Highland News Leader

Highland awarded for its ‘green’ efforts

Left to right are Mark Rosen of the city of Highland, Matt Asselmeier of city of Alton, Kim Petzing, Madison County sustainability coordinator, and Eve Drueke, Green Schools coordinator.
Left to right are Mark Rosen of the city of Highland, Matt Asselmeier of city of Alton, Kim Petzing, Madison County sustainability coordinator, and Eve Drueke, Green Schools coordinator. Courtesy photo

For the second straight year, the city of Highland is being honored in St. Louis Green Business Challenge.

The Green Cities Challenge gave St. Louis area municipalities a new way to get involved in the Green Business Challenge and provided the cities with the opportunity to learn how to incorporate sustainable policies and practice sustainable fundamentals within their local government business operations.

“While the Green Business Challenge has always been open to municipalities, our goal in creating the Green Cities Challenge was to get many more communities engaged in an initiative that was developed exclusively for local government,” said the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Jean Ponzi, who co-manages the challenge. “The response to this year’s Green Cities Challenge was great, and we’ve been thrilled with the work that’s come out of it.”

Communities start by selecting one municipal building or facility where they can focus their challenge efforts. From there, they can choose from a menu of sustainable actions. Participants are required to adopt at least five new policies, such as the development of a green team, the creation of a no-idling initiative and the introduction of a waste reduction, energy reduction or climate action plan.

“Being recognized as a community working toward being more environmentally friendly is flattering, and being involved with the Green Cities Challenge has provided innovative and creative, ideas that are easy to incorporate into being a sustainable community. The biggest and most enduring challenge though is education and creating new habits,” said Highland Parks and Recreation Director Mark Rosen, who headed up the city’s efforts.

Highland was recognized for recently introduced “No Idling” signage in front of city facilities, and has plans to extend this effort to schools and businesses.

“We came up with the ‘No Idling’ zones as a direct result of being involved with the Green Cities Challenge,” Rosen said. “The idea is to obviously reduce our carbon footprint but also to bring awareness of energy conservation to our citizens. In addition, we hope to share some of these signs with the school for their areas where students are dropped off because it was pointed out that for many children, they are about the same height as the exhaust pipes on buses.”

Other municipal accomplishments in Highland have included the enactment of a leaf-burning ordinance, the establishment of a community recycling policy for curbside recycling and department practices, the institution of a Complete Streets Policy and the installation of LED lighting throughout the community.

Highland has also been recognized as a Tree City USA community for 27 consecutive years through the Arbor Day Foundation.

“Being a Tree City is important for a variety of reasons,” Rosen said. “It requires us to have an ordinance for maintaining and enhancing our community forest. Properly maintained trees provide so many benefits that are taken for granted that range from increasing property values to water conservation and reducing utility bills. The last street-tree inventory realized that the value of street trees exceeded $5 million.”

In addition to Highland, the city of Alton was also honored for it energy efficiency improvements were implemented as part of the community’s Climate Action Plan, and Granite City was recognized for a variety of efforts to reduce air pollution emissions are underway and in development. Madison County also supported all three the cities in the Green Cities Challenge.

“We are so proud of our 2016 Green Cities participants,” said Ponzi. “And, we are very grateful to the metro-east communities who took part and have made so many amazing sustainable contributions, which are not only helping to improve the environment overall, but are also going a long way toward reducing air pollution in the region.”

The city of Highland was also recognized in last year’s pilot program for instituting a Complete Streets Policy, creating an opportunity for children to interact with nature in a mini-ecosystem at Silver Lake Park and establishing a community recycling policy for curbside recycling and city departments.