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Cedar Hill Growing Green Program Recognized for Sustainability by ICMA

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Cedar Hill, Texas, is a thriving suburb located in the heart of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in an area known as the Hill Country. The city is an up-and-coming ecotourism destination thanks to its lush, tree-lined rolling hills and wide-open green space.

As the Metroplex grows, so does Cedar Hill, experiencing a 64 percent increase in its population since 2000. To protect its natural beauty, unique ecosystem, and open spaces for generations to come, Cedar Hill leaders created the Growing Green program.

The program has three goals: to build in-house expertise in sustainability, to optimize government’s energy use and reduce emissions, and to plan for the long term. It has guided elected and appointed city leaders in incorporating environmentally conscious practices into their strategic planning and operations.

In 2003, Cedar Hill’s leaders established a public-private partnership that preserved the Blackland Prairie ecosystem, home to more than 14 endangered species of birds.

In 2011, adding to a growing list of accomplishments, the city council adopted its first five-year sustainability action plan to promote renewable energy, public transportation, open space, water conservation, and solid waste and recycling services.

That same year, the city used $1 million in funding from the Department of Energy and Oncor to install a solar photovoltaic system on the roof of its government center. The system generates 210,030 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, for savings of more than $21,000.

Later that year, the city used a $50,000 State Energy Conservation Office grant to add wind power, with the installation of a turbine.

In 2012, the city and its partner Waste Management replaced every single-family home’s 19-gallon recycling bin with a 96-gallon cart and reduced trash collection to weekly. Recycling increased by 258 percent the first quarter; since the program’s inception, nearly 20,000 tons of residential recycling materials have been diverted from landfill.

Also in 2012, the city council adopted a master plan to preserve 20 percent of the city’s landmass as open space, more than double the national average for the most populous cities.

Most recently, Cedar Hill used a $300,000 grant from the Bureau of Reclamation to replace all water meters with automatic readers, eliminating meter-reading routes.

Staff have learned three lessons from the Growing Green Program:

  1. The big vision must guide planning and implementation.
  2. Achieving public buy-in for environmental sustainability must be a priority.
  3. Publicize successes and show residents how small changes can have a big impact.