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Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023
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Burbank Driving Ahead of The Pack on Road to Future

“Going green” isn’t a new concept in the city of Burbank. The city began automated curbside recycling in the early 1990s, has powered municipal vehicles with alternative fuels for nearly a decade, and is a pioneer in generating electricity from its landfill. But government officials and businesses in the Media Capital of the World, population approx. 105,000 and home to production facilities for Warner Bros. Entertainment, NBC, and Disney, want to take environmental sustainability to the next level. “The need for sustainability isn’t something that’s going away tomorrow,” said Burbank’s mayor, Gary Bric. “It’s about looking towards the future.” In January 2008, the city council adopted the Burbank Sustainability Action Plan to boost environmental sustainability in areas such as energy, waste, water usage, urban design, parks/open space, transportation, and city business practices. The plan is based on the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords, a list of action items that can be adopted at the local level to achieve urban sustainability, promote healthy economies, advance social equity and protect the world’s ecosystem. The city also recently formed a sustainability task force, a 15-member group of businesses, non-profits and residents that will advise the city council on green issues and help educate the public. “As long as I can remember Burbank has been committed to environmental sustainability, but adopting the action plan has made the efforts more formal and focused,” said Burbank council member Dave Golonski. “We still have a long way to go though.” The city has an exhaustive list of environmental goals. But it’s already starting to see some results. Burbank recently surpassed the milestone of generating more than 3 gigawatt hours of electricity from local solar energy, enough to power 6,000 homes for a month. It’s recognized as one of the top ten municipalities in the nation for solar power. City-owned Burbank Water and Power (BWP) has supported 36 solar energy projects in the area, including installations on carports, residential and commercial rooftops, city pool facilities, movie studio stages, Jay Leno’s green garage, and a new airport hangar. The utility offers incentives to offset the cost of solar installation. And the City has committed to purchasing 33 percent of its electricity from clean and renewable sources by the year 2020. BWP also established zones where multi-family, government and commercial developments are required to use recycled water for all non-potable water purposes. It offers incentives to residents to swap-out old refrigerators with energy efficient ones. And the utility offers tax incentives to developers who obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. BWP provides a $30,000 incentive to LEED Platinum certified buildings; $25,000 to Gold certified; $20,000 to Silver; and $15,000 to LEED Certified level buildings. Hangar 25 at Bob Hope Airport recently obtained LEED Platinum certification. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. obtained LEED Silver certification for one of its buildings and is pursuing certification on a new “green” sound stage. “Industry has been very supportive of sustainability, but it’s not inexpensive to do some of these things,” said Ron Davis, general manager of Burbank Water and Power. “We’re mindful of introducing ‘least-cost’ ways of going green.” Burbank was also selected as a national test market for a zero emissions prototype bus that uses a hydrogen fuel cell instead of diesel or gasoline engine. The bus can run for 250 miles before needing to be recharged, gets double the fuel economy as diesel buses and only releases water vapor from its exhaust. On the recycling front, Burbank was early to divert at least 50 percent of its waste from landfills, as part of the California Integrated Waste Management Act (AB939). The City now diverts 60-65 percent of green and solid waste from landfills, said Kreigh Hampel, recycling coordinator for the City of Burbank’s Public Works Department. Commercial recycling is lagging behind due to lack of infrastructure, said Hampel. However, solid waste officials are fielding more calls from local businesses wanting to go green. The City recently helped form the Burbank Green Alliance, a network of local businesses, non-profits and government organizations, to encourage area businesses to achieve a higher level of environmental performance. Among its goals, the alliance will promote “zero-waste” business practices, which refers to business owners committing to divert 90 percent of waste from landfills or incineration. “Waste is like an iceberg, where the amount you see is just the tip,” said Hampel. “Industrial waste is even bigger. This whole idea of zero waste is interesting right now, because preventing waste has such a huge multiplier effect.” The city also integrates green initiatives into its day-to-day work practices. Some of the building maintenance staff is using non-toxic cleaning products, purchasing paper products made from recycled material, and recycling as much waste as possible. The Public Works department expected supply costs to soar when it first explored using environmentally friendly products, said Bonnie Teaford, Public Works director for the City of Burbank. But costs did not rise, and recycling has actually reduced some of the overhead. “Low and behold, it hasn’t cost a lot,” said Teaford. “We’ve managed to incorporate environmental initiatives into our work practices and it’s just a way of doing business now.”

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