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Tacoma's green ideas

Two new policies could help shape Tacoma's sustainable future

SUSTAINABILITY: Tacoma says it wants to lead by example. Photography by Patrick Snapp

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Tuesday, April 19, three days before Earth Day, the Tacoma City Council will introduce two new sustainability policies, one regarding the city's internal purchasing standards and the other relating to its construction and building maintenance standards. Both policies are designed to ensure Tacoma leads by example as it encourages businesses and citizens to act more sustainably.

The purchasing policy was articulated in the City's 2008 Climate Action Plan and is one of the first projects the City's new Office of Sustainability contributed to. The policy was drafted by the Sustainable Tacoma Commission at the request of councilmen Jake Fey and Ryan Mello. 

"We're shifting the kinds of things we buy so that they are more sustainable and healthier products," explains Mello.

"The new sustainable purchasing policy will provide direction to staff about purchasing everything from paper to vehicles to the cleaning solvent used to clean restrooms," he says. 

Mello says the policy will take into account the entire lifespan cost of a product, not just what it costs the city to acquire it. It will also account for the energy and material it took to create the product and the energy it would take to transport the product to Tacoma.

"It's a very aggressive, robust policy," says Mello.

"It's easy to buy virgin paper from Costco or from some company from Virginia," Mello continues. "(But) it's zero percent (recycled) content, took several trucks to get here, and has a huge carbon footprint."

The policy would also create a sustainability-conscious manual for city employees to follow when ordering products like paper. "No longer would you get that paper trucked in Virginia," says Mello. "You would most likely get Grey's Harbor paper from Grey's Harbor, Washington - made with biomass energy, trucked in from 50 miles away as opposed from 2,000 miles away," he says.

The second new policy to be unveiled Tuesday will address green building. The policy will demand all new facilities the City of Tacoma builds are LEED certified or meet a comparable standard, and that the refurbishment of City of Tacoma buildings meets high environmental standards.

This policy comes at an influential time, as Mello says the Tacoma Municipal building as well as the Streets and Grounds buildings will soon need to be refurbished. The policy also addresses the maintenance of buildings.

"There is an accredited, sustainable way to take care of buildings, which means everything from the kind of solvents you use to clean the building to the sort of light bulbs we are using," Mello explains. 

Mello says the council is only passing the "framework" of these policies and the details will be worked out in the future.

Mello admits he doesn't know exactly what the costs associated with the new policies will be, but was quick to say the city would act within economic reason when applying them. 

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Comments for "Tacoma's green ideas" (2)

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Doug said on Apr. 15, 2011 at 10:43am

Holroyd Green Products LLC is eager for progress on this front. Great to see the City of Tacoma taking such a leadership role.

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Angie said on Apr. 17, 2011 at 3:37pm

I would like them to put solar panels on the Tacoma Dome roof and generate Tacoma's electricity.

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