Green Umbrella in the News

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  • May 17, 2019 10:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier
    By Chris Wetterich

    The Cincinnati Planning Commission voted unanimously Friday to make it easier for residents and businesses to keep animals for farming purposes, establish community gardens and compost, among other urban agricultural issues.

    For two years, the city and a steering committee looked at how to streamline its policies on urban agriculture in the zoning code because of expanded interest by residents and a complex web of regulations.

    The amendments to the zoning code will allow farming as a right of property owners and also will only restrict animal keeping based on the density of property. They will require City Council approval.

    The amendments to the zoning code are designed to allow small- and large-scale farms and community gardens to provide more food to the city, according to the planning staff report.

    “There is insufficient coverage in the code and what exists is too restrictive and scattered throughout it, making it hard to find and read,” according to the planning commission’s report. The city’s building department “has experienced a huge increase in demand by urban agriculture professionals and the everyday property owners alike for better direction and regulations.”

    Does that mean your next door neighbor will be allowed to have a goat in the back yard? If their lot size is less than 10,000 square feet, they would be allowed to have two goats that must be contained five feet from the property line and have a shelter of at least 20 square feet per goat. A property owner with more than 20,000 square feet could have a maximum of eight goats.

    More common are people who want to keep chickens or other small birds that lay eggs. For a property of less than 10,000 square feet, owners can have six chickens that must be contained and have a shelter of four square feet per chicken.

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    Garrett Gerard, vice president of the Sayler Park Council, said the new regulations would help, but that the city also will need to grandfather in non-nuisance properties whose chicken coops may not be far enough from the property line (the new regulations specify 10 feet). Urban farming is more common in Sayler Park because of larger lots, he said.

    “They’re much loved people,” Gerard said of urban farmers. “They’re throwing (giving people) eggs all over the neighborhood.”

    Other advocates praised the changes. The city has tens of thousands of hobby gardens, said Larry Falkin, the city’s director of environment and sustainability, with dozens deriving some income from them. There are 40 city-owned parcels currently used for urban agriculture, he said.

    “There’s a little bit of money and a lot of sweat toward making a good growing lot out of a vacant lot,” Falkin said.


  • May 15, 2019 1:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    UPDATE, 5/17/19

    The Mayor's version of the 2020 budget, released yesterday, restores funding to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, along with many poverty-reduction and economic development programs. It does not address funding for the Director of the Office of Environment and Sustainability or the Urban Agriculture Program.

    ---

    ORIGINAL POST

    The City of Cincinnati is in the process of developing its budget for 2020. The City Manager has released his version of the budget. It includes cuts to several programs that are an integral part of the Green Umbrella network.

    • It eliminates all funding for Keep Cincinnati Beautiful (representing 55% of its budget), which provides a wide range of education and services to the community to reduce waste and litter, prevent illegal dumping, clean up neighborhoods and stabilize vacant properties. These types of services are performed by city government in many other cities but have become part of the scope of this impactful non-profit over its decades of partnership with the City.

    • It eliminates the position of Director of the Office of Environment and Sustainability. Cincinnati has been a leader in the Midwest in driving progress towards carbon reductions, resiliency planning, urban agriculture and landfill diversion. The Green Cincinnati Plan and progress towards our carbon reduction goals is evidence of that. OES has brought in several national funding partners over the last few years which are increasing its capacity for impact without adding cost to the city budget. Without a Director, this department it will be less effective in implementing its programs, interacting with the rest of city government and attracting national and regional support for its innovative work.

    • It eliminates the Urban Agriculture grant program, which provides mini-grants to farmers and community gardeners for land acquisition and infrastructure. The city is very close to adopting revised zoning ordinances for urban agriculture, which will make it easier for gardeners to produce food and compost on their properties. Losing funding for grants to these individuals and communities will make it harder for them to get their efforts off the ground just as they are finally able to invest in infrastructure that has previously been restricted. The $21,890 in the budget for this program is a drop in the city budget but could be transformative for 5 or more entrepreneurs or community groups in 2020.

    • It eliminates funding for the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance’s work to increase renewable energy installations and increase energy efficiency in the built environment.

    • It eliminates all funding in 2020 for the Bicycle Transportation Program, which funds on-road bike lanes, bike parking facilities, signage and bike friendly storm drains. These funds are used by communities to enact their vision for an active transportation network that helps people get where they need to go without relying on a vehicle. 

