Tag Archives: energy efficiency

Cities Map, Manage and Maintain Urban Trees

Fall trees with crosswalk signalAs financially constrained cities struggle to grow and manage their urban tree canopy, dedicated nonprofits, institutions and volunteers have joined forces to help U.S. cities map and maintain their street trees. These organizations often champion urban forestry mapping projects, helping municipalities select diversified species of trees and identify new planting needs. In turn, many open-source mapping services have emerged, providing a low- to no-cost platform for mapping street trees and quantifying the significant ecological services they provide.

An accurate inventory helps cities manage their trees and prioritize maintenance needs. Successful endeavors to map street trees are underway in cities across the country. New York City’s TreesCount!, an effort to map every tree in the city, counted and collected data for 650,000 trees with the help of more than 2,000 volunteers. In San Francisco, a collaboration between the city and a local nonprofit led to the launch of Urban Forest Map, an effort to count street trees and assess their canopy with an eco-benefit tool, providing a one-stop shop for tree data. In the nation’s capital, Casey Trees aims to preserve Washington D.C.’s street trees through mapping, field work and aerial imagery. Many of these mapping initiatives are large-scale, citizen science projects that rely on community members to contribute tree data using apps on their mobile devices.

Tree mapping data is used to estimate the environmental and economic benefits street trees provide. Mapping software tools like OpenTreeMap quantify services in terms of dollars in a user-friendly format. Improved air quality through carbon sequestration, improved water quality through natural stormwater management, and heat island reduction are a few ecosystem services trees provide. In addition to these services, well-maintained street trees boost local economies by increasing property values and creating safe, vibrant public spaces. Tree maps can be used as environmental education tools and to help build communities around urban forests. Investing in tree inventory data is a great way for cities to adapt to changing climates and improve many public health issues.

Here in Kansas City, where tree cover is around 18 percent, mapping has not been completed for individual trees. However, the iTree Eco Model, used to advance understanding of forest resources, assessed economic value the region’s trees provide. The total value of ecosystem services trees provide is a staggering $93.4 billion in the Greater Kansas City region.  Data from iTree can help the metro area better care for our thriving urban forest and maintain it for the future. Results from the study can be found in MARC’s Tree Data Summary.

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Bright Lights, Big Savings

neighborhood-light-comparison-600pxMany cities in the MARC region now have brighter streets and lower electric bills. Over the past three years, the Smart Lights for Smart Cities initiative installed more than 5,700 high-efficiency street lights in 25 communities in the area. The project, which ended in October, showcased newly-developed streetlight technology — primarily Light Emitting Diode, or LED, lights — in cities in the metropolitan area with populations of less than 35,000.

After installation, KCP&L and a number of participating cities measured the performance of the new street lights, while MARC’s environmental program staff evaluated the lights for air pollution, greenhouse gas emission and waste disposal, using metrics from the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. The LED street lights demonstrated much lower energy use than conventional high-pressure sodium lights. The city of Pleasant Hill, Mo., calculated an energy savings of 37.7 percent on its new LED lights, as well as an average daily cost savings of 41.8 percent.

MARC used an online forum, town hall meetings in participating communities, and a group discussion with police and public works staff to collect feedback on the lights. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with brighter light, better color and increased safety cited as benefits.

Participating cities included Basehor, Edwardsville, Fairway, Gardner, Lansing, Merriam, Mission, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Spring Hill, Tonganoxie and Westwood in Kansas and Gladstone, Harrisonville, Kearney, Lawson, Liberty, North Kansas City, Oak Grove, Peculiar, Platte City, Pleasant Hill, Raymore, Raytown and Smithville in Missouri.

Smart Lights for Smart Cities was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation block Grant (EECBG) program.

Read more about Smart Lights and view maps of streetlight locations

Smart Lights for Smart Cities Final Report-

For more information about Smart Lights for Smart Cities, contact Georgia Nesselrode at 816/701-8207.

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Winterize your home for big savings

Man Installs InsulationHomeowners can waste hundreds of dollars each year if they haven’t prepared their homes for winter.

Heating accounts for 41 percent of the average Missouri home’s annual energy use, but according to the EPA, you can reduce your energy billby up to 20 percent by making improvements to retain heated air and keep cold air out. (These modifications will also lower cooling costs in the summer!).

To winterize your home, try the following tips.

  • Seal air leaks. Use caulk to seal cracks less than a quarter-inch wide. Leaks are commonly found at the chimney shaft, attic and foundation. For cracks between moving components — such as windows and doors — use weather stripping.
  • Add insulation. Unfinished walls, floors and ceilings can be insulated using easy-to-install blanket insulation. When buying insulation, look for a high R value for greater resistance to heat movement. Learn more about insulating an attic with the professionals from This Old House.
  • Reinforce windows. Installing exterior storm windows can prevent air movement through the window. For windows that are not often opened, taping a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet to the inside of the window is an easy way to reduce drafts and still let in light.
  • Seal ducts. On average, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the ductwork seeps out through leaks in the system. On exposed ducts, tape up leaks with heat-resistant foil tape. Find leaks by running your hand close to the duct while the furnace is running to feel for moving air.
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