New website aids Ann Arbor's ‘green’ efforts

By Charlene Lerner, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 9, 2012

Making Tree City greener just became easier with the launch of the city of Ann Arbor’s new sustainability website, that aims to provide residents with information about energy consumption and sustainable initiatives.

The website, a2energy.org, was developed by the city’s Energy Office and Clean Energy Coalition, a local non-profit organization, as an informational tool for both Ann Arbor residents and owners of commercial property, according to a Feb. 7 press release.

Sean Reed, executive director of Clean Energy Coalition, said the site marks a momentous achievement for the city and the coalition.

“Our goal from the start has been to provide a user-friendly, educational experience for all members of the Ann Arbor community,” Reed said. “Beyond education, however, we want a2energy to be a call to action and a means to do so.”

Rebecca Filbey, project manager at Clean Energy Coalition, said information provided on the website will promote active participation in sustainable practices.

“The whole point of the (sustainability) program is to be able to address promoters, renters, landlords, business owners or property owners across the city to make them more aware of the impact of energy use in the home or in properties, and the importance of taking action to reduce energy, to start to consider renewable energy opportunities,” Filbey said.

Filbey added that homeowners should work to improve insulation in their homes to prevent air leakage and decrease energy usage.

“We’re not just talking about a small piece of the pie,” she said. “This is a really big impact as far as energy use all together.”

City Councilmember Sandi Smith (D–Ward 1) said residents contribute to the majority of the city’s energy waste.

“Sixty percent of our energy use in consumption is residential and we need to help our residents understand that there are ways to save money, invest in improving their house, and here are some tools to that effect,” Smith said.

Smith added that commercial owners are presented with financing options, such as the Property Assess Clean Energy program, to alleviate the costs associated with making their properties more sustainable. PACE programs seek to pass legislation to help individual communities maintain energy efficiency, according to the PACE website.

Andrew Brix, energy programs manager for Ann Arbor, said City Council’s goal is to make Ann Arbor carbon neutral and use 100-percent renewal energy. He added that the new website is a component of the city’s long-term sustainability goals, and is primarily intended to function as an informational tool.

“Part of it is for folks to know what they can do,” he said. “The website by itself is not going to get us to climate neutral, but it’s a piece of the puzzle. It’s also a mechanism for having a conversation.”

Due to the city’s diverse population of residents, commuters, students and business owners, Brix said the site provides many different approaches to sustainable living that apply to a wide range of circumstances.

“Everyone’s going to have slightly different needs and different opportunities in terms of what they can do, and were trying to get people to the solutions that work for them.”