    Green Umbrella would like to see the City’s budget reflect the strong commitment it has made to sustainability through the Green Cincinnati Plan. Let’s show our residents and businesses we are all-in on pursuing our shared sustainability goals.

    The full city budget proposal and details about the public input process is available on the City Manager’s website. The Mayor can make changes up until May 24. City Council will review and make adjustments with the deadline of final approval by June 30. There will be public hearings May 29, June 3 and June 4.


  • May 15, 2019 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Currently under consideration, Ohio HB6 would:

    • Remove the state's energy efficiency and renewable energy portfolio standards

    • Remove a rider on Ohio electric bills that funds successful energy efficiency and renewable energy programs

    • Replace it with a new surcharge on Ohio electric bills, the majority of which would go to bail out two nuclear plants in Northern Ohio

    The bill would create a "Clean Air Program Fund" which is designed to send the majority of the funding ($169 Million) to FirstEnergy Solutions. While there are provisions that make energy efficiency and renewables sector eligible for some of the funds, there are arbitrary restrictions in recent versions of the bill making it so that none of Ohio's solar and wind farms would qualify.

    The two nuclear plants do currently employ many people in Northern Ohio and generate 88% of Ohio's carbon-free energy (15% of our total electricity). If they close down it is likely that much of that generation would shift to natural gas.

    While it may be beneficial to keep the plants operational as the renewable energy sector continues to grow, members of Green Umbrella’s Energy Action Team do not support de-funding existing programs that benefit Southwestern Ohio residents and businesses in order to shift that funding out of the region to bail out FirstEnergy Solutions.

    Democrats have responded by introducing the Ohio Clean Energy Jobs plan, which would take the current 12.5% renewable portfolio standard up to 50%, fix setback requirements to encourage large-scale wind investment and require a 50% in-state preference for new renewable energy projects. It would also create job training programs in growing clean energy fields.

    Republicans control the Ohio legislature by a wide margin and their bill has advanced to the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    More information:

  • May 10, 2019 12:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: CityBeat

    May 17 is National Bike to Work Day and Tri-State Trails — "an alliance of trail advocates advancing a vision to connect and expand Greater Cincinnati's trail network" — is celebrating with the 10th-annual Breakfast on the Bridge.

    Head to the Purple People Bridge (1 Levee Way, Newport) on your bike between 7 and 9 a.m. Friday for free coffee and breakfast bites over the Ohio River including Trailhead Coffee, Taste of Belgium waffles, bacon, donuts, bagels, fruit and more.

    Ohio's "bike lawyer" Steve Magas will also be at the event and you can test-ride an recumbent, hand-crank or cargo bike from Devou Cycle in Devou Park.

    First-timers, casual riders and die-hard commuters are all welcome.

    Find more info here.


  • May 09, 2019 12:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WVXU
    By Michael Monks

    Listen to the recorded segment on Cincinnati Edition

    While the number of people in Greater Cincinnati who ride bicycles for recreation or for their daily commute is growing, our region still lacks a safe, well-connected system of biking trails and dedicated on-road bike lanes. Though there has been progress over the last decade to make our area more bike-friendly.

    According to the non-profit organization Tri-State Trails, more than 11.1 million miles were traveled walking or biking on multi-use trails around Greater Cincinnati in 2017.

    And that number could increase through efforts such as Connect NKY, a program launching this year to actively improve bike and pedestrian connections.

    Research by Tri-State Trails shows most people use the existing trail network for recreation – about 88% versus 8% for transportation – although 58% of trail users said they would commute more by walking or biking if trails and bike lanes were better connected to their place of work.

    May is National Bike Month, and joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss biking in our region are Katie Vogel with Queen City Bike; Wade Johnston (@wadejohnston), director of Tri-State Trails, a Green Umbrella initiative; Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance(CORA) President, Operations Manager at Red Bike and Co-host of The Gravel Lotcycling podcast, Doug McClintock (@dubminion); and WCPO Transportation and Development reporter Pat LaFleur (@pat_lafleur).


  • April 26, 2019 9:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Magazine
    By Mitchell Parton

    These organizations work year-round to ensure Cincinnati stays clean and beautiful.

    Earth Day typically ignites conversations regarding environmental issues and how individuals can take action. Often times, though, those conversations die shortly after the holiday passes. Fortunately, there are local groups that regularly organize events to promote the region’s conservation and sustainability efforts. These five organizations work year-round to ensure Cincinnati stays clean and beautiful.

