Sustainability Notebook: Columbia climate plans progress; fair showcases solar

Columbia’s climate task force is set to host its biggest community engagement meeting yet after months of meetings and discussions on how to best approach lowering the city’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Officials say the Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Action and Adaptation is about halfway to its ultimate goal of recommending actions that will lower the city’s emissions to the Columbia City Council by next spring.

Since January, the task force’s subcommittees have been meeting monthly, if not more, to flesh out focus areas and rank potential actions to take in the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. Those actions include ideas like updating new building energy efficiency standards, investing in more renewable energy and implementing new waste management strategies.

On Oct. 11, those subcommittees presented their initial rankings to the full task force, which planned to put together a rough draft of actions by its Thursday meeting, said the task force chair Jay Hasheider.

“The subcommittees have gone through these with a fine-toothed comb,” Hasheider said. “It has been going surprisingly well.”

The city also released an online survey Oct. 12 to help gauge public interest in the topic areas that the task force subcommittees have been exploring. That survey can be taken by any Columbia resident until Nov. 12 and will also be used to help the task force craft its rough draft of recommended actions, Hasheider said.

A completed draft is scheduled for public review on Nov. 28, Hasheider said, when residents will be able to comment on the specifics of the recommendations. “We want to make sure the public’s voice is heard,” he said.

Sustainable Living Fair touts local solar

Peaceworks’ Center for Sustainable Living held its annual Sustainable Living Fair in partnership with the city of Columbia on Oct. 13 at the Daniel Boone City Building.

The event, which aims to encourage sustainable choices by offering resources available from local businesses and organizations, was particularly heavy on showcasing local solar businesses this year. Four local solar companies — Green Leaf Solar, Missouri Solar Solutions, H2O’C Solar Engineering and Show Me Solar — tabled at the fair, offering workshops on solar installation or leading tours of nearby homes with solar.

For now, Columbia residents or business owners interested in installing solar are eligible for rebates from the city, from utility companies and from the federal government. But those aren’t meant to stay in place forever. And some, such as the federal tax credit, will be phased out in the next decade.

“We think we’re in a sweet spot for these prices because I don’t’ know if these incentives are going to last long,” said Bob Swope, a participant on a solar tour and a longtime resident of Columbia.

Columbia expands Fix-It Fair
Volunteer and MU student Phu Nguyen repairs an electric mixer at the Fix-It Fair in Columbia on Oct. 13. | Kristoffer Tigue/Missouri Business Alert

The city also expanded its Fix-It Fair, where residents can bring in broken electronics, appliances or other miscellaneous items to have them repaired for free by volunteers. The event is now a part of the Sustainable Living Fair.

Columbia launched the first Fix-It Fair last year. But because the city has recruited a stable group of volunteers to run it, city officials decided to hold it four times this year, rather than just once, said Ben Kreitner, the city’s waste minimization coordinator.

Kreitner said volunteers have had a 70 percent success rate fixing items brought in, including lamps, space heaters, humidifiers and electric razors.

“Someone just brought in a stuffed animal that had a feature where you press on the paws that wasn’t working,” Kreitner said at the Oct. 13 event. “So, they were doing surgery on the stuffed animal.”

Missouri Business Alert’s sustainability coverage is funded in part by the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District.

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