By Margie Plunkett
As Earth Day 2009 draws near, municipalities in this 10-mile stretch of beach are measuring carbon emissions, landscaping with eco-efficient plants, replacing gas guzzlers with plug-ins and exploring solar and wind power sources.
Coastal cities are taking a range of approaches to environmental initiatives, from performing basic recycling to establishing green alliances and promoting them on YouTube.com.
Not surprisingly, the bigger municipalities have more formalized, wider-ranging efforts. But regardless of size, all are budget conscious, especially wary of growing constraints in today’s spoil-sport economy. Boynton Beach learned that going green doesn’t always cost. Its green task force, charged with recommending environmental practices, found 118 practices already in place and identified others that could be made at no additional cost, said Carisse LeJeune, head of the sustainability committee, which will host Earth Week April 20-24.
The city is recruiting professionals and other residents to a new Green Community Alliance via efforts including a YouTube.com video. The Alliance is a priority, along with seeking green opportunities in the federal stimulus package, LeJeune said. Boynton Beach is also measuring carbon emissions.
The Delray Beach Commission also organized a green task force to come up with short-term, intermediate and long-term recommendations. When that group sun-setted in September, the task of fulfilling recommendations fell to the city’s various departments, City Engineer Randal Krejcarek said. The task force’s report said its No. 1 objective was for the mayor to deliver its 10-point green plan on April 22, 2009 — Earth Day. It proposed the plan be implemented between 2010 and 2015. Prior to the task force, the city had already made several commitments to environmental practices, including conducting an inventory of its global warming emissions, the task’s force’s report said.
Lantana, focused on water use, has replaced expanses of grass around Town Hall that require water, chemicals, fertilizer and maintenance with pine forests, pine needles and palmettos that do not. “We’re letting the natives grow,” said Town Manager Mike Bornstein. “It functions well. We have a hawk that lives up there — we have a little ecosystem coming out.” Meter readers once cruised Lantana in hand-me-down police cars, old Crown Victorias with an unquenchable thirst for gasoline. Not anymore. The town substituted a battery-operated utility vehicle about a month ago. “They’ve had great success using it. It runs all day on a charge,” Bornstein said. Lantana also held Greenfest last October, the first of what it plans as an annual event. The first Greenfest featured speakers, information booths and goody bags with samples including a compact fluorescent bulb.
“We’re starting to work more with nature than fighting it,” Bornstein said.
Other towns’ green initiatives are more limited.
The Briny Breezes Green Committee formed just a couple months ago, and is studying the possibility of solar heat for the town’s swimming pool and laundry, new committee Chairman Ken Doyle said. “We’re attempting to begin in a small way.” When that’s decided, Briny Breezes will next look at water conservation.
Gulf Stream recycles everything from office paper to soda cans and is cognizant of water restrictions, said Town Clerk Rita Taylor. The town buys goods and renovates with conservation in mind, but there’s no formal structure for green initiatives, she said.
Likewise for Ocean Ridge, whose beaches are owned privately, by Palm Beach County or by Boynton Beach, said Town Manager Ken Schenck. When Town Hall, the only building Ocean Ridge operates, was strengthened against hurricanes, a benefit was that it became more energy efficient, he said. The town also works to keep non-native vegetation at bay on the dunes. And it helps those involved with sea turtles, he added.
"Manalapan doesn’t have formal initiatives. Its renovated water plant uses a reverse osmosis system designed to preserve fresh-water aquifers and prevent saltwater intrusion, Town Manager Greg Dunham said. Manalapan, whose beaches are privately owned, uses small vehicles and recycles, he said. The town stirred some controversy last year by easing restrictions on non-native plants following county action. The plants were to be removed from vacant lots, but could remain otherwise — although no new ones were allowed, Dunham said.