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February 13, 2014 | Malcolm Johnstone; West Chester, PA  

BLUERBLUER — Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reduction — has recently revealed that West Chester’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are down 11-percent over 2005 levels. This exceeded BLUER’s stated goal to reduce levels 10-percent by 2015 when compared to 2005.

“Through assistance with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, BLUER received data to calculate our midterm GHG inventory and track if our efforts are progressing in a positive direction,” said David Mazzocco, Chair of the BLUER Steering Committee.  “While this appears to be good news, the data indicates power utilities converting from coal to natural gas are responsible for a large portion of this initial, one time drop in emissions. However, further examination also shows that both the population and the net leasable and residential building areas went up in those 5 years, yet total energy usage went down.  This is very encouraging and shows new building codes are working and members of our community are taking matters into their own hands to reduce their energy consumption.”

This information is enabling BLUER to set revised goals for the next two years which is hoped to be unveiled by early summer 2014.

West Chester council appointed BLUER as an ad-hoc, all volunteer committee whose mission is to help our entire community reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. This will help break the trend toward rising greenhouse emissions and put West Chester on a track toward a more sustainable economic and environmental future.

After completing an inventory of the Borough’s GHG emissions, Borough Council voted in 2009 to approve Phase 1 of our Climate Action Plan (CAP) which targeted Borough operations as specific areas for emissions reductions so that they may lead the community by example. As a part of this CAP, Borough Council voted to:

1) Provide zoning incentives to private commercial buildings designed to earn EnergyStar, making West Chester one of the first municipalities in the nation to do this.

2) Approve the purchase of wind energy for all the borough’s municipal power needs.  The Community Energy proposal was a 5 year plan to cover increasing amounts of municipal electric use with Renewable Energy Certificates.  As of 2014, the Borough government’s energy needs are now 100% wind powered.

3) Introduce a “Green Building Questionnaire” developed with the Department of Building, Housing and Code Enforcement to create a non-binding questionnaire used to both educate the applicant about Green Building measures and to inform the Borough about the specific green initiatives contained in a building project. The questionnaire is included with all commercial building and multi-family housing project permit applications.

4) Have BLUER continually advise the Borough (and local legislators) in making smart energy decisions on future projects, including the installation of photovoltaic panels on the new municipal parking garage and energy efficient building systems in borough-owned buildings.

Activities of BLUER
In 2012, BLUER implemented a phase focusing on the two largest GHG contributors in the Borough — commercial and residential. The following outreach programs were created:

1) The “Residential Challenge” program to educate homeowners on smart energy saving measures and challenge them to greater energy and money savings;

2) Development of the “Commercial Challenge,” in partnership with the BID to help area businesses gain access to free energy audits and financing programs for recommended improvements.

BLUER partners
Increased partnerships have also taken place with other organizations and entities, including West Chester University, the West Chester Business Improvement District (BID), Sierra Club and the Chester County Cycling Coalition, each working on similarly aimed programs.

1) BLUER partnered with the Chester County Cycling Coalition in creating the “Bike Friendly West Chester” campaign to make cycling a more appealing, and safer, option within the Borough as well as through inter-community efforts involving West Chester, Downingtown and Exton.

2) BLUER and the BID developed a program to promote the use of compostable takeout containers in an effort to reduce the accumulation of styrofoam & plastic in Chester County landfills and in our streets and streams. We are urging downtown West Chester restaurants to participate in this program, as it will greatly benefit customer well-being as well as the quality of life in West Chester.

3) BLUER and West Chester University worked together to implement a shuttle program to transport commuters between the borough and SEPTA’s Exton regional rail station.  Currently in pilot phase for use by University students, the program hopes to eventually include County and Borough employees and eventually borough residents.

Through the efforts of WCU’s Sponsored Research Office and BLUER, the EPA awarded BLUER a grant to initiate a restaurant food waste composting program.  The pilot composting program promotes the recovery of organic materials from Landmark Americana Restaurant and Roots Cafe that would normally end up in our landfills. Farmers will instead use these organic materials for the creation of compost and soil additives that benefit both the health and productivity of their crops as well as generate additional income for them.

The BLUER Business Award program highlights area businesses and organizations that independently demonstrate a commitment to conserve energy through building improvements, design and/or policy changes; convert to renewable, cleaner energy sources; and/or reduce waste by reducing purchasing/packaging, reusing materials, and/or recycling aggressively. The BLUER Business Awards Program intends to spur positive change by recognizing businesses that are taking genuine steps to reduce CO2 emissions.  Public recognition and education will help other business owners follow suit, and enable businesses to learn from one another.  BLUER Business Award recipients include New Street Catering (WCU), the Mary Taylor House, Roots Café and the Chester County Hospital. Future nominations are welcome!

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