    1. With an ambitious vision for Cincinnati to be recognized as one of the top 10 most sustainable metro areas in the nation by 2020, Green Umbrella is pushing to dramatically change the way Cincinnati’s residents and businesses think about conservation of natural resources. The organization’s initiatives include Tri-State Trails, Cincinnati 2030 District, and the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council.

    2. Bringing together nonprofits, businesses, government agencies, and individuals, the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition promotes the region’s “beauty and environmental quality.” The group will host its annual Greater Cincinnati Earth Day Celebration at Summit Park in Blue Ash this Saturday, April 27, featuring a theme of Find Your Yard aimed at teaching guests how to garden and compost in their own homes.

    3. The Cincinnati affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, has established a massive presence in the community by visiting local schools, hosting neighborhood events, and leading cleanup efforts in neighborhoods affected by illegal dumping, graffiti, and litter. The organization also runs the Greenspace program, which transforms vacant urban spaces into small green paradises.

    4. The Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati Environmental Action Groupworks toward environmental justice to improve everyone’s quality of life. In recent years the organization has partnered with Cincinnati Public Schools to advocate for LEED-certified schools, promoted against frack-waste injection wells, and organized a town hall discussion on the city’s sewer system. The group also shows films and hosts guest speakers to raise awareness about environmental issues.

    5. The Center for Conservation engages in activities that preserve and restore the region’s natural habitats and unite people and wildlife. A branch of the Cincinnati Nature Center, the organization focuses on monitoring and preserving the center and its 1,650-acre wildlife preserve. The group’s research informs its initiatives and educational outreach in ecology, conservation, and land management.

  • April 23, 2019 9:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO
    By Kate Flexter

    Recycling programs across the country are struggling to adjust after China stopped accepting most of America's recyclables last year.

    As foreign demand changes, some waste companies are scrapping recycling altogether. But at Rumpke, company officials said they're fortunate because their buyers for recycled materials are mostly in the U.S.

    Still, recycled good are flooding the U.S. market, making it less profitable for cities to recycle.

    "We are at a nine-year low today in the value of recyclables," Steve Sargent, Rumpke's director of recycling, said.

    With costs rising, Rumpke has raised fees and some Tri-State communities have cut back recycling to every other week. But for the most part, Rumpke said it hasn't felt the effects because 98% of its recycled material was already sold to U.S. buyers, mostly within a 250-mile radius.

    RELATED: Is Rumpke still recycling your paper and plastic?

    The city of Madeira is one of the few local municipalities that uses a contractor aside from Rumpke. They use Republic Services. City Manager Tom Moeller pays close attention to the way China's ban is impacting recycling in the U.S.

    "Right now, we know there's a net loss, because it's costing more to do the recycling than they're getting back in the markets," he said.

    So far, Madeira hasn't seen a price hike. But Moeller said he worries that could change.

    "If the markets continue the way they are, recyclable materials are going to cost more to both process, as well as to collect," he said.

    At Green Umbrella, executive director Ryan Mooney-Bullock champions sustainability in the Greater Cincinnati area. She worries about the potential impacts of the ban.

    "I would really hate to see recycling decline in the United States because of what's going on internationally," she said.

    Mooney-Bullock said convenience is key when it comes to recycling. She touts the success of weekly recycling pickup programs versus ones that pick up every other week.

    "When you can just do the same thing every week, it gets you into the habit and you can just form those good recycling habits," she said.


  • April 22, 2019 5:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO
    By: Christine Charlson

    CINCINNATI — Here's something to ponder next time you're waiting in line for a $5 caramel macchiato: That beverage could become a casualty of climate change.

    In January, a study published by Science Advances found that more than half of the world’s wild varieties of coffee are critically endangered. The cause is attributed to rising temperatures, deforestation and disease, which are estimated to push all species of coffee plants to the brink of extinction by the end of the century.

    If the trend continues in the short term, coffee quality likely will decrease while prices increase to offset demand.

    According to Dr. Valerie Pence, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) director of plant research, coffee plants thrive in higher elevation of tropical regions where temperatures stay cooler.

    Pence said that, commercially, two types of coffee are widely sold, with Arabica being the highest quality and also the most adversely affected by warmer temperatures. The second variety, Robusta coffee, can tolerate warmer conditions, she said, but it's far less desirable.

    In order to keep premium coffee plentiful, a number of changes must be made, Pence said.

    “Things are just getting too warm for the coffee with climate change, so farmers would either need to move to a higher elevation or look for more heat-resistant coffee genes that could be bred into the commercial coffee, and those would come from wild-coffee relatives,” she said.

