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Kelly Girtz Releases Environmental Plan

Commissioner Kelly Girtz is the kind of guy who has a five-point plan for brushing his teeth in the morning, so of course he has one for the environment, too.

Scheduled for release on Earth Day, it just went out a few days ago, and we are just now getting around to posting it. Oh, well. Here it is:

1. Implement a local ban or fee on single-use plastic bags. Girtz said he wants to develop a carefully-sequenced plan. “It is clear the damage bags can do to our waterways, and ultimately to people, as plastic particles make their way through the food chain back to us,” Girtz said. Under Girtz’s plan, the sequence of activity would involve coordination with area retailers and other local governments, and would include widespread distribution of reusable bags to ensure this policy direction does not create a burden for families across the income spectrum.

2. Establish solar power production for municipal use. To help do our part locally in combating climate change, Girtz said Athens should pursue solar power production for municipal use, joining residents that have made this move. Girtz said his plan would consider he hardscape disposal site at the corner of College and Cleveland Avenue as one possible site for installing solar arrays. It’s located close to municipal facilities and infrastructure.

3. Identify and protect more greenspace and riparian areas. Girtz said he would make it a priority to identify key environmental areas in Athens-Clarke County and work on ways to protect them, and in some cases to use them for recreational and educational purposes. These areas would include waterways and riparian areas and locations that might be incorporated in the greenway network.

4. Create stronger energy efficiency standards and incentives for new and old buildings. Girtz said he would push to set and enforce more ambitious requirements related to energy-efficiency in municipal facilities, and use incentives and award programs to encourage private builders to meet higher standards.

5. Continue improving solid waste reduction efforts. Girtz said that while Athens has made significant progress in the last decade through greater recycling, this effort must continue to move forward. “Every effort to steer waste away from the landfill reduces funds that have to be committed to land acquisition and engineering, keeps the active landfill further from nearby residents, and promotes material re-use,” Girtz said.  Girtz said he would work to establish more robust construction debris collection system, and food waste collection system to assist in providing these benefits.

“Of course, these five goals aren’t the only things we should be working on,” Girtz said. Among other efforts, Girtz said he’d also like to expand a tree planting program to build more tree canopy–and provide more shade–in the county; to create a program to help residents in rural areas maintain aging septic systems; continuing to lower emissions from municipal vehicles.:

Always remember, bees are dying at an alarming rate.