Columbus Takes Sustainable Steps for Strong Neighborhoods

Mayor Ginther, Emily Barkdoll, Jenna Tipaldi, Amy Zhou, Alana Shockey at Sustainable Steps Launch

Emily Barkdoll

I've seen the future of energy efficient cities, and they may not be where you think. Columbus—in the middle of the country, and Ohio's most populous city—is setting the stage for cities taking climate change seriously. Columbus is setting the national stage of what it means to be an energy efficient city. Mayor Andrew J. Ginther joined residents in Franklinton at a festival to launch Sustainable Steps, a program which will provide residents, businesses, and community members with simple, actionable steps that people can take to improve their lives and their environment, helping make Columbus a sustainability leader.

“I think that climate change is a social and economic justice issue. We know that families with fewer means pay more for energy,” Mayor Ginther told the crowd. “We believe we have to look at this through the equity lens. One way that we’re achieving our goal around social change is through this partnership with Bloomberg’s American Cities Climate Challenge. With their help, we’re launching the Sustainable Steps initiative today.”

The first goal of Sustainable Steps is ambitious—complete 30,000 Home Energy Audits in Columbus by the end of 2020. Reducing utility costs with simple fixes—think weather stripping to reduce drafts and low flow shower heads—residents can both reduce a family's utility bills each month and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's a win-win for wallets and the cities climate goals.To achieve this goal, the City is working partnership with AEP Ohio, Columbia Gas of Ohio, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), and Impact Community Action, all of whom had booths at the festival to sign residents up for their own home energy audits. Through this partnership, the City of Columbus successfully deployed the first Community Energy Savers program in Spring 2019 in the Linden community with great success.

Through the Community Energy Savers program, Linden residents were given home energy audits and were connected to additional resources to help reduce the energy burden on those that can least afford it while improving the comfort level in their own home. The Community Energy Savers project is designed to empower community residents and businesses to reduce energy use by lifting them up and providing a sustainable step up to increase energy efficiency in neighborhoods across Columbus. After a successful deployment in Linden, the Community Energy Savers program will focus on Franklinton and the Hilltop neighborhoods this year. Next year, the program will focus on the Near East, Milo-Grogan, and University District/Italian Village.

As a testament to the popularity and success of the program, Linden far exceeded their goal for home energy audits. The best part? Local schools will benefit, too. At the festival, AEP Ohio and Columbia Gas of Ohio presented NAMES with a check for $35,000 for meeting and exceeding their Community Energy Savers goals. This funding will be used for improvements to exterior lighting at the Hamilton STEM Academy playground and water heater upgrades at Como Elementary School, Duxberry Park Elementary School, Hamilton STEM Academy, and Windsor STEM Academy.

It was a celebratory atmosphere at the festival—and HOT—and based on the huge wins and benefits above, you can see why it was worth cheering about. Columbus is on the right track, and I can’t wait to be there with them. To learn more about how Columbus is leading the charge, check out this piece.

About the Authors

Emily Barkdoll

Deputy Director, Strategy and City Engagement, American Cities Climate Challenge

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