GREEN CITY: Des Moines Sustainability Savings

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The city of Des Moines started “going green” about five years ago. Now, leaders say they’re seeing a different kind of green in response.

The Des Moines City Council adopted a policy in 2006 asking department leaders to keep the environment in mind when making purchases. The mayor says the city is starting to see the savings, but there’s more to be done.

Vince Travis says he has a quiet ride. He says, “This is a 2010 Prius.” The Des Moines City Inspector makes his daily stops with the gas/electric car. It’s one of the city’s 33 hybrid vehicles. Des Moines Fleet Manager Brian Bennett says, “About 8% is now hybridized among various makes and models.”

Bennett says the hybrid vehicles saved the city 5,000 gallons of gas and $14,000 last year. He says, “It’s significant savings. Our overall gas budget, we consume a million gallons of fuel, 500,000 gallons of diesel, 500,000 unleaded, so it’s still a small percentage, but it increases each year.”

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie says, “We’re just scratching the surface.” Cownie says three big projects saved the city $1 million the past five years.

In addition to the hybrid vehicles, the city switched more than four hundred traffic lights and some street lamps to LED lights. Crews also reduced carbon emissions in 18 city buildings by switching to more energy efficient lights. State and federal funds helped pay for many of the projects.

Mayor Cownie says more work needs to be done. He says, “We’re really kind of excited that piece by piece we’re going to get our whole city organization in a place where people can come to us and say, how did you do this or that, and we’ll lead by example.”

You can read more about the city’s efforts and the 2011 Sustainability Report by going to

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