So you’re wondering – what does “going green” have to do with parks and recreation?  Turns out, we’re already in the business! The world around us is re-thinking how we live – reduce, reuse, recycle and let’s add a fourth: recreation. Green, as in tree-hugging, earth-loving, fossil-fuel-reducing, global-warming-fighting, that’s us! Green, as in developing new ways to fill our human needs for energy, transportation, housing and food that doesn’t harm the environment we depend on for life itself. Unless the park and recreation profession makes a commitment to this movement, we risk losing an opportunity to take the lead as public role models for a better way of life.

Green 4 Green (2009 Joint conference)

Green Topics – Benefits, Keys to success, Funding and Resources

Community Gardens
Environmental Education
LEED Certified Buildins
Leave No Trace
Organic Maintenance
Recycling
Trails/Greenways
Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency
Tree Planting
Solar Thermal Systems

Community Gardens

A community garden is parkland set aside specifically for the purpose of programming which provides citizens the opportunity to learn and spend leisure time gardening. With an obesity epidemic at hand, food prices rising and development sprawling now is great time to make some of your park land available for community gardens.

Benefits

  • Can be cheaper to maintain than traditional park property, because program participants are maintaining the land for you.
  • Produces food or ornamentals for program participants or other programs.
  • Opportunity to teach about healthy food options.
  • Can help reduce family food budget.
  • Reduces crime
  • Preserves green space.
  • Creates opportunity for partnerships and economic development.
  • Social interaction.
  • Opportunity for cross generational programming.
  • Beautification.
  • Can provide a functional use for underused parkland.
  • Opportunities for education on organic and sustainable gardening.

Keys to success

  • Structure equals success; if you do not provide program structure the garden will likely fail.
  • Expertise is critical; look to partnerships with cooperative extension, local farmers, nursery staff and colleges/universities.
  • Provide a goal with measurable result to the gardening program; hold competitions between community gardening sites or provide venues to sell the produce.
  • Provide an opportunity for altruism by giving the produce to a food bank or shelter.
  • Compliment other programs by using the produce at concession stands, cooking programs, use ornamentals or flowers as awards for other programs or incorporate it into special events

Funding and resources

  • American Community Gardening Association “The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is a bi-national nonprofit membership organization of professionals, volunteers and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities.”
  • Gardenburger Community Garden Grants “Community gardening can range from creating a small school garden to adopting an abandoned plot of land and turning it into something useful and beautiful. Neighborhood associations, schools, youth groups, community centers, camps, clubs – as long as your activities are garden-related, you’re encouraged to apply.”
    • Consider partnering with an non-profit to become eligible for this grant.
  • Project Orange Thumb “Since 2003 Project Orange Thumb has funded over 100 community garden projects.”
  • National Gardening Association “The National Gardening Association (NGA), founded in 1973, is a nonprofit leader in plant-based education. We serve a national audience with timely materials designed to foster an appreciation for the benefits of gardening.”
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension “North Carolina Cooperative Extension gives our residents easy access to the resources and expertise of NC State University and NC A&T State University. Through educational programs, publications, and events, Cooperative Extension field faculty deliver unbiased, research-based information to North Carolina citizens. We can answer your questions on a wide array of topics. To find out how we can help you, browse our site or contact us by email or phone.”

Composting

Composting is not trash collecting, rather it is the process of collecting and decomposing plant remains into rich earthy organic matter. This organic matter, after it has been cured, can be used to as fertilizer for park landscaping, turf, community gardens and any number of other green spaces.

Benefits

  • Composting can allow you to cut maintenance costs by making your own fertilizer.
  • Easily build your composting bins
  • Using compost can help you reduce your departments’ dependence on inorganic fertilizers, some of which have long-term negative impacts on the environments.
  • Using compost to fertilize can help build long term soil quality, thereby improving the sustainability of your park’s green space.
  • Implement knowledge of composting to educate your park participants.

