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East Lansing's path to 100% renewable energy

October 31, 2019
The East Lansing Solar Park on Oct. 22, 2019.
The East Lansing Solar Park on Oct. 22, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The City of East Lansing continues progress toward 100% renewable energy, with multiple projects to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

The East Lansing Commission on the Environment is made up of nine community members who work in a variety of fields that deal with the environment and sustainability.

Members of the commission work collectively on the climate sustainability plan and make sure it stays up to date. The commission has been working alongside city officials for numerous years to make East Lansing more sustainable with the hope to provide a 100% renewable energy resolution before the end of 2019. 

This clean energy plan is a strategic priority of the city council and is one of five major focus areas of the city’s climate sustainability plan. 

“We’ve had a climate sustainability plan since 2012 and we also have a commission on the environment,” Environmental Services Administrator Catherine DeShambo said. “At this point we are focused very heavily on moving to the 100% clean energy.”

The commission has numerous projects they are actively working on to advance this sustainability plan. 

SolSmart, a national designation program recognizing cities that foster the development of solar energy markets is one of the programs the commission features. 

Burcham Park’s community solar project has been up and running for almost a year, providing an opportunity for members in the community to purchase solar energy. The hope is that making solar energy more accessible will encourage more members of the community and businesses to use it. 

“SolSmart is a Department of Energy initiative that we had the opportunity to join through ICLEI, ... which is an organization which helps cities pursue sustainable opportunities in a variety of ways,” DeShambo said. “They are helping us work through all the tasks that are associated with being certified.”

Green Fleet, which encourages the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles, is another program the commission began five years ago, one of the first steps they made for this policy.

“It allows us to consider clean technologies in purchasing fleet that might be more expensive but are so much better for the environment,” DeShambo said. 

This Green Fleet policy allowed for the purchase of the first hybrid recycling truck in the state, she said.

“The city has been in the forefront when it comes to environmental initiatives and having a climate sustainability plan,” DeShambo said. “Having a commission on the environment has been tremendously helpful because they really work on these issues on a constant basis to really help the city progress.”

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