Portland purchasing hybrid EVs in ever-increasing numbers and with an “EV first” policy, requiring that new vehicles be EVs unless there is a compelling reason not to buy one, the City is working hard to build sufficient charging infrastructure. At times, the City is playing catch-up: creating infrastructure that will let Bureaus charge existing vehicles.

In 2017, 43 EV charging stations opened in the garage that the City of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services uses to park its fleet. This was a significant milestone in a broad and ongoing process of fleet transformation designed to decrease carbon emissions.  

The 43 EV charging stations were built in partnership with Portland State University (PSU), from whom the City rents garage space. The City Council approved project cost was $280,000. 

Growing the EV market

The City has committed to a goal of meeting 100 percent of its community-wide energy needs with renewable energy by 2050. This goal includes transportation energy which results in the City aiming to have a zero-emission vehicle fleet fueled by renewable electricity sources by 2050. To meet these goals markets must continue to shift. For example, the EV market for sedans and light SUVs is relatively well established. But, if you’re looking to buy a heavy-duty truck or specialized vehicle like a paver or garbage truck, there are very few EV options and the options that exist are currently cost prohibitive.

Portland, in partnership with other west coast cities, is working to change this. In 2017, the Cities of Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, all members of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, submitted a Request for Information (RFI), inviting “automakers to describe their plans for meeting a potentially record-breaking order of EVs. The four cities could buy or lease up to 24,000 electric vehicles for their fleets, if automobile and truck manufacturers are able to meet the demand and provide appropriate pricing.”

This RFI is the first effort of its kind to include municipalities from different states, demonstrating the purchasing power of local governments to transform the electric vehicle market. By moving to electric vehicles, cities can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease reliance on fossil fuels, and improve air quality while reducing fuel and maintenance costs by an estimated average of 37 percent. In particular, this RFI aims to demonstrate demand and create a market for the development of EV trucks and medium or heavy-duty equipment including delivery vans, trash trucks and transit buses.

Education and Outreach

The process of fleet transformation and EV adoption is not simply a technical one. It is also a question of the behavior of thousands of users – City staff who depend on fleet vehicles. BDS has opted to make the process of behavior change more natural and not to make it mandatory for staff to use the charging stations. Currently there are more EVs than charging stations, so hopefully the charging stations will be used by engaged and motivated staff and this will, in turn, create additional interest. To streamline this process BDS has conducted outreach and created a video explaining how to use the charging stations. Similar outreach and education processes are playing out across the City’s Bureaus.

Initial reports are very positive. Ingrid Fish shares, “I have heard from Fleet that EVs are the first to be reserved. People like how they handle and that they are very quiet.” It is also a plus that you don’t need to refuel frequently. Donny Leader, the Vehicle Administrative Supervisor for City Fleet agrees. “As an EV owner, I try to lead by example and encourage others to purchase electric vehicles. I also advocate for workplace charging as an incentive to City employees who commute to work from outside the city limits to purchase electric vehicles.”  City Administrative Rules do not currently provide for this.

Looking ahead

As the City of Portland continues to buy more EVs and to use EVs to fulfill more needs, there will be continued need for new EV charging infrastructure. Some of these charging stations will be eligible to earn credits under the Oregon Clean Fuels Program.  Hopefully car and truck manufacturers will respond favorably to the RFI and move swiftly so that we’ll see EV garbage trucks and construction vehicles in not too long. When it comes to personal vehicles, the City will look to encourage and plan for a future in which individual vehicle use, even if it’s an EV, declines.

Growing Green Air

2018 Earth Day Plant Giveaway

 plants  planting  planting  holding plant

Inspired by the work of BDS employee Brandon Rogers, the Citywide Green Team would like to give you your own baby plant during April 2018. It’s a small way for us to thank you for your sustainability efforts each and every day. The only catch: you need to promise to water it.

Where to find your plant

Planting stations can be found in locations around the City. Get one while supplies last or get on the waiting list. Spider plants grow quickly so you won’t have to wait long.

City Hall – Contact: Susan Barr, Janine Gates, or Heather Saby

Congress Center – Contact: Bill Crawford, Ethan Cirmo

Columbia Square – Contact: Icie Ta

400 SW 6th Avenue and Pioneer Tower – Contact: Elena Estrada or Pam Mavis

1900 SW 4th Avenue – Contact: Brandon Rogers (BDS) or Kyenne Williams (BPS)

North Kerby Yard – Contact: Tawnya Harris (CityFleet) or Rich Grant (PBOT)

WasteWater Treatment Plant – Contact: David Olsav

Why keep indoor plants?

Your baby plant will be doing its small part to improve our indoor air quality by absorbing commonly found air pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde. Eliminating harmful pollutants in our air is a key City environmental performance objective. See how we're doing at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/scg-dashboard.

This Sustainability Hero inspired us to find a way to bring everyone a plant

Headshot“Plants bring people together in really interesting ways. People connect on a personal level and come alive,” explains Brandon Rogers, a city planner with the Bureau of Development Services. Brandon has been giving plants to his colleagues at the City in what is both a social experiment and an effort to improve indoor air quality.

In the spring of 2017, Brandon was walking around the offices when he noticed some particularly healthy spider plants with hundreds of little babies ready to be rooted. So, Brandon did just that and started giving them away. Soon he purchased pots and soil and even found a free surplus AV cart at PSU which he set up as a mobile plant station.

Brandon’s project has really taken root, helped along by Kate Green, Green Team member and colleague. They’ve given away 100 plants and counting! For Brandon, it is satisfying to see how caring for plants is social and relaxing. And he's happy knowing that indoor plants, especially spider plants, clean the air, removing toxins like formaldehyde and benzine. His advice to others: “Follow your heart. Start small. Share your ideas with others and collaborate.”