Keys to success

      • Understand the fundamentals of composting before starting or you may be faced with a useless pile of stinking garbage.
      • Start small. Don’t start a community wide composting program before you are ready. Try having one maintenance crew or community center start the practice, with park generated organic matter like grass clippings and leaves. You’ll be amazed with the big lessons you learn with a small operation.
      • Have a project in mind and stick to it. Knowing where you are going to use the compost after its ready will give you a goal to work toward and a way to benchmark.
      • Work with other local government bodies, like public works, to share the efforts and benefits.
      • Keep compost site away from regularly attended park locations. The area will not give off a smell, but it may take you a couple tries before you learn how to properly maintain your compost.
      • Consider tying composting into other programs, such as community gardens or environmental education programs to receive grant funding.

Funding and resources

      • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Composting A wealth of information on benefits, instruction and laws and statutes concerning composting.
      • Compost Instructions Simple to the point instructions on how to start composting.
      • North Carolina Cooperative Extension “North Carolina Cooperative Extension gives our residents easy access to the resources and expertise of NC State University and NC A&T State University. Through educational programs, publications, and events, Cooperative Extension field faculty deliver unbiased, research-based information to North Carolina citizens. We can answer your questions on a wide array of topics. To find out how we can help you, browse our site or contact us by email or phone.”

Environmental Education

People of all ages are spending more time inside then ever before and less time outside; because of this we stand to lose of connection with the natural environment that supports our lives. Environmental education programs can help your community interpret, respect and understand the natural resources and wildlife that make up your parks, community and the world we live in.

Benefits

      • Education programs can be taught indoors or outdoors.
      • Most programs are either free or under $25 and can be tailored for any age group.
      • Studies have shown that outdoor experiences can improve learning and behavior.
      • Promotes greater respect for the natural environment.
      • Implement land use planning to introduce nature-friendly way of development – Green Growth Toolbox

Keys to success

      • Incorporating environmental education into programs such as summer camps and outdoor recreation programs to build awareness of the benefits of outdoors.
      • Offer to teach an environmental education program at your local schools, while promoting other recreation department sponsored programs. Many environmental education programs are already adapted for classroom lessons.
      • “Environmental-based education produces student gains in social studies, science, language arts and math; improves standardized test scores and grade point averages; develops skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and decision making,” partial summary of 2002 report called  Closing the Achievement Gap
      • Partnering with local state parks and non-profit environment education centers can expand your recreational offerings and introduce environmental education to your participants.
      • If your resources are limited, work with what you have. An open field, forest, stream or park are great teaching locations.
      • Becoming a North Carolina certified environmental educator greatly adds to your credibility, only costs $50 to enroll in the program and many of the training courses are free. To find out how to become certified click here.

Funding and resources

      • North Carolina Office of Environmental Education provides a wealth of information on environmental education, certification, grants, contests, workshop offerings and research.
      • National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) “Partners with professionals in health, education, media, business and public land management to promote daily actions for helping people protect and enjoy the environment.” Great resources for information, resources and grants.
      • One North Carolina Naturally provides the science and incentives for natural resource planning and conservation assistance  and  informs and supports conservation actions of North Carolina
      • Muddy Sneakers promotes the joy of learning outside and works to merge active outdoor experimental learning with traditional studies in public schools in Western North Carolina
      • North Carolina State Parks every ranger is either a certified environmental educator or in the process of becoming one. The rangers and the parks are great resources that are well worth partnering with.
      • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Great resource for resources and grant funding.

 

LEED Certifed Buildings

“The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green building. LEED, which is administered by theU.S. Green Building Council promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Benefits

      • Lower operating cost and energy savings compared to conventional buildings built to existing codes.
      • Certification can provide advantages when soliciting funding / grants.
      • Demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
      • Build healthier and safer work environments.
      • Opportunity to educate citizens about the profound impact of conventional building

Keys to success

      • Implement a “green business plan” by taking inventory of facilities for retro-fitting as well as new development.
      • Secure a third-party review for energy assessments, concept design and construction documents.
      • Document cost savings to measure impact on environmental, economic, health and community benefits.
      • Implement retrofit measure and renewable projects with highest return on investment
      • Invite the public with scheduled tours or information kiosk, comprehensive signage, windows views of energy- saving devices or signs to call attention to water-conserving landscape features.