    Unfortunately, many of the wild Ethiopian varieties that are resistant to rising temperatures are critically endangered, Pence noted. She said that while coffee’s wild relatives tolerate warmer weather, the plants are still disappearing due to outside forces such as deforestation and disease.

    “So there’s a real interest in trying to go out and find these species and preserve them,” she said.

    At Velocity Bike and Bean in Florence, co-owner Mark Ball said he’s aware of the threat to coffee from climate change but believes those involved in the industry will take action to ensure coffee's survival. While plants may be currently facing challenges, he said, consumers don't need to worry yet in terms of rising costs.

    “Based on where we are right now, we haven’t seen any increases in the price of coffee,” he said. “I think it’s speculation out a ways to when we’d actually see the effects.”

    At the combination bicycle and coffee shop, Ball said business is good. With coffee so ingrained in our everyday lives, he said, he thinks adjustments will be made to stave off any kind of issues before they reach a critical point.

    “I would say that demand drives the other end of it,” he said. “I have to think that efforts have already been undertaken, and if not now, they will be.”

    Indeed, those within the industry are scrambling to find solutions. Researchers from coffee giant Starbucks are focusing their efforts on breeding hybrid coffee varieties and sharing the plants for free with coffee farmers around the world .

    Bill Murray, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association (NCA), said the future of coffee depends on ambitious commitments from companies, academics, governments and, ultimately, on consumers' choices.

    “NCA’s membership knows that what is good for the planet is good for coffee and everyone who relies on it," he said. "There’s an enormous commitment to the future of sustainable coffee. Commitment from all across the coffee industry, from large fast-food companies to small micro-roasters.”

    But even if climate-resistant types of coffee can be developed, Pence said, growers still face additional challenges, because coffee can’t be stored in seed banks like other plants since the seeds don’t survive the drying and freezing process. She said one option being explored is cryogenics, where tissue cultures of the wild coffee relatives are grown into shoots and then cloned. She said the shoots can then be cryogenically frozen and stored for future use.

    “When we want to take them out, we thaw them and grow them back up into shoots,” she said. “We can get roots on the shoots and then we have the plants back, so it’s a cycle process.”

    Since coffee is a multi-billion-dollar industry, interested parties are amassing to protect this valuable commodity.

    Bambi Semroc, vice president of sustainable markets and strategy at Conservation International, said groups including conservation, local governments and industry leaders have joined forces as part of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge . She said the group’s goal is to bolster coffee health without further disrupting nearby rain forests.

    “Stakeholders are working together to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product -- to pinpoint other landscapes at risk of forest loss from coffee and to develop joint action plans with industry to improve coffee production while also conserving forest areas,” she said.

    While predicators of climate change paint a grim picture of the future, Green Umbrella communications and membership coordinator Charlie Gonzalez said he sees this as an exciting time where people can change the narrative to one of hope and opportunity.

    He said evolving technology, coupled with eco-friendly farming practices, will benefit both the planet and the economy.

    “We’re fighting against nature instead of creating a resilient ecosystem that already has the resilient benefits embedded in it,” he said. “So this kind of positive change will actually create a lot of jobs while trying to transition all these industries.”

    And coffee isn’t in peril alone. Pence said both tea and the cocoa used for making chocolate face similar challenges from warming temperatures.

    Perhaps the idea of losing coffee, tea and chocolate will help to inspire change, she said.

    “I think things like coffee are so important for humans, before we get to a tipping point there’s going to be a lot of intervention that will hopefully keep that from happening,” she said.

    “I’m really encouraged that people are taking notice of this at a somewhat earlier stage and trying to mitigate against it.”


  • April 20, 2019 5:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
    By: Ryan Mooney-Bullock, Opinion contributor

    This weekend, my son and I hiked through old growth forest at California Woods Nature Preserve. We were delighted to see native spring wildflowers in bloom. Our guide pointed out how many more there were in areas where volunteers had removed the honeysuckle. Honeysuckle leafs out early, blocking early spring sunlight from reaching the forest floor and the flowers sleeping underground. While we glanced back and forth between the flowering side of the trail and the honeysuckle-covered side, she was quick to give us reason to hope. “Don’t worry; you’d be surprised by how quickly the flowers come back once we clear the honeysuckle.” These tiny flowers hold out hope for the time when sunlight will wake them up again.

