City’s sustainability goals addressed

James Heggen

The city of Ames is hoping to reduce its carbon footprint.

The City Council approved a contract at last week’s meeting to employ the services of Merry Rankin, sustainability director for Iowa State, to help the city reduce its energy consumption.

Mayor Ann Campbell said Rankin has sat on the President’s Advisory Committee on Energy Conservation and Global Climate Change for about a year. She said she saw a lot of expertise used on this committee, and she also saw the opportunity for the city and university to share resources.

The city then approached President Gregory Geoffroy about the possibility of employing Rankin’s services. Campbell said Geoffroy was very receptive to the idea. Campbell said at this point, budget wise, the city is not able to hire a sustainability director just for the city, so the two choices were either to share Rankin’s services or utilize current city staff members.

“So this seemed to be the best of all worlds,” Campbell said.

Rankin said this is a “great opportunity” for the city and university to work on sustainability issues.

At the meeting, there were concerns raised that the goals spelled out in the contract were too narrowly focused. These goals are focused on decreasing emissions and energy consumption.

Rankin said the city does not currently have a specific definition of sustainability as a whole that it has committed to at the moment, but does have a commitment to reduce its emissions. She said this foundation allows them to start from that area in order to obtain specific goals.

“It was more so the amount of time that was there and the deliverables that they wanted,” she said.

“It’s considerably longer than a year long process, and certainly longer than 25 percent of a person’s time,” she said.

So, Rankin said they looked at what had already been committed to, and would be able to set some attainable goals to have some success.

Campbell also said the city cannot start with too broad of a focus.

“I think we recognized that we can’t start out everything at once,” she said.

She said this is also similar to how the university started in its sustainability efforts, as they started out with smaller objectives and have grown into bigger ones.

“I would see one thing leading to another here, too,” she said. “But to sit down and do a great visioning as to what we mean by sustainability, I think could take an entire year just to do that.”

But she added that the city is aware Rankin is only part-time so they will be careful not to overload her, either.

Rankin said she will face different challenges in this position with the city because what the two entities are doing is different, but still sees several similarities.

“But I think the two dove-tail very nicely,” she said.

Rankin called this plan “a unique partnership,” and said she is excited to be a part of it.

“I think it’s something … a real visionary sort of thing that the Ames community is embarking on,” she said.