Across Rhode Island, businesses, researchers, and advocates are working to reduce pollution, conserve energy, and make Rhode Island “greener.”  Rhody Green is a new forum that will showcase those efforts and recognize Rhode Island’s green champions.  My staff and I will update this page with examples of local efforts to position Rhode Island at the forefront of the green economy.  If you have any ideas for future issues, please submit your ideas at the bottom of this page or to rhodygreen@whitehouse.senate.gov.

RI Green Events

Johnson and Wales University hosts EPA Region 1’s Climate Adaptation Leaders Conference

Johsnon & Wales University hosts EPA Region 1 ConferenceOn November 8, 2013, regional climate leaders came together at Johnson and Wales University in Providence for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1’s Climate Adaptation Leaders Conference.

From rising sea levels, to floods, to more powerful storms, it’s clear that we are already starting to see some of the effects of climate change.  Local leaders—many of whom have seen the damage firsthand—know that waiting for disaster to take its toll on our bridges, roads, and sewer systems is irresponsible.  These leaders want to be proactive, not reactive, on climate change.

That’s why this conference was so important.  State, local, and federal government leaders were joined by representatives from the private and non-profit sectors to develop solutions that will help New England improve its resiliency before the next big storm.

It was a great conference filled with productive conversations, and I look forward to working with regional leaders to support climate adaptation strategies.

In addition to the EPA and Johnson and Wales University, I’d like to extend my thanks to the six New England states, the Consensus Building Institute, and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission for organizing this event.

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair, Nancy Sutley, visits Rhode Island

Photo of August 14 event with White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair, Nancy Sutley, in Rhode IslandOn August 14, Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, came to Rhode Island for an event about the importance of acting on climate change, especially as it relates to public health. EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding, Governor Lincoln Chafee, Congressman James Langevin, myself, and a group of children who suffer from asthma all came together for this event at the Providence Community Health Center.  We know that climate change is causing average temperatures to rise, and when it is hot and sunny, harmful ozone forms more quickly, leading to the “bad air days.” At the event, Rhode Islanders shared their stories of how these “bad air days” have aggravated their asthma and limited their ability to go outside. It’s so important that the White House Council on Environmental Quality hear these stories and I was glad to take part in this community conversation.

Matunuck Community Hosts Act on Climate Event

Ocean Mist Event PhotoOn July 19, members of the Matunuck community gathered at Ocean Mist to highlight the threat of climate change to Rhode Island’s coasts.  These community leaders emphasized the need to move forward with President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which will cut emissions of carbon pollution and help our country adapt to a changing climate.  Speakers included Kevin Finnegan, Owner of the Ocean Mist; Jane Gross, Owner of Charlestown Wine & Spirits; and Cullen McCoy, a student at the New England Institute for Technology, and an employee of the Ocean House Marina in Charlestown.  I fully support these Rhode Islanders and I pledge to keep working on solutions to prevent further erosion to Rhode Island’s coastline.

Federal Initiatives – ENERGY STAR National Building Competition

EPA Battle of the BuildingsRhode Island has two participants in the EPA’s Fourth Annual ENERGY STAR National Building Competition.  Staff from the Frank Licht Judicial Complex and the John O. Pastore Federal Building will compete with employees from more than 3,000 buildings across the country to see which buildings can most reduce their energy use and carbon pollution.    

The competitors will measure and track their buildings’ monthly energy consumption using Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR’s online energy measurement and tracking tool, and work over the year to cut energy waste through improvements that range from the replacement of older, outdated equipment to changes in occupant energy use behavior. The midpoint “weigh-in” results will be posted in December, with the winner announced in April 2014.
To learn more about the competition, please visit:  www.energystar.gov/BattleOfTheBuildings

Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps

2012 Case StudyWhen it comes to managing energy costs, every organization could benefit from some expert advice.  Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has a summer fellowship program that recruits leading graduate students from the country’s top academic programs and trains them to help companies, cities, and universities improve their energy efficiency.

In Providence, RBS/Citizens Bank has hosted EDF summer fellows on multiple occasions. To learn more about how they worked with their 2012 fellow, click here.

EDF will soon begin recruiting companies and other organizations to host fellows during the summer of 2014.   The application period for prospective fellows will be open until January 9, 2014.

Whether you’re part of an organization that would like to reduce its energy costs or a graduate student interested in becoming an EDF Climate Corps fellow, you can learn more at: http://edfclimatecorps.org/

RI Green Economy Spotlight – Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association

RINLAThe Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association (RINLA) is the leading horticultural, agricultural, and landscape industry association in the state of Rhode Island. 

Agriculture and plant-based businesses contribute to the quality of life of all Rhode Islanders, and they are also the boots-on-the-ground companies that play a vital role in Rhode Island’s efforts to adapt to climate change, modernize our aging infrastructure, and develop strategies to ensure the resiliency of our communities.

Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Seattle are reinventing themselves by turning to “green infrastructure,” an interconnected network of open spaces and natural systems that can help communities sustainably address a number of environmental issues.  Together, parks, greenways, wetlands, forests, and native vegetation naturally manage stormwater, reduce the risk of flooding, and capture pollutants.  Green infrastructure techniques like permeable pavement and rain gardens can go a long way toward making urban and suburban communities healthier and more livable.  RINLA is working diligently to promote green infrastructure in Rhode Island.
When it comes to preparing for the effects of climate change, RINLA collaborates with organizations that identify areas of vulnerability, policy, and planning – all vital and important work to improving Rhode Island’s resilience.  
One of those organizations is the Rhode Island Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan (better known as the “Beach SAMP”) Stakeholder Committee, which examines the effects of coastal erosion, flooding from storm events, and areas at risk due to sea level rise.  RINLA is also working with the Rhode Island Clean Water Fund and the City of Newport’s departments of Public Works and Economic Development to implement strategies and practical solutions to the city’s coastal issues.  This partnership will mobilize and educate RINLA’s extensive membership about building resilient, healthy, and livable communities.

In the coming months, RINLA will work alongside the state government, the RI Economic Development Corporation, and Rhode Map RI to create a vision for economic development and a sustainable and resilient future.  This effort will place a particular emphasis on mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

To learn more, visit the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association online at www.rinla.org.

Thank you to Shannon Brawley and Catherine Weaver for contributing this story to Rhody Green.  Shannon is RINLA’s executive director and a board member of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. Catherine is RINLA’s vice president and the owner of Tupelo Gardenworks, Ltd.

If you would like to submit an idea for the next Rhody Green, please email rhodygreen@whitehouse.senate.gov.