Funding and resources

      • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Link to green building specific funding.
      • DSIRE –provides a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiencies.
      • North Carolina State Energy Office – is the leading agency for energy programs and services and is the official source for energy information and assistance for consumers, government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools and policy makers.

 

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace (LNT) programs teach front-country and back-country ethical principles for recreating in the natural environment. “The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is an educational, nonprofit organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors by all people, worldwide.”

Benefits

        • Builds awareness, appreciation and respect for our park land and open spaces by teaching users how to minimizing human impact on the environment in both front country and back country experiences.
        • Traveling trainers provide hands-on workshops and can be tailored to fit the needs of your organization.
        • Introductory courses are often free and higher level trainer courses are affordable.
        • Funding available for training opportunities.

Keys to success

          • Make the seven principles of LNT program for enjoying the outdoors responsibly mandatory in all outdoor programs, including youth sporting activities to reach the largest audience possible.
          • Activity guides available to make the learning LNT outdoor ethic fun for all ages.
          • Use front-country training for most educational opportunities unless more intense back-country training is requested.

Funding and resources

 

Organic Maintenance

The practice of organic maintenance is just now emerging. Only a handful of departments across the country have experimented with the practice. Fortunately there’s one within North Carolina with university supported research from North Carolina State University.

Benefits

          • Better for the environment.
          • Promotes the long-term sustainability of turf and open space.
          • Builds organic matter in the soil, increasing soil health and life.
          • Safe for participants and pets.
          • Provide information kiosk and comprehensive signage as teaching opportunity for park users.
          • Provides a unique advantage for funding.
          • Solicit corporate / private partnerships to develop public park land to promote company’s environmental stewardship efforts.

Keys to success

        • Start small; try organic application on a single open field or ballfield before going system-wide to allow for learning.
        • Be proactive with the educational component of the organic application.
        • Look to composting programs within your department and in your area to provide reduced cost organic product.
        • Provide adequate training for employees to correctly apply and manage organic products.

Funding and resources

        • North Carolina State University research on user perceptions;
          • Organic verses traditional ballfields. (Download)

 

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished).

Benifits

        • Lower operating cost and energy savings on utilities.
        • Bringing clean, reliable and affordable energy technologies to the marketplace.
        • Less dependent on fossil fuels.
        • Investment in energy infrastructure

Keys to Success

          • Implement a “green business plan” by taking inventory of facilities for retro-fitting as well as new development.
          • Secure a third-party review for energy assessments, concept design and construction documents.
          • Document cost savings to measure impact on environmental, economic, health and community benefits.
          • Implement retrofit measure and renewable projects with highest return on investment
          • Invite the public with scheduled tours or information kiosk, comprehensive signage, windows views of energy- saving devices or signs to call attention to water-conserving landscape features.

Funding and resources

          • DSIRE features a U.S. map for easy access to incentives and policies available in each state. Clicking a state or territory provides a list of available incentives and policies in that state, organized into two categories: (1) Financial Incentives and (2) Rules, Regulations & Policies. (To find out what types of incentives and policies are included in each category, visit the DSIRE Glossary.
            • The list of incentives and policies provides links to individual summaries with the following details:
                • The incentive or policy type (e.g., tax credit, rebate program, net metering)
                • The implementing sector (e.g., federal, state, utility)
                • Eligible sectors (e.g., residential, commercial, government)
                • Eligible technologies (e.g., solar water heating, wind energy, insulation)
                • Links to authorizing statutes, regulations and relevant legal documents
                • A summary of the incentive or policy
                • A link to the incentive or policy web site
                • Contact information
          • North Carolina State Energy Office –   is the leading agency for energy programs and services that is the official source for energy information and assistance for consumers, government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools and policy makers.
                • Workshops on Access to Federal Recovery Funds
          • US Department of Energy –works to strengthen the United States’ energy security, environmental quality and economic vitality in public-private partnership.

Recycling

Recycling involves processing used materials into new products. Recycling is a job creator and a growing part of North Carolina’s economy by employing more than 14,000. Twenty years ago, almost 1000 curbside recycling programs existed in the United States. Today there are more than 10,000 across the nation.

