Albuquerque, NM's Award-Winning Green Program Saves Water, Energy

Rapid Rise Bus, Albuquerque, NM
Rapid Rise Bus, Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque’s city-owned Rapid Ride buses run on ethanol, electricity and biofuels.

In 1994, Albuquerque got some bad news: within 25 years, the city’s water supply would run out. For Mayor Martin Chavez, it was a clear call to action.

“Sustainability became an impor­tant concept for me personally and Albuquerque as a whole,” he says.

The city immediately embarked on a comprehensive green program that has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 67 percent and garnered recognition worldwide. Most recently, the 2007 National Conference of Mayors and 2006 World Leadership Forum lauded Chavez for his environmental leadership.

One key feature of this award-winning program is the city’s longtime com­mitment to green space.

“We took what had been a rural tree conservation fund and brought it to an urban focus,” Chavez says. “Then we did a comprehensive study and mapped out where we wanted to be for the future, and we began aggressively acquiring green spaces.”

According to a 2007 study by the Trust for Public Land, those acquisitions have made Albuquerque the nation’s leading city for green space. That means quality of life for residents and cost-efficiency for businesses.

“We have places for kids to play soccer, and more shade means we use less energy in our buildings,” says Sustainability Officer John Soladay.

Albuquerque’s focus on renewable energy is another key component of the green program. Twenty percent of munic­ipal electricity comes from wind power, and 40 percent of the city fleet runs on alternative fuels.
“In a very short timeline, maybe five to eight years, we’ll have a fleet with 100 percent alternative fuels,” Soladay says.

These initiatives make Albuquerque a green city in more ways than one.

“I always talk about making green by going green,” Chavez says. “Twenty years from now, the cities people will want to live and invest in are the cities that are making the sustainability decisions Albuquerque is making today.”

In fact, companies are already investing in that sustainability. In 2007, automaker Tesla Motors chose Albuquerque to host its new plant, the world’s first facility dedicated to mass production of electric cars. Manufacturer Advent Solar, a spinoff of Sandia National Laboratories, began operations in Albuquerque in 2003.

Both companies were recruited aggres­sively by the city, which also has a history of purchasing products from local com­panies. City buildings, for example, use earth-friendly stucco and plaster from Albuquerque-based American Clay.

“We always try to keep the door open to partnerships with new companies,” Soladay says.

Chavez believes it’s only natural that the city’s green program has fostered Albuquerque’s overall success.

“When your city gets recognized for good things, it makes everyone proud,” he says. “A city that’s proud of itself is a more prosperous city. It gives citizens and businesses confidence that government can lead and bring people along.”

To learn more about Albuquerque’s green program, visit cabq.gov/sustainability.

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