Friday, May 21, 2010

TOP STORY > >Metroplan turning green

Leader senior staff writer

Metroplan is casting a wide net—make that Internet—seeking ideas for its Grassroots Green Agenda. And not surprisingly, tech-savvy high school students, bitten by the green bug, have been among the most frequent and creative of those sending suggestions.

The website is

The net caster is Jasmin Moore, the Metroplan planner charged with foraging for ideas to make central Arkansas counties more environmental. She will be accepting ideas and comments through May 23, she said in a recent interview.

Then, Metroplan Staff will work with the Green Task Force and the technical people to begin developing a plan, Moore said.

They will try to identify model polices and programs that could be put in place. Carpooling and encouragement of walking and biking already are part of Metroplan’s overall plan.

“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children,” reads a David Brower quote on the Green Agenda home page. Brower founded the Sierra Club.

Moore said the group is seeking ideas if four distinct categories. The categories are Movement (transportation), Power (energy), Nature and Knowledge.

So far, 320 users have posted 178 ideas for a greener tomorrow, posing 149 comments and voting 7,466 times.

In the movement category, the most popular idea, with 122 votes, is “More bike trails and better transit.” That’s also the top vote getter among all four categories. It was one of the top transportation strategies identified by high school students at the
April 3 Grass Roots Youth Summit.

About 40 high school students came together for that summit, held at the Clinton Presidential Library, Moore said.

The second most popular idea in the movement category is “Advance public transportation.”

“Bike trails are one thing, and a great encouragement for people to use their bikes more,” according to an online post by a community member. “But what is needed is for our transportation network to accommodate ALL modes of transportation comfortably and safely... not only cars and trucks, but public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians, including the disabled. A state statute or city/community ordinance requiring “complete streets” (streets that accommodate all modes of transport equitably) is needed here.”

Another community member wrote that more people might use Central Arkansas Transit buses if the schedules more clearly posted and CATA had more and better public relations.

Most popular suggestion in the power category is “Encourage energy efficient buildings by modifying building codes or requiring energy efficient buildings in our region. This could start with public building.”

That suggestion has 77 votes and was submitted by Moore, the project leader.

“Take personal action,” has garnered the second highest number of votes, 56, in the power category.

“At the Grass Roots Youth Summit our community youth suggested we: encourage people to take personal action because lots of people (multiplied by) small change = big results. Turn off lights, open windows, walk/bike, and use power strips.

Investing in more solar and wind power was the fifth highest ranked power suggestion, behind “More incentives to Green,” and

“Energy efficiency in Affordable Housing.”

Tied with increased wind and solar electric capability was the suggestion “Use natural light,” that is opening blinds and doors instead of turning on lights when practical.

The top ranked suggestion in the nature category is to make recycling more efficient and accessible—to recycle more and divert waste from landfills like “Trash Mountain.”

The second most popular idea in the category is eating and growing local foods, followed closely by “All schools should recycle.”

Finally, in the knowledge category, the top idea is “Involve Kids!” and let them spread the word. A close second is “Start Educating Early,” teaching awareness and encouraging healthy lifestyles at an early age.”

The Green Task Force has 12 regular members and an advisory group.

The process was thrown open to the public after interviews with similar green initiatives elsewhere found that staff member often wished they had had more public engagement early on, Moore said.

The program was launched with the help of three groups—the 12-member Green Task Force, the Technical Group and High School Students.