In lieu of this month's Q&A, Gambit takes a look back at the city's year (and progress) in green community building. Gambit started Green Matters in January and has reported and seen green democracy and DIY in action through community-led organizations and nonprofit groups as well as individuals.
It's been a tough year to recycle. Glass recycling was impossible. With manufacturers reaching a low point in production in the midst of recession, recycling processors had difficulty selling recyclables, thus recycling services halted considerably worldwide — not to mention the city of New Orleans hasn't resumed its pre-Katrina curbside pickup. (Sanitation director Veronica White made it clear the current administration wasn't even trying.)
Nevertheless, Phoenix Recycling continued its $15-a-month service, and SDT Waste & Debris introduced curbside pickups to existing customers for $18 a month.
In February, the Euterpe Recycling Center (ERC) opened as a community recycling drop-off location behind the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center in Central City. Lee Stafford of the Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard Main Street Design Committee partnered with Eco Green Clean's Peter Wilson to open the ERC for area residents. In March, Ron Labrano of Lab Recycling LLC began offering free pickup with a one-time $20 fee for a bin, but the company no longer offers the service.
Nonprofit organizations are taking note. NOLA Recycles 2010 established a platform for mayoral candidates: The six-point plan requests not only a return to curbside services, but also for the city to enforce illegal dumping, promote recycling of hazardous materials and develop programs to recycle demolition, construction and green waste. The plan also calls for a sustainability-focused sanitation coordinator at City Hall, as well as making recycling available within City Hall itself.
The city published "GreeNOLA: A Strategy for a Sustainable New Orleans," its "resource for neighborhoods and residents to engage in the master planning process and ensure sustainable development." Though it doesn't stop at recycling, the document examines current recycling trends and the best practices for implementing short-, medium- and long-term recycling and waste management plans in New Orleans.
Bicyclists and pedestrians also benefited in 2009, despite infamous potholes and slow-moving bureaucracy (orange cones in potholes are the newspaper-stuffed levees of New Orleans streets). While the city is expected to move forward with a pedestrian-minded Master Plan early next year, lawmakers in Baton Rouge passed the Colin Goodier Protection Act in August. The law requires at least 3 feet between passing motorists and cyclists and calls for an overhaul in signage and public education urging drivers to be respectful of cyclists and their rights to the road.
The city signed a contract in November to design a roadmap for the proposed Lafitte Greenway, a 3-mile linear park that would extend from Louis Armstrong Park to Canal Boulevard, linking the French Quarter, Treme and Mid-City neighborhoods. Friends of the Lafitte Corridor scripted its master plan in 2007 and this year organized fundraisers, cleanup crews and other events to raise awareness and garner attention for the project.
Community groups are speaking up, too. Projects like NolaCycle, which maps the city to help bicyclists safely navigate its roads, and Roulez, which proposes a citywide bike-sharing program, are just some of the grassroots campaigns that have gathered volunteers and support for a bike-accessible city.
Healthy and affordable food options became more available in 2009. The Hollygrove Market & Farm, which broke ground last year, now runs a weekly buyer's club market featuring local produce. It also plans to open its storefront and office spaces soon. With plans to become an open-daily neighborhood grocery store within the next year, the New Orleans Food Co-Op introduced its weekly buyer's club market last month, offering natural and organic foods as well as produce from Hollygrove.
Crescent City Farmers Market introduced its market match program for Louisiana Purchase food stamp debit cardholders. The market's organizing body, Market Umbrella, partnered with the Mid-City Green Market, which opened last year. The Mid-City market will reopen Jan. 14, 2010 with its new partner. Other community gardens and farms opened this year, from the Lower 9th Ward to Mid-City, as well as gardening projects and environmental stewardship programs at schools like Warren Easton and the Edible Schoolyard at Samuel J. Green Charter School.
Global minds met in Copenhagen this month to discuss energy policy, marking the last international discussion on the state of climate change for this decade. Louisiana, however, made several steps toward energy efficiency and using alternative energies, including tax credits and benefits for homeowners and businesses. The Louisiana Legislature extended the 2006-2008 credit allowing up to a 35 percent credit on purchases of energy-efficient appliances and renovations of older homes.
Back home, the New Orleans City Council approved Entergy's Energy Smart proposal, and the Alliance for Affordable Energy helped develop green workforce training programs and a plan for a citywide renewable energy platform. Elsewhere, green rebuilding and sustainable development efforts continued at Global Green, Make it Right and through the EnviRenew initiative. The city also introduced its Solar School program for selected educational institutions.
The groups mentioned here and countless others no doubt will turn their attentions to the mayoral and City Council elections, and a "green" plank is sure to be part of more than one candidate's platform in 2010.