In his personal life, Brandon has also made some big changes. In 2012, after reading a book on food production, he became a vegan. Brandon wanted to minimize animal suffering and reduce his carbon footprint. He recalls that at first it was very hard. “About two weeks in I dreamed of a six-foot high pile of sliced tri tip covered in cheddar cheese.” By now, though, Brandon sleeps easy and feels great about his food choices.

We admit it: Mom was right.

Citywide Green Team asks staff how they help keep trash and recycling out of the landfill. Congratulations are in order for over 15 raffle prize winners.

Mom’s advice has some real green cred.

Mother's Day was Sunday, May 14, so honor mom by listening to what she's been saying for years.

        

» Wipe your face! (It prevents waste)

In a recent waste study at one of our buildings, paper towels made up a third of the landfill waste. Switch to cloth! You can prevent waste by bringing a cloth napkin to work with your lunch. There are lots of actions you already do, show us and win a prize!

Over 150 of you came out to meet your Citywide Green Team: On Thursday, May 18, 2017 the Citywide Green Team held events in eight locations around the City. They asked staff what they do to keep waste out of the landfill. In exchange, staff were entered to win one of fifteen gift certificates.

A sample of what staff are doing (remember little things add up!):

  • A number of you use cloth napkins at home and many committed to bringing one to work.
  • Many bring lunch to work in a reusable container and committed to stop using plastic sandwich bags.
  • Some of you use reusable mesh produce bags and reusable shopping bags at home.
  • Some staff take extra plastics to Far West Fibers for recycling.
  • Oh so many of you bring a reusable coffee mug to work. Keep up the good work!

And the winners are…

Congratulations to the following staff who won a raffle prize. Lindsey Maser, BPS; Zach Odil, P&D; Tish Leos and Bernadette Landgdon, PBOT; Marianna Lomanto, ONI Crime Prevention; Mary Jaron Kelley and Tom Griffin-Valade, ONI North Portland Neighborhood Services; Sophia Terry and Clayton Amber, BES; Rose Imani, CityFleet; Sue Parsons, Auditor's office; Mary Schneider, ONI; and Ross Jonak, BDS.

And a free lunch goes to:

The Green Team wanted to know if dishtowels were already being used in workplace kitchens instead of paper towels. They asked staff to snap a photo and send a list of coworkers’ names who make it happen. That list was entered into a drawing for a free lunch. Congratulations to Portland Water Bureau Interstate Office staff Karen Scott and Anna DiBenedetto who manage the program for their office. 

Another free lunch just because:

Green Team staff received so many nice comments about this person and how she manages the BES dishtowels and women’s restroom at the Portland Building, that they made some money available for a second prize. Congratulations to BES staff, Jennifer Antak, for her commitment to this program.

» On your way out? Don't forget your coat!

An extra layer protects you from the cold — and the same rings true for your home and workplace. It’s called insulation and it makes a big difference: About 20 percent of all carbon emissions comes from our homes — on average, more than our cars. Making your home more energy efficient is good for you, too: It makes your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer (and lowers your energy bill). Whether your rent or own your home, there are many low-cost and no-cost options to make your home more energy efficient.

» Share your stuff!

Making, shipping and packaging the “stuff” we buy accounts for about a quarter of our city’s household carbon emissions. Borrowing seldom-used items saves money, cuts clutter and is great for the environment. Portland is filled with opportunities to borrow tools for home and garden projects, kitchen gadgets and kids’ toys from lending libraries.

» Keep it going, Portland!

There are lots of ways to cut waste in City operations. Over the last year, nearly 80 percent of City employees participated in the paperless paystub option. Making this choice has saved nearly 150,000 sheet of paper. That’s nearly 20 trees a year! Thank you OMF Bureau of Human Resources staff for giving us this option.

» Questions?

Your friends in the Citywide Green Team are ready to answer questions and provide resources. Visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/cityworksgreen or email greenteam@portlandoregon.gov.

Earth Day every day. Great ideas come from you.

Citywide Green Team launches regular staff communications with a message from Mayor Wheeler.

City employees demonstrating green practices

Happy Earth Day to the 6,000+ City Employees that make this City work!

Running an efficient city is our job and we all do it well. Efficiency is determined by many factors – among them are major capital investments, like solar energy and LED streetlights, to the day-to-day choices we make to save time, money and resources.

Over the past 20 years the City of Portland has become an international leader in sustainability. And the projects that got us here have saved money to the tune of $61 million dollars in gas and electricity bills. Recently Portland was recognized as the nation’s first Salmon-Safe City and awarded by C40 for the Best Climate Action Plan in the World. This year, City operations are powered by 100 percent renewable energy!

It’s critical that we walk our talk here at the City. Did you know that the City and County recently committed to reaching 100 percent renewable energy for the entire community by 2050? That means in three decades every home, school, hospital, vehicle and business will be carbon-free.

Remember: Little things add up

From turning off your computer at night to using a refillable water bottle, your everyday choices make a difference. Every day, each of you can make small changes that really add up.

Your colleagues in the Citywide Green Team want to share new ideas (and some classics) for running a healthier, more efficient and sustainable workplace. Keep an eye out for ideas and reminders for everyday opportunities to make city operations more efficient. We’ll also feature special projects, major accomplishments and a little friendly competition to keep you on your toes.

Keep it going

Remember that great efficiency ideas come from you. Look around your workplace and find ways to save energy, water and recycle.

Questions?

Program staff are ready to answer questions and provide resources. Visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/cityworksgreen or email greenteam@portlandoregon.gov.