July 6, 2009 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
How green is…Cleveland? Cleveland, Ohio is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire by celebrating the re-birth of a much greener city. The fire occurred on June 22, 1969 when some molten steel fell from a passing train into a slick of industrial waste floating on the water’s surface. This led to a groundbreaking piece of legislation, The Clean Water Act of 1972, that sparked a major environmental movement. Cleveland has since taken great strides to become a green city on a blue lake.
“The water quality of the Cuyahoga River has improved dramatically since the late 1960s,” says Tinka Hyde, U.S. EPA Regional Water Division director. “More than 40 species of fish were found in the river in 2008, including steelhead trout, northern pike, and others. This shows how powerful a tool the Clean Water Act can be when the public, government, and industry are committed to restoring an important waterway.” Today the Cuyahoga River is one of 14 American Heritage Rivers in the United States and the centerpiece of Ohio’s only national park (the Cuyahoga Valley). It runs through beautiful rural burgs like Cuyahoga Falls and Kent, provides water access for rowing clubs, boaters and commerce.
Cleveland is dubbing 2009 “The Year of the River,” and has compiled a list of 75 green reasons to love Cleveland along with eco-friendly ways to celebrate summer at www.positivelycleveland.com/h2ohio
Did You Know This About Green Cleveland?
• Cleveland ranked #16 in the SustainLane’s 2008 US City Rankings of the 50 most-populous cities, the nation’s most complete report card on urban sustainability. SustainLane called out the 225 community gardens and 25 for-profit farms within the city limits and the city’s participation in an effort to start an offshore wind farm on Lake Erie.
• Several downtown Cleveland hotels graduated from the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S) program, a voluntary year-long process to implement multiple sustainable practices. All hotels made a commitment to implement these practices, including recycling and using energy-efficient equipment, into their daily operations. Green Lodging News recently profiled these efforts. (The staff at the Wyndham at PlayhouseSquare wears the new “Full Cleveland”–not pastel polyester leisure suits with white shoes–but uniforms made from recycled polyester fibers spun from plastic beverage bottles.)
Hybrid-Electric RTA HealthLine
• The new RTA HealthLine, opened in October of 2008, connects downtown Cleveland’s Public Square to the arts, culture, education and hospitals of University Circle. The bus line utilizes 21 hybrid-electric vehicles powered by clean diesel engines and electric transmissions with 100 kW motors and 600-volt nickel hydride battery packs. This unique power train reduces particulate emissions while dramatically improving fuel efficiency.
• In conjunction with the new bus line, Euclid Avenue was completely re-done including the planting of 1,500 trees and the addition of dedicated bike lanes providing commuters another green alternative to driving.
Euclid Avenue Planted with New Trees
• The Cleveland EcoVillage is a diverse, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. It is a national demonstration project with the goal of developing a model urban village that realizes the potential of urban life in the most ecological way possible. The nearby new Simmons Park sits on the site of an abandoned gas station. The gas station and brownfield were demolished and remediated in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Department of Development. The park represents one of the strategies that DSCDO is utilizing to repurpose vacant land into healthy, useful spaces valued and cared for by the surrounding community.
EcoVillage Market Gardeners
• Tri-C started the Green Academy and Center for Sustainability, the first program of its kind in the country, to prepare students for employment in emerging fields including LEED certification, green building specs and energy efficiency. Cleveland Plus already has many highly skilled workers in the manufacturing trades and this program is training workers in new fields already available in the green collar economy.
• The Great Lakes Science Center installed solar panels to go along with the first Cleveland lakefront wind turbine, becoming the fourth largest producer of alternative energy in the state. The solar panels and wind turbine bring about greater public awareness of renewable energy and educate visitors to the Science Center of the benefits of alternative energy to this region.
• Progressive Field and the Cleveland Indians were forerunners in the American League to become a part of Major League Baseball’s movement to go “green.” Forty-two solar panels were installed on the upper deck concourse in the stadium, generating enough power to run all 400 of the ballpark’s television sets during the game. The Tribe also recycles and uses environmentally friendly products to reduce the park’s carbon footprint.
• The amount of kilowatts produced by solar panels in Ohio, according to Green Energy Ohio, is 900 kilowatts. In Northeast Ohio solar panels produce about 600 kilowatts including 120 kilowatts owned by Amish families.
Chef Robert at The Culinary Vegetable Institute
Urban Agriculture and Locavore
• Located in Milan, Ohio—about an hour west of downtown Cleveland—the Chef’s Garden team produces more than 1,100 varieties of vegetables and herbs for the discerning palate. Chef’s Garden is built on sustainable agriculture and earth-to-table beliefs. Their Culinary Vegetable Institute puts together programs, lesson plans and take-home packets for groups to learn the importance of vegetables grown in organic environments (no pesticides or harmful fertilizers.
Blue Pike Farm
• Carl Skalak started the “first farm in Cleveland in the 21st century.” It’s an acre of land on E. 72nd Street between I-90 and St. Clair and is called the Blue Pike Farm. He is planting organic, petrochemical free crops.
Carl Skalak of Blue Pike Farm
• The Greenhouse Tavern is the first green-certified restaurant in Ohio with a rooftop greenhouse, reclaimed wood, high-efficiency lighting and, of course, proteins and vegetables obtained from local farms or grown by chef and owner, Jonathan Sawyer.
In the backyard, on the rooftop, in planter boxes behind the restaurant . . . more and more of our chefs (many already known for their love of locally-grown and organic foods) are gardening and using the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor in their restaurants, including Ricardo Sandoval of Felice Urban Eatery and Fat Cats, Joy Harlor of Le Petit Triangle Café, Fabio Salerno of Lago, and Marc Levine of Bistro 185.
• Using all sustainable and local foods, Chef Ben Bebenroth of Spice of Life Catering brings diners to the source of the food for an alfresco feast. Guests pay for a chef prepared meal paired with boutique wines and for the opportunity to forage for their dinner.
• Green Corps is a work/study program founded by Cleveland Botanical Garden. Teens earn as they learn, transforming vacant lots into flourishing urban farms. The students grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers while learning job skills, leadership and growing a healthier, greener community for themselves and their neighbors. Each year, Green Corps participants get real world experience by playing a major role in the production and marketing of Ripe from Downtown products, using crops grown in the Learning Gardens. Ripe from Downtown Salsa (medium and hot) has become a favorite with customers in area restaurants, at farmers market stands and street fairs, and at local stores such as Mustard Seed Market, Heinen’s, Zagara’s Family Marketplace, Nature’s Bin, Flavor of Ohio and Take a Bite.
Harvest From Fresh Fork Market
• The Fresh Fork Market connects restaurants with local farmers, thereby eliminating man hours of searching and gas consumption. Fresh Fork Market was born at the Entrepreneurship Education when four Case Western Reserve University students carried their idea forward throughout their senior year of college. In June of 2008, Fresh Fork Market launched service in Cleveland, delivering fresh local products directly from local farmers to local restaurants and creating a virtual farmers market.