Green Streets

Maui County, HI has been selected to receive technical assistance to create a green streets strategy as a part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. 

Maui County hopes to examine how its small towns and rural areas can benefit from sustainably designed streets. These “green streets” will address issues from stormwater runoff, which, when not addressed, collects pollutants and stresses traditional water infrastructure. Maui’s green streets will be characterized by vegetative barriers and mediums that encourage the natural infiltration of runoff instead of moving water into an underground pipe network. The streets will also reduce flooding by slowing and absorbing runoff.

In addition, Maui and the EPA will plan for the area’s future growth, prioritizing smart planning choices and the preservation of the county’s rural areas and natural resources. Through the EPA’s assistance, Maui hopes to encourage local economical development while maintaining the area’s appeal.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono congratulated Maui on receiving the grant saying, “Maui County should be commended for its smart growth strategies that encourage sustainable economic growth while protecting Hawaii’s natural resources.”

Green Streets 
Where great ideas are transforming urban life
by Jennifer Hattam

CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY once competed to build the tallest highrises, but now they seek other bragging rights: San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio, both claim to be working on the nation’s largest green building. The mayors of Austin, Chicago, and Los Angeles have each thrown down the gauntlet, declaring their city will be the most environmentally friendly. But success takes more than a showcase building or ambitious plans. A truly green city integrates environmental sustainability into everything from its sidewalks to its skyscrapers. Its public transportation is affordable and extensive, its streets safe and pleasant for bikers and walkers. It invests in renewables and energy efficiency, protects open space, reduces waste, and provides clean air and water and access to healthy food for residents of all economic classes.

The cities we highlight here are not “ecotopias,” for none exist–yet. But they are helping lead the way to a brighter, greener future. In addition to their individual achievements, most have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, vowing to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012–the goal of the 163 countries that have joined the Kyoto accord on global warming. Led by Seattle mayor Greg Nickels (D), some 230 cities have made the pledge. If they succeed, the results would be as beneficial as those expected from Kyoto commitments made by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and all Scandinavian countries combined. Through its “Cool Cities” campaign, the Sierra Club is working to make sure the signatory cities follow through on their promises–and get others to join their ranks.

The road to sustainability is not always smooth, as author Heather Millar found when she went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to track its progress. (See “Charlotte’s Way.”) But it can be rewarding. As the example of Portland, Oregon, shows, being greener saves money, attracts businesses, and improves residents’ quality of life. These benefits can provide a boost to economically struggling cities–and a counterpoint to sprawl nationwide. By making life in our cities more appealing, we keep the natural world outside them greener too.