Benefits

  • Turn the recycled product into revenue.
    • The City of San Diego, “Since the program’s inception, approximately 15,000 tons of recyclables have been diverted from disposal at the Miramar Landfill and $820,872 in revenue from the sale of recyclables has been donated to the help the Park and Recreation Centers. For more than a decade, the City’s recycling programs, which include the Park and Recreation Recycling Program, have saved more than $18 million from the City’s General Fund.”
  • Newspaper, when mixed other organic materials, can be converted into organic compost,
  • Recycling is a job creator and a growing part of North Carolina’s economy.
  • Recycling is the third part of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” waste hierarchy. It is important to remember that the goal of the “three Rs” is to first reduce our consumption, reuse what we can and finally recycle what we no longer need. re3.org

Keys to success

  • Make recycling easy for visitors, park staff and volunteers, both visually and by location.
  • Cluster recycling bins with trash cans.
  • Use clear and consistent signage.
  • Encourage development of a recycling infrastructure for away-from-home collection.
  • Become a recognized collection site for unique recyclables: cell phones, batteries, computers and tires.
  • Work with concessionaries and vendors to reduce packaging and encourage them to sell products in recyclable containers.

Funding and resources

  • Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance – p2pay.orghas a wealth of information for industry, citizens, local governments, recycling businesses and state agencies.
  • US Environmental Protection Agencyepa.gov/waste/conserve/rrr/rogo.index.htm encourages recycling in public places such as parks, stadiums, convention centers, airports and other transportation hubs, shopping center and at special events.
  • Best Buy Consumer Electronics Recycling Grants – are designed to help provide more environmentally responsible electronic recycling opportunities for consumers across the country.
  • Earth911“Earth911.com is your one-stop shop for all you need to know about reducing your impact, reusing what you’ve got and recycling your trash. Get involved in our world by checking in for daily news, reading weekly feature stories, surfing product channels and opting into our weekly emails.”
  • US Environmental Protection Agency: RecyclingProvides facts and figures on solid waste managment, research, how to buy recycled goods and much more.

 

Trails/Greenways

A greenway is a network of public spaces and recreational trails which provide activities such as walking, jogging, hiking, bird watching, nature study, fishing, picnicking and outdoor fun.

Benefits

  • Protectors and preservers of our natural resources.
  • Provides opportunities for public, recreation, health and fitness.
  • Provides alternative and safe modes of transportation.
  • Trails enhance the marketability of the locale (town, city, resort destination).

Keys to success

  • Greenways and trail heads need to be easily accessible to the public in order for the trails to receive high use.
  • Advocate that trails and greenways are not luxury recreation facilities; rather they are necessary transportation routes.
  • Trail systems should connect existing open space areas, recreational amenities, employment centers, communities, schools and shopping areas.
  • The plan should provide a regional approach (linkages) if possible in order to provide neighboring communities with guidance in their trail planning process.
  • Use clear and consistent signage.
  • Trail design should be incorporated into plans for natural drainage channels, street rights-of-way, and landscape corridors, power right-of-ways, levees, and other open spaces.
  • A recreation needs analysis (a survey of local attitudes and opinions toward leisure activities) should be conducted in order to determine the recreational preferences and the transportation needs of the area.
  • Trail plans should list priorities for implementing new trails and take into consideration previously constructed trails and regionally planned trails.
  • Trails that are accessible to the disabled or are at least barrier-free should be clearly designated on maps and with signs.
  • Trail plans should be incorporated into plans for new transportation structures such as roads, bridges, and overpasses.
  • When possible, trail systems should offer loops, allowing the individual to avoid backtracking.
  • Trail design should consider aesthetic, educational, scientific, historical, scenic and cultural features of interest.

Funding and resources

Tree Planting

Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished). Benefits

  • Air Quality
    • Absorb carbon dioxide and give oxygen in return.
    • Remove lung-damaging dust, ash and smoke from the air.
    • Provide shade which reduces temperature in urban areas.
    • Lessens the impact of urban “heat island” effect and reduces changes in weather patterns.
  • Water Quality
    • Leaves and roots act as natural water filters that trap pollutants.
    • Slow the movement of storm water which reduces soil erosion and flooding.
    • Prevent sediment, nutrients and chemicals from getting into streams.
    • Help water enter the ground and recharge water tables.
    • Provide shade which reduces temperatures in stream benefiting many aquatic organisms.
  • Economic Benefits
    • Boost market value of home or business.
    • Properly placed around buildings reduce utility cost.
    • Attract new businesses and tourism.

