Local Action: Richmond Heights Partners with Focus

By Jane Allen Jones

For the last five weeks, Teresa Robinson has been hard at work creating the first Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory in RichmondHeights’ history.  She represents a first for Focus St. Louis, too – the first paid intern in the Focus Environmental Internship Program.  The goal of the internship program is to provide resources to local municipalities that have committed to completing a GHG emissions inventory for their community and using that information to draft a plan to reduce those emissions, a Climate Action Plan.

I sat down with intern Teresa, Assistant City Manager Bola Akande and City Public Relations Coordinator Irene Johnson to hear more about the process underway in the city.  Bola stated that sustainability seeds have been germinating in the community for a number of years.  In 2008, the City Council passed an ordinance creating  The Friends of the City of Richmond Heights, a non-profit citizens group committed to promoting sustainable practices and cultural enrichment in the community. With a strong partnership between that group and city leadership, many good things have happened.

The goals of the partnership have been to find ways to improve efficiency of the local government, improve quality of life for citizens and reduce the environmental impact of city operations by implementing sustainable practices.  In Bola’s view, it is all about being good stewards of the city’s tax dollars and resources.  With these goals in mind, Richmond Heights was one of the first communities to introduce single stream recycling (reducing land fill costs), have partnered with five other communities to buy recycled printer paper (saving procurement costs), and have partnered with 14 other communities in a grant-funded project that will allow them to install more energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems (saving operating expenses).

Completion of the GHG inventory will help pinpoint where they have the greatest opportunities to further reduce energy expenses while reducing emissions from the air.  The results of the GHG analysis will then allow them to draft a multi-year plan for attaining those savings.  Bola said that without the Focus Environmental Internship Program, this effort would not have been possible this year. Budgetary and staffing constraints would have prevented it. But with the internship program, Richmond Heights was able to proceed.

Over the next eight weeks, intern Teresa will continue her work with all of the Richmond Heights departments to complete the GHG inventory.  She stated that the process has gone very smoothly so far, thanks to a great communications effort headed by City Manager Amy Hamilton and the city’s public relations coordinator.  The communications support ensured that all department managers understand the importance of the work Teresa is undertaking.  Cooperation has been terrific as a result.  Following the completion of the GHG inventory, their sites are set on developing the Climate Action Plan by year end.  At that point, Richmond Heights will be on their way to continuing their work to be good stewards of the environment and their financial resources by implementing the Climate Action Plan, step by step.


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