    It’s not an accident that Earth Day (April 22) is celebrated at the height of spring. As the flowers, new leaves and singing birds catch our attention, we start to notice what is going on in the natural world. All that color and chirping aside, it is hard to go a day without hearing about the challenges facing us this Earth Day – pollution’s effects on people and ecosystems, the prognosis of accelerating climate change, our narrowing window to curb it. And yet I hope. Unlike denial, hope does not seek to ignore or discredit the challenges before it. It learns about them and searches for solutions, adaptations and undiscovered angles where a creative foothold might lead to innovation that will crack the problem open.

    From my lookout as executive director of Green Umbrella, our region’s environmental sustainability alliance, I get to see the amazing work that is happening, and what is being put into motion. Greater Cincinnati is full of businesses, organizations, schools, individuals and public agencies intent on transforming our region into a place known for its green. Not just its amazing greenspace and waterways, but its systems, policies and programs that help residents, municipalities and businesses decrease their contribution to climate change and improve the health of our region.

    Just a few months ago, Green Umbrella launched the Cincinnati 2030 District, a collaborative effort for owners and managers of large buildings to halve their carbon footprint by 2030. Already, 22 members have committed over 20 million square feet to meeting the goals of the district; that makes us the 7th largest 2030 District in the nation!

    We’re now hard at work helping members identify innovative solutions that will reduce emissions from energy, water and transportation. Our city is choosing to act now, while we still have a chance to head off some of the worst impacts of climate change. The existence of the 2030 District gives me hope. It was formed by a dedicated and inclusive group of volunteers who developed the expertise, research, connections and messaging to get the initiative off the ground. It has been embraced by city government, major businesses and education and cultural institutions as a way to take bold action.

    You don’t have to be a giant property owner to have a big impact. There is something everyone can do to help our region reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and be a better place to live. Your great idea could be the next big thing that accelerates Cincinnati’s sustainability.

    If you’re looking for ways to make a change at work or in your neighborhood, the Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit on June 14 will introduce you to best practices being implemented across the Midwest. It’s also a great chance to connect with one of Green Umbrella’s seven Action Teams, groups of volunteers from organizations of all types, who work collaboratively to tackle big environmental problems.

    On a personal level, there are organizations and agencies in every county waiting to answer your questions or connect you with an opportunity to volunteer. You can be the one who frees another patch of wildflowers while they are still holding out hope.

    Ryan Mooney-Bullock is executive director of Green Umbrella, grew up playing in the creeks and woods of Greater Cincinnati and now explores them with whoever will tag along.

  • April 20, 2019 5:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Local 12
    By: Christian Hauser

    OVER-THE-RHINE, Ohio (WKRC)- Folks riding the streetcar were treated to some music and a free ride for most of the day.

    It's all part of an Earth Day celebration to try and get people to use more energy efficient modes of transportation in their daily lives.

    Tremaine Phillips is the Director of the Cincinnati 2030 District.

    "We work with commercial building owners and commercial tenants to help them achieve bold, ambitious, sustainability goals in their buildings. So, in particular we're helping them reduce their transportation emissions, as well as, their energy and water usage 50 percent by 2030," Phillips said.

    Phillips rode the streetcar a lot on Saturday. The district sponsored an earth day event and letting everyone ride for free.

    "It's kind of our way to not only encourage low-carbon means of transportation downtown but also to better interact with the public and help them understand these resources are important not only for economic development but also for the environment," Phillips said.

    Phillips talked with many of the folks getting onto the streetcar.

    "It's surprising how many folks turned out to ride the streetcar who had never ridden it before. So, just getting that experience and understanding how long it takes and where the stops occur and that really, here in downtown Cincinnati, you can get anywhere you want to go through the route on that streetcar," Phillips said.

    Meanwhile, at Washington Park, Earth Day OTR was jamming out. There was live music and food and games but also some rainy weather. Organizers were thankful for the free streetcar rides.

    "I think that's brought a lot more people down here. Additionally, we have a one-stop drop where we're inviting people to bring hard to recycle items. So, things you wouldn't be able to bring to your curbside," Kara Luggen, with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful said.

    Great Parks of Hamilton county brought some birds for people to get an up-close look at.

    There were also dozens of booths set up to teach people about using less resources.

    "Whether that's learning how to recycle right and what things we can actually stick in our curbside bins or if it's learning about ways to go zero-waste and have a compost [pile] in your backyard," Luggen said.

    The is the fourth year for the event. It's a collaboration between 3CDC and Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.


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