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Greener Than They Seem: Cincinnati

Bike trail into downtown Cincinnati
Bike trail into downtown Cincinnati
UrbanCincy.com

When you think about Cincinnati, you probably don't think of it as a hub of urban conservation like San Francisco or Portland, but the truth is that Cincinnati is 10 years ahead of other Midwestern cities in the green movement. While the city doesn't have a monorail and isn't able to operate completely on hydro or geothermal power, there are many things in Cincinnati that makes it a budding green city:

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the greenest zoos in the United States

Former Ohio governor, Ted Strickland, once called the Cincinnati Zoo, "the greenest zoo in America." While other zoos throughout the country also claim this title, the Cincinnati Zoo's strong focus on environmental action and commitment to conservation certainly puts them near the top.

One of the biggest initiatives from the zoo is to conserve energy while operating the park. Solar panels can be seen through out the zoo: on rooftops, in gardens and, most importantly, in the parking lot. A 1.56 megawatt canopy of 6,400 solar panels sits over the parking lot, and it is the largest, urban publicly accessible array of solar panels in the country. On sunny days in the summer, the solar panels are able to harness so much energy the entire zoo can operate off the grid. The solar panels even allow the excess energy on those days to be stored for cloudy days or in the winter when the sunlight is weak.

In 2012, the zoo created the goal to become a zero landfill facility through composting waste and recycling. Eventually less than 1 percent of their waste will go into landfills. Marvin's Organic Gardens, a local landscaping company that only uses organic material, composts more than one million pounds of animal waste from the zoo a year for their own fertilizer.

The zoo also has multiple LEED certified buildings, including animal exhibits, and multiple tactics to conserve water like green roofs and rain gardens.

The Transportation Department is improving the city's accessibility for biking

In 2010, Cincinnati's Transportation and Engineering department approved a bike plan that would create a more bicycling-friendly atmosphere in the city, and hopefully this plan will encourage to integrate biking as a solid form of transportation. Over the course of 15 years, the bike program will attempt to implement 445 miles of on-street bike lanes and off-street bike trails and sidewalks permitted for bikes.

The program has already finished several projects such as marking 10 miles of on-street bike lanes and developing 20 miles of off-street shared-use trails. The city has also begun planning to re-stripe Central Parkway, one of Cincinnati's largest thoroughfares that connects downtown to several neighborhoods such as Clifton and Northside, for a bike lane to ease congestion and making biking from these neighborhoods easier and safer.

Cincinnati's commits to using renewable energy

In April 2012, Cincinnati dropped Duke Energy as its electricity provider for a power aggregation plan through First Energy Solutions after being voted on in 2011. This made Cincinnati the first city in the United States to commit to a 100 percent green energy plan.

The plan doesn't mean all the renewable energy will be sourced locally, but FirstEnergy Solutions awards the city renewable energy credits, each of which counts for one megawatt-hour of electricity that comes from renewable energy. It works to offset the energy consumed by financing the production of renewable energy outside the city. Enough credits will be given to the city for each home that opted for the green plan.