Archive for Thursday, June 7, 2007

Environmental scorecard rates Lawrence, Topeka

June 7, 2007


Yahoo!'s "Be a Better Planet" contest

Yahoo! employee and Topeka native Meg Garlinghouse describes the company's "Be a Better Planet" contest and why Topeka is so far ahead of Lawrence.

Topeka may have had the edge this week in an online promotion geared at finding the country's "greenest" city, but here's how the cities stack up in other environmental areas.

"Cool cities" initiative: Both Lawrence and Topeka are listed in the Sierra Club as "Cool Cities," which means they've signed the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, a plan to voluntarily cut greenhouse gas emissions to bring them into line with the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States has not signed.

Recycling: Even without a curbside recycling program, Lawrence touts itself as having the highest recycling rate in the state. Of the waste generated from Lawrence homes, about 34 percent ends up in recycling as opposed to going to the landfill. "My assumption, based on what I know, would be that we recycle a lot more than they do," said Bob Yoos, Lawrence's solid waste manager. "For one, they don't have a composting program. Yard waste is a huge portion of your waste stream if it's going to the landfill."

Joan Graves, operations assistant for Shawnee County's recycling department, estimated the county's recycling rate to be about 19 percent. She said that despite the lower rate, recycling may be more convenient in Topeka because of the 20 drop-off sites for recycling.

At the tap: According to 2006 water quality reports, Topeka's tap water contains higher levels of contaminants metolachlor and atrazine, which come from runoff from herbicides used in farming.

Lawrence's water supply had no metolachlor detected. But Lawrence had higher levels of coliform bacteria. Neither city had any violations of drinking water regulations in 2006.

So which has the better water?

"We do have some lower numbers for some of the things, but some of them we don't, so I don't know," said Shari Stamer, Lawrence's water quality manager.

Air quality: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment doesn't have data to make an "apples to apples" comparison between the two cities. For example, in 2005 and 2006 the agency was monitoring ozone levels in Lawrence but not in Topeka. Now it's monitoring ozone in Topeka but not in Lawrence.

"I think they're relatively comparable, but I'm not going to make a judgment" about which has better quality air, said Tom Gross, chief of KDHE's air monitoring and planning section.

Traffic signals: Topeka is in the process of retrofitting 169 of its 182 signalized intersections with energy-saving LED lights, spokesman David Bevens said. David Woosley, Lawrence's traffic engineer, estimated that about 55 percent of the lights in Lawrence's traffic signals have been changed to LED.

Pesticides in parks: Lawrence maintains 34 out of 52 of its parks without pesticides, an effort that began with a volunteer movement to pull weeds. Topeka does not have a "pesticide-free parks" program.

Energy audits: Topeka has conducted "energy audits" of all its city buildings in recent months, which led to steps, including spending $145,000 on energy-efficient lighting at five buildings, that are expected to save the city $10,000 each year. The city also plans to install new boiler controls and replace thermostats with programmable thermostats by the end of the year.

"We've gotten energy audits in progress, too," Lawrence City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "It's gotten sidetracked because of our budget situation."


lounger 10 years, 11 months ago

When I visit topeka I can smell the chemicals in the parks. The waterways in topeka always have that "dead brown" vegitation strip right on the shore line of most creeks where they spray too much. At least Lawrence is trying not to poison their children in the parks as much as t-town!

RKLOG 10 years, 11 months ago

And if I put wheels on my grandmother she'd make a great wagon too.

pelliott 10 years, 11 months ago

my assumption that many of Lawrence's good numbers come a lot from yoo's. i wouldn't let him count my change. this town should be doing a lot better, it wouldn't even be that expensive. The city develops a recycling conservation board, and they work hard, and they are salmon. We should have curbside paper and cardboard curbside collection. Every house and apartmentment in town has paper and cardboards, even a once a month pickup would skyrocket collection rates.

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