Sustainable Initiatives – Examples from the City of Portland, Oregon

“I can’t think of any reason why another city would not want to use sustainable practices – not only to help the environment, but also to save real dollars,”
Mark Greinke, Chief Technology Officer, Portland, Oregon

Hallelujah!  It’s music to my ears!

AT&T recently partnered with the City of Portland to discuss our respective sustainability strategies.  You can find the results in a video and use case study.  What strikes me when I review these documents is how personal the work is to each entity, how much pride and ownership both entities show in their sustainability results.  It’s good work.

It reminds me of when I hear family and friends share what they’re doing to contribute to sustainability.  People will get excited when they hear that you can recycle something that they didn’t know could be recycled.  People will talk about how much they love their new Prius.  They know exactly how many miles they save each week by telecommuting and exactly how much gas and money is saved and how much more productive they are telecommuting.  It’s interesting how sustainability requires government, business and citizens to work together and it brings us together at the same time.

The City of Portland has implemented a wide variety of sustainability initiatives – from printing documents more efficiently with GreenPrint software to providing a link on their city home page to “Find a Carpooling Partner.”  They are able to save $460,000 every year with smart parking meters that run on batteries charged with solar energy.

One of the many ways they’ve found to be more sustainable is through virtualization of their data centers In fact, they’ve saved about $500,000 over the last four years by deferring the purchase of new servers by using virtualization. They have 230 virtual servers on just 23 physical servers in their data center.  The city has condensed their email services from 45 servers down to 4.  Via virtualization, agencies are able to lower their power consumption levels and other costs while at the same time improving efficiency and reducing their overall power consumption levels and costs.

AT&T has also focused on data centers to help reduce power consumption.  At year-end 2010, AT&T maintained 33 Enterprise Data Centers and 38 Internet Data Centers.  Numerous initiatives were implemented to improve energy efficiency.  In 2010, through these efforts, energy savings of 97.1 million kWh were realized from projects that optimized facility operations at our data centers.  When combined with the work in 2009, the total annualized energy savings is 159.4 million kWh over the last 2 years, which is equal to the electricity use of 13,367 homes for a year.  If you assume there’s an average of 2.5 people per household, it’s like covering the electricity use of a community of 33,000 people for a year.  It really does add up.

From a Citizen level, I believe that every parent at one point has walked through their home turning off lights and reminding their children to turn off the lights when they leave a room.  Reducing power consumption in our homes is becoming even a bigger issue as energy rates continue to rise.  The sustainability objective at a citizen level is the same as for business and government – save money and reduce consumption.

Change occurs when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change.  I believe at a Government, Business and Citizen level, we’re ready for a change.

What is one thing you are doing to promote sustainability at your Government agency, business or home?
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