State pushes green plans
LANSING — A set of initiatives by the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth is making it easier for communities to go green.
Jeff Spencer, Green Communities coordinator for the department, said the idea started a year and a half ago in collaboration with the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Townships Association and Michigan Association of Counties.
Spencer said the main objective of the Green Communities Challenge is to encourage all communities to become more energy-efficient through local government operations.
The program also provides information to communities and shares ideas to assist them in becoming green, he added.
Its goals include developing recycling and household hazardous waste programs for residents and businesses; developing a policy to use energy-efficient and dark sky-compliant outdoor lighting; and helping residents replace older air conditioning and refrigeration units with more efficient models.
Other goals include providing employee benefits for ride sharing, walking, biking or taking public transit to work; starting programs to educate employees about environment and energy conservation; and informing institutions and industries about ways to reduce energy consumption.
Spencer said communities are awarded points and green stars for engaging in and reporting green activities. The Municipal League recognized Traverse City, Charlevoix, Dearborn, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Grand Rapids, Marquette, Meridian Township and Troy for earning at least five green stars this year, he said.
In addition, the department has launched a Michigan Efficiency Network — MichEEN — which allows communities to collaborate on green initiatives online. The new social media platform helps people and organizations working on energy issues to communicate, coordinate and collaborate, Spencer said.