On Tuesday, Ithaca became the first city in New York, and the thirteenth worldwide, to join the 2030 District network.
The 2030 District model provides a framework for improving urban sustainability, working with property owners and businesses to cut their energy use, water use and transportation emissions by 50 percent by 2030. The year 2030 is considered a deadline for achieving a carbon-free society in order to mitigate climate change.
The 2030 District is not a "district' in the traditional, geographical sense. Rather it is a commitment by members to improve sustainability in their buildings.
According to Peter Bardaglio, executive director of the Ithaca 2030 District and founder of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI), 75 percent of all electricity generated in the United States is used to operate buildings, and buildings are responsible for 45 percent of US carbon emissions.
"This is really about energy conservation," Bardaglio says. "It's more or less fuel-source agnostic. It's saying, 'Look, you may be using natural gas, but you need to use a lot less. And how can we help you get there?'"
The 2030 District is more than just "granola," as Bardaglio puts it. The program works with its members to benchmark energy usage and formulate a plan to reduce it. In addition, it provides collective access to sustainable technologies that might be out of reach for an individual property owner.
Another unique aspect of the 2030 District is that it is "private-led, public supported" initiative, with local property owners and businesses uniting around a shared vision for sustainability and economic growth.
Local First Ithaca will serve as the District Sponsor for the program. As the District Sponsor, Local First Ithaca will assure that the Ithaca 2030 District, currently representing over 171,000 square feet of downtown real estate, is accountable to the property owners as well as community and professional stakeholders.
“The 2030 Districts’ initiative closely aligns with the mission of Local First Ithaca to bring people, businesses, and organizations together to create a successful local economy that uses resources, experience, and inclusiveness to create a thriving and livable community,” said Jan Rhodes Norman, co-founder of Local First Ithaca. "We’re very excited to support the work of the Ithaca 2030 District in this way."
Ahead of the curve
In becoming part of the 2030 District network, Ithaca joins the ranks of several larger cities, including Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. There are several "emerging" 2030 Districts as well, including New York City -- which Ithaca narrowly beat out to become the first in New York.
About 30 people celebrated the launch of the Ithaca 2030 District in the offices of HOLT Architects. Bardaglio highlighted HOLT as a great example of urban sustainability, pointing out that the HOLT offices were renovated from what was once an old auto parts store.
"It goes to show, you can do net-zero with just about anything," Bardaglio said.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, who represents Ithaca, was on hand to give remarks at the launch event for the Ithaca 2030 District.
Lifton joked about how her colleagues in the Assembly would often would give her an affectionate ribbing for representing "impossibly idealistic" Ithaca. She said that while she used to take offense, she now sees it as a badge of honor.
"Now I say, 'Well, we do tend to be a little ahead of the curve in my district. We lead, and you folks eventually catch up with us," Lifton said.
"We've lead the way on so many things in New York," Lifton continued. "We had the first law guardian office here in Tompkins County. We had one of the first drug courts in the state. We were leaders in the anti-fracking movement. And now you're leading once again."
Bardaglio thinks that Ithaca could pave the way for more smaller cities to adopt the 2030 standard. The 2030 Districts up to now have all been in major cities. Prior to Ithaca, Stamford Connecticut was the smallest 2030 District city -- and it has nearly four times the population of Ithaca.
"There are a lot of small cities in America that are actually just as progressive as some of the bigger cities that can step up to the plate," Bardaglio says.
Ithaca's 2030 District launched with 13 property owners and managers as founding members:
• Alternatives Federal Credit Union
• Cascadilla Oasis
• Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County
• City of Ithaca
• HOLT Architects
• Ithaca Bakery
• Purity Ice Cream
• Taitem Engineering
• Tompkins County
• Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce
• Travis Hyde Properties
• Urban Core, LLC
- Michael Smith, Ithaca Voice, 6/29/16
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