Becoming greener with the Bowling Green Tree Commission

Hannah Sparling and Hannah Sparling

Saving the environment is becoming increasingly important on many people’s to-do-list, and the Bowling Green Tree Commission is trying to show people how. In the fall of 2004, the commission started holding three public meetings each year to educate people and give them practical ideas on how to save money and the environment, said David Bienemann, the Bowling Green city arborist. The last meeting, on March 7, was about renewable energy. Renewable energy is energy produced from natural processes that can be replenished in a short period of time, said Joe Perlaky, manager of the Maumee Valley Growers Association. Perlaky spoke to about 35 Bowling Green residents at the March 7 meeting. His main focus was on different energy sources and practical ways to help people use them. Perlaky said there is always a way to save energy and participate in the green movement. It can be as easy as turning off lights when no one is in room, switching to a compact florescent light bulb or turning down the thermostat. ‘There’s always [an] opportunity to engage in some kind of renewable energy,’ he said. ‘Something as simple as changing a light will save significant amounts of energy.’ More and more people are starting to participate in the green movement, Perlaky said. There is still a lot of room for growth, but overall people are starting to understand what is going on and are making the move toward change. Perlaky said one idea people are starting to incorporate into their lives is using more than one alternate energy source at once. The wind isn’t great as an energy source all year-round, and neither is the sun, he said, but when they’re used together they are much better. In the future, Perlaky said people will be able to plug their electric cars into their garages, and then charge them using solar power. ‘We’re starting to integrate different energies together in a system,’ he said. ‘Instead of just putting in solar or just putting in wind, people are putting in a combination.’ Another way people are getting involved is through green jobs. Over 12,000 new jobs would be created in Ohio by 2020 if energy efficient programs were adopted, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Perlaky said he thinks what needs to happen to create jobs in Northwest Ohio is a focus shift. He said people in Northwest Ohio are really good at making things, but they need to shift their attention from the auto industry to energy. ‘Just like our parents did in the automotive field, we should be able to do that with energy,’ he said. Bowling Green already has some green jobs in place. Kevin Maynard, director of utilities in Bowling Green, said there is work involved in manufacturing the wind turbines, and also in watching and maintaining them. The city also recycles waste water, which is reused by local landscapers. Materials like plastic, glass, paper and cardboard are recycled too, which creates jobs at the recycling center while saving resources at the same time. Maynard said the utilities department is also working on a new program involving energy efficiency and financial incentives for customers who use energy efficient appliances or have other ways of conserving energy. He said the program will also involve an education aspect to help people understand ways to save and use less. Maynard said the details of the program are still in the works, but he hopes it will create some jobs. A lot of what happens and how will depend on the response the program receives and what people are willing to do. ‘We can’t force people to use less,’ he said. ‘We’re hoping to provide enough information that it makes sense for them to do that.’ One factor that will probably have a big influence on the incentive program is the economy. Maynard said the effects of the economy on the program are not clear yet because it is such a new idea. Once it gets underway, he said, it will be easier to tell how much the economy will influence people’s willingness to participate. ‘Has [the economy] caused a lot of people to call us?’ he asked. ‘No, but a lot of people weren’t calling us before.’ Perlaky said the economy does have one positive side. Even though people are struggling right now, it is making them realize they can’t keep living like they were before, and is causing them to think about the changes they need to make. ‘ ‘It’s actually teaching people and forcing people to think a little differently,’ he said. ‘Overall, this transition we’re going through should pay off.’