By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — Mayor Jorge Elorza recently made the city the 85th municipality on the planet to sign the Compact of Mayors greenhouse gas-reduction initiative. The program, launched by the United Nations and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2014, is a collaborative effort by mayors around the world to cut and track greenhouse-gas emissions.
Currently, 11 cities and towns in North America have signed the agreement. In Providence, the Office of Sustainability is working with the Environmental Sustainability Task Force to determine greenhouse reduction targets for the city.
Green ambassadors wanted
The city is looking for 30 volunteer ambassadors to spread the word about green initiatives and help poorly performing neighborhoods improve their recycling.
Half of the ambassadors will represent the West End, Elmwood and Elmhurst neighborhoods, and they will focus on efforts to keep residents from putting trash in recycling bins — a problem that has persisted since the switch to larger, all-in-one recycling curbside carts in 2012.
The Department of Public Works continues to issues tickets to residents who habitually contaminate their recycling bins with non-recyclables.
Contaminated shipments of recycling arrive daily at the state recycling center in Johnston, according to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. The most common types of waste found in the recycling carts are food scrap, furniture, and construction and demolition debris. Trash from the rejected loads of contaminated recycling are transported to the landfill at a cost of $250 to the city or town.
The other ambassadors will promote energy-efficiency programs, such as free home energy audits offered through a partnership with National Grid called EnergyWise. The program offers low and no-cost fixes for low-income residents.
So far, a handful of applicants have applied for the four-month program. The deadline to apply is July 31. Students and residents are encouraged to join. A time commitment is expected of two to four hours per week from August through November.
“We are hoping to create this core of individuals who are not only bringing messages to the community they are also our eyes and ears of the community,” said Leah Bamberger, the city’s sustainability director.
Ambassador training includes tutorials on sustainability programs and a tour of the Central Landfill and the recycling sorting system.
A citywide solar discount program ends July 31. The program offers a bulk-pricing discount in addition to state and federal discounts for new residential and commercial solar projects. The Office of Sustainability is considering bringing the program back in 2016, when new financing options are expected to start.