Sustainability and Recycling Efforts in Fairfield, CA

Posted on September 24th, 2012 by

In an effort to identify sustainability initiatives, the City of Fairfield, California evaluated a number of alternatives.  One sustainability alternative that seemed it would impact a variety of areas was utilizing light emitting diodes (LED) or induction technology to replace high-pressure, sodium street and pedestrian lighting.

Faced with the increasing Pacific, Gas & Electric utility rates and maintenance costs, the City aggressively pursued available grants focused on converting its 9,200 citywide street and pedestrian lights to more efficient induction or LED fixtures. The City submitted an application in September 2008, and received notice in early 2009 of an allocation of $984,500 from the Department of Energy through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Community Block Grant (EECCBG) program. The EECCBG program was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to pursue initiatives that achieve energy savings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs.  These funds do not require payback.

As an initial plan, the City allocated about 70% of the EECCBG awarded funds to complete an inventory of the City’s street and pedestrian light and to fund a portion of the lights identified for replacement by LED technology.

In addition to the EECCBG grant, the City understood that the California Energy Commission (CEC) offered low-cost loans to cities, counties, and school districts to pursue energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable projects.  The CEC offered two programs – a limited, highly-competitive, one-percent interest rate loan program using funds from the ARRA, and a three-percent loan program leveraging state funds. Fortunately, the City was able to secure funding under the 1% Loan Program to convert all of the street and pedestrian lights.

Under the 1% Loan Program, the City requested $3 million to combine with its EECCBG funding request in order to convert the remainder of the City’s street and pedestrian lights from high-pressure, sodium to induction and LED. By combining EECCBG funds with the CEC loan, the City had approximately $3.7 million to inventory and convert all its street and pedestrian lights to LED or induction lighting.

Once the grants and loans were secured, the City solicited proposals to conduct a thorough geographic- based inventory, prepare plans, specifications, and estimates. The project was completed well under the allocated $2.33 million. The City forecasts an approximate 8 to 12-year payback, which will be realized through energy savings. The City further expects an annual reduction in energy expenses of approximately $250,000.

Through this effort, the City will save money from reduced energy use and generate annual energy savings of approximately 1,992,540 kWh, which represents 475 metric tons of CO2 per year.   Other ways that the City will benefit from this project include; (i) reduced equipment purchases – induction and LED lights are estimated to last approximately three to four times longer than the high-pressure sodium technology; (ii) productivity gains as the employee assigned to streetlight repair will be able to assist in other areas of the city; and (iii) higher quality light as induction or LED light produces, a more desired, white light rather than the current orange glow.

In addition to the City’s own actions, its Waste & Recycling staff has spent the last few years educating local businesses and organizations on new regulations around recycling and diverting materials away from the landfill. Through its outreach efforts, the team made note of several outstanding local strides being made.

Anheuser-Busch in Fairfield diverts or recycles 99.9% of generated waste from going to the landfill. In 2011, they recycled 49,800 tons of materials including plastic, metal, palates, and spent grain. Their environmental efforts also include reducing water usage and generating 2.5MW of renewable energy by having both solar panels and a new wind turbine at their facility.

Calbee America, a global snack manufacturer, has increased their diversion rate in Fairfield to 75% of all waste from entering the landfill. Most of their diversion is accomplished by donating the food waste to feed livestock, and getting items delivered to their site in reusable containers that are then re-used to donate the food waste. Calbee has also reduced paper usage per employee by 54% and electrical usage by 40%. Both of these companies received recognition from the California Waste Reduction & Awards Program for their 2011 efforts.

Costco/Fairfield is the first business in the city to use a well-marked, three-bin system for diversion and disposal; composting, recycling, and trash for the landfill. Their system, which helps to divert 85% of their waste, is used by employees and serves to educate their members and local businesses on the benefits of recycling and conservation. Costco’s lead was followed by Suisun Valley Elementary School. The school is the first in the area to implement a food waste composting program in their cafeteria, where students are expected to separate their food waste into a three-bin system for compost, recyclables, and landfill items. Suisun Valley Elementary School also actively recycles electronics, printer ink cartridges, and Capri Sun drink containers. Even the weekly, downtown Farmers Market in Fairfield provides a Green Team to assist patrons and vendor with recycling and diversion of their waste products.

These organizations, along with The Pointe Apartments, were all recently recognized by the Fairfield City Council and the local garbage company for their involvement and commitment to operating in a more sustainable fashion. The 296-unit Pointe Apartment community was touted for having a 75% recycling compliance rate among their tenants; the complex’s property management staff takes recycling seriously and takes time to educate their residents and provide a well-maintained, accessible trash enclosure area.

From more efficiently lit streets and cross walks to young elementary school students, Fairfield believes in the value of waste diversion, recycling, and sustainability efforts being made by the entire community for its city’s future.





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