Part II Going green. What will it take?
Walking the sustainability talk.
By walking the sustainability talk
Brett Fidler may well be the man to help the city of Tulsa “walk the sustainability talk.” Mayor Taylor appointed him last December as her special adviser for sustainability. Fidler says he hopes this position will become the city’s Office of Sustainability later this summer with approval of the City Council.
In his current position, he is studying the city’s sustainable practices as well as researching the best practices of other cities.
“Everybody looks to Portland, San Francisco, New York City, etc., but there’s also Kansas City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and even Fayetteville, Ark., that are doing sustainable things,” Fidler says. “We’ll look at the good things these other cities have done and adapt them to Tulsa and also build on the good things we have in place here already. We do not have to reinvent the wheel, but we can make what others do work for Tulsa.”
Fidler, who works at the Tulsa Zoo and served as its director of conservation for five years, helping to design a conservation and use-reduction program, says it will be important not just for the city of Tulsa to start sustainable practices, but for the entire metro area to participate, too.
“It’s going to take the surrounding communities, too, but Tulsa has to lead,” he says. “We need to lead the way in recycling, for example, and everything is going to work better if we have Owasso, Sand Springs, Bixby and Broken Arrow involved.”
Fidler points to Mayor Taylor’s decision to move City Hall to the One Technology Center building as a good example of a sustainable practice (see “A Closer Look” on p. 20). The building is more energy efficient, and by consolidating outlying offices in one place, the city has reduced its fuel consumption and emissions. Fidler says he expects reviews of the city’s vehicle fleet to culminate in more hybrid vehicles as well as diesel vehicles being converted to cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG). The city has one CNG trash truck with grants for two more. Additionally, hybrid vehicles are being purchased when fleet vehicles are replaced. The city also has a vigorous recycling program for employees. Down the road, contractors may be required to meet certain green codes before they can do business with the city.
“Sustainability is really an umbrella term that includes quality of life, social justice and economics and the connections between them,” Fidler says.
By developing green industries
One key to sustainability is finding ways to enhance the economy while minimizing environmental impact.
“We have to have clean air and water, but sustainability at the city level is about improving the economy and catalyzing green industries,” Fidler says. “I’d like to see locally produced sustainable power and (also) attract green industries. Tulsa has a lot of manufacturing capacity and we could see wind generators and transmission units as well as biofuel plants.”
Fidler admits that much work remains to be done on precisely how to attract green business. Tulsa does enjoy some inherent advantages, including the fact that the cost of doing business in the city is lower than many other places. When it comes to wind energy, for example, Oklahoma currently ranks 12th nationally in wind energy generation capacity, with the blustery western part of the state already home to several wind energy farms. However, locating a wind turbine manufacturing facility in Tulsa could make good sense for a prospective company given the city’s location, amenities and cost advantages.
DMI Industries opened a wind tower factory in Tulsa in March 2008, but many projects have been delayed or set back recently because of declining fuel prices and the economic recession, according to the Tulsa World.
Providing incentives for green industries also is something that needs more study, Fidler says, including looking at tax breaks and faster permitting processes.
“There are lots of ways different cities do it and tailor their codes and ordinances, and we’ll do the same,” he says.
If the City Council approves an Office of Sustainability, Fidler and his colleagues will spend the next 12 to 24 months developing a comprehensive plan for a more sustainable Tulsa.
“We’ll be figuring out our priorities and how to implement them, but a more sustainable city would look like one that emphasizes renewable energy, better public transportation, infill development and economic stimulus through green industries and jobs,” he says.