Sustainability in Parks and Recreation
Daniel Schewlakow, Recreation Facilities Operations and Maintenance Program Manager

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is one of those buzz words that you often hear about in media and advertising, but what is it really?  For us here at Willamalane, it is something that we try to incorporate in all our decision-making processes. Sustainability is an awareness of how our decisions and actions affect the world around us. When we make decisions about what products to purchase for repairs or what chemicals to use in our cleaning, we look at the true costs over the lifespan of the product.

Considerations for Sustainable Purchases

To be better stewards of our environment and of your hard-earned dollars, we do everything we can to reduce expenses and create efficiencies within our day-to-day operations. We examine the costs and find ways to improve our processes, create efficiencies, and save money. There are three major considerations made during purchasing and repair decisions:

  1. How does this impact the health and safety of staff and the patrons and families who enjoy our facilities and parks?
  2. How will this either save or cost additional resources?
  3. Most importantly, what impact will this have on the environment, throughout the manufacturing, transportation, and implementation process?

The fewer resources that go into running your parks and facilities means the more resources we have to improve our services and the less negative impact we will have on our community, state, and world.

Sustainable Decision-making In Action

A recent example of this was our lighting upgrade at Bob Keefer Center. In this project we removed all of our old fluorescent lights, and replaced them with new Energy Efficient LED lights, which are brighter and will last twice as long, if not longer.

  1. Impact on staff and patrons: The brighter LEDs will result in better lighting. Good lighting contributes greatly to people's sense of well-being, providing a more welcoming environment and reducing eye strain.
  2. Cost savings: This one project will save over 160,000 kilowatt-hours a year, with an estimated savings of $9,398 annually on our utility bill. We are also estimating an additional savings of over $7,000 for the life of the bulbs due to their longer lifespan than the old fluorescent fixtures. That is a savings of enough energy to power 16 homes for an entire year.
  3. Environmental impact: LED bulbs consume less power per unit (lumen) of light emitted compared to fluorescent lights. This reduces greenhouse emissions from power plants.

If we pay attention to the things we purchase and their true costs, then we will make decisions that will produce the outcome we want to see.

Our Shared Role in Environmental Stewardship

It is up to all of us to educate ourselves and our children about the true costs of the products we use every day and their impact on the greater world. The next time you go shopping, think about the true impact of the item you are getting ready to purchase, and its impact on your health, your wallet, and the environment. It is the little things that will make the biggest impact.

Keep in mind we all have the power to change the world; it is up to each of us to be aware of how we spend our time and hard-earned money. The understanding that we are all connected to each other and our environment helps foster a better awareness of our actions and how they affect all of us. 

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