Keys to Success

  • Develop a goal to create a positive environmental change when planning the project.
  • Develop a master plan with long term and short term goals.
  • Solicit input from qualified professionals, including arborists and landscape architects, to identify appropriate plant selection and location
  • .Creation of a tree board or shade tree commission.
  • Secure and properly train volunteers for planting day unless technical supervisors are available.
  • Follow-up and ensure compliance with the long term maintenance plan (up to 5 years) that includes checking if the  trees are healthy, vigorous, and structurally sound, mulch is present and stakes removed.

Funding and resources

  • RRS Trail Design, Construction and Management Resources
  • Urban & Community Forestry Program Grant– is to improve public understanding of the benefits of preserving existing tree cover in communities and assist local governments with projects which will lead to a more effective and efficient management of urban and community forests.
  • North Carolina Department of Transportation Enhancement Program–(TE) must benefit the traveling public and help communities increase transportation choices and access, enhance the built or natural environment and create a sense of place.
  • North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fundprovides dollar-for-dollar matching grant up to $500,000 for parks and recreation purposes – trails and greenways are eligible.
  • Global ReLeaf,a program of American Forests, is offering annual grants toward tree planting projects. They are accepting tree-planting project proposals for the fall of 2009 and for all of 2010.  Global ReLeaf is American Forests’ education and action program that helps individuals, organizations, agencies and corporations improve the local and global environment by planting and caring for trees.  Since its creation in 1988, the program has supported planting of over 25 million trees worldwide. The deadline for grant proposals is Jan. 15, 2010.
  • The Nature Hills Nursery Green AmericaAwards recognize nonprofit organizations that are committed to improving their local environment by planting trees, bushes, and shrubs to make their communities a better place to live.

 

Solar Thermal Systems (Back to the topic list)

In solar hot water systems, sunlight reduces the amount of electricity or gas required to heat your hot water supply reducing your utility costs.

Benefits

  • Installing a solar energy system will create support and recognition for your business.
  • The federal government currently offers a 30% tax credit on Solar Energy Systems and most states have a tax credit or reimbursement program.
  • Solar energy is a smart way to ensure a clean, sustainable, future for you and your community – one that is less dependent on fossil fuels.
  • Provide information kiosk and comprehensive signage as teaching opportunity for the community.
  • Provides a unique advantage for funding.

Keys to success

  • Implement a “green business plan” by taking inventory of facilities for retro-fitting as well as new development.
  • Secure a third-party review for energy assessments, concept design and construction documents.
  • Document cost savings to measure impact on environmental, economic, health and community benefits.
  • Implement retrofit measure and renewable projects with highest return on investment
  • Invite the public with scheduled tours or information kiosk, comprehensive signage, and windows views of energy- saving devices.

Funding and resources

  • DSIREfeatures a U.S. map for easy access to incentives and policies available in each state. Clicking a state or territory provides a list of available incentives and policies in that state, organized into two categories: (1) Financial Incentives and (2) Rules, Regulations & Policies. (To find out what types of incentives and policies are included in each category, visit the DSIRE Glossary.
    • The list of incentives and policies provides links to individual summaries with the following details: The incentive or policy type (e.g., tax credit, rebate program, net metering)
      • The implementing sector (e.g., federal, state, utility)
        • Eligible sectors (e.g., residential, commercial, government)
        • Eligible technologies (e.g., solar water heating, wind energy, insulation)
        • Links to authorizing statutes, regulations and relevant legal documents
        • A summary of the incentive or policy
        • A link to the incentive or policy web site
        • Contact information
      • North Carolina State Energy Office– is the lead agency for energy programs and services that is the official source for energy information and assistance for the consumer, government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools and policy makers.
        • Workshops on Access to Federal Recovery Funds
      • US Department of Energy– works to strengthen the United States’ energy security, environmental quality and economic vitality in public-private partnership.