Cassie Kelly, January 25, 2019
As the sixth largest carbon polluter in the nation and a major hub for fossil fuel drilling and burning, Ohio often seems like the last place anyone would look for leadership in taking action on climate change. But, considering that Ohio also has a rich history of innovation when it comes to electricity, aviation, space and aeronautics, and vehicle manufacturing, our state has more leadership than many people may be aware. If you look closer at the Buckeye state, you will find vibrant communities whose ingenuity and spirit are fighting climate change every day. Find out what a city in your region is doing to keep the threat of climate change at bay:
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther has rolled out a comprehensive program called Sustainable Columbus that promotes environmentally proactive policies including a few policies that will create habitats for pollinators, protect trees, and increase the size and efficiency of the city’s fleet. Columbus was also the winner of the first-ever U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, which awarded the city with a $50 million grant to reinvent transportation in the region. Smart Columbus is working on high-tech concepts that provide public transit to the community, motivating people to buy electric vehicles, and creating jobs by investing in businesses that reimagine transportation. Columbus is also a recent winner of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge that awarded the city with $2.5 million to reduce carbon emissions, the main driver of climate change.
Cincinnati also received the American Cities Climate Challenge award to reduce carbon emissions, but went one step further to announce they’re intention of going 100% renewable by 2035. Mayor John Cranley has unveiled a laundry list of initiatives called Green Cincinnati, which include electric aggregation and allowing residents to choose their suppliers, reducing food waste, strengthening their recycling program, and boosting public transportation. The Solarize Cincy campaign in 2018 encouraged homeowners to invest in solar power, and offered free solar assessments. Dedicated groups like the Greater Cincinnati Green Building Council also inspire the community to move toward more sustainable practices by encouraging businesses to be more energy efficient.
As the second largest city in Ohio, Cleveland can make a huge impact on climate change. In fact, the city is home to one of the most well known environmental incidents in American history, the Cuyahoga River Fire of 1969, which many say sparked the environmental movement. For the past ten years, the city has promoted sustainable practices through an initiative called Sustainable Cleveland. The initiative, lead by Mayor Frank Jackson, has worked toward clean drinking water, built sustainable mobility options, and strived to provide more options for fresh, local food. Cleveland’s climate action plan also aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and be 100% renewable by 2050.
Toledo sits right on the coast of Lake Erie’s western basin, which has experienced record-breaking toxic algae in the past decade, threatening drinking water and local businesses. The algae is exacerbated by rising temperatures and increased flooding — both caused by climate change — which is why the city has developed the Toledo Waterways Initiative. This program works to rebuild Toledo’s water infrastructure to clean up the surrounding watersheds including Ottawa River, Swan Creek, and the Maumee River. The city and county have also joined forces to create a Regional Sustainability Plan that addresses not just water resource issues, but supports local food, improving energy efficiency, and educates the community on sustainable practices.
Home to 197,000 people, Akron has a rich industrial history and can lead on innovative approaches to climate change mitigation. In 2017, the community launched a conference called Hands on Sustainability 2025, a collaboration between the City of Akron, Summit County, and several organizations. The conference is the first step toward bringing like-minded groups together to solve many sustainability challenges in the community. Akron’s Greenprint program, launched in 2009, has also seen success in wastewater management, public transit, green building, and conservation of forests, parks, and watersheds. Many organizations, such as the Greater Akron Innovation Network for Sustainability and Keep Akron Beautiful have been working to educate residents about sustainability and shift behaviors about the importance of protecting their natural environment.
Southwest Ohio’s birthplace of aviation, Dayton, has been using their history of ingenuity to build a greener city. Mayor Nan Whaley has been instrumental in promoting many climate change solutions that simultaneously build economic, social, and environmental development for the city. These solutions include a strong recycling program, rigorous water quality testing to protect drinking water, and expanding on the 34 miles of bike paths and 18 parks within the Five Rivers MetroParks system. Link Dayton Bike Share has made it possible for residents to get around using city bikes, a great way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dayton also has a vibrant community solar co-op that is gaining traction with the help of Solar United Neighbors, who help homeowners go solar by purchasing with bulk discounts.
The City of Lorain and Lorain County have partnered on several initiatives that serve the environment and the people including new bike lanes along the lake, and connecting an existing path to Lake Erie. City leaders have worked to protect the coastline on Lake Erie and the Black River by restoring wetlands and re-planting native species. Over the last nine years, the federally-funded Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has brought $23.5 million to the region to launch 20 projects to remediate the Black River. Lorain was hit hard by the deindustrialization of the Midwest, but many local groups have committed to building a more sustainable future for the community including LoCo ‘Yaks, the Black River AOC Advisory Committee, and Friends of the Lorain County Metro Parks.
This Southeastern Ohio hub has built quite the name for itself when it comes to environmental sustainability. In recent years, Athens residents have voted for several initiatives that put this smaller city on the map, including a ban on fracking within city limits, electric aggregation, and most recently, a carbon fee, which will fund solar installations on public municipal buildings. Dedicated organizations like Rural Action and Raccoon Creek Partnership clean and protect the waterways and public lands that were decimated by the boom and bust of the coal industry. Community Food Initiatives works to ensure access to healthy local food, while also sustaining the local economy. Athens has set an example for other Ohio cities, and the entire region when it comes to fighting climate change.