Living Earth Day Principles Year-Round

April 20, 2012 | 9:14am

People around the globe will be marking Earth Day on April 22 with rallies and calls to protect the planet. And while drawing attention to an issue on a single day is a great way to build support, the County of San Diego wants you to know our commitment to the environment is a constant effort.

In fact, the environment is one of three main strategic initiatives that drive everything we do (learn more in our Strategic Plan).  Here are just a few highlights of green achievements from the past year.

New housing units at San Pasqual Academy, the nation’s only residential campus for foster youth, received LEED Platinum certification.  That’s the highest rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards created by the U.S. Green Building Council.

That same complex won an Energy All-Star Award from the California Center for Sustainable Energy.  The homes’ design will result in 42 percent less energy use than current building code requirements.

The County Library’s new Ramona branch earned a LEED Gold rating for its power and water-saving features and use of recylced materials in construction.

The need for LEED will continue. County policy requires all of its new buildings to be LEED certified, according to Peter Livingston, the County’s energy and sustainability manager.  He said, this summer the large new County Operations Center will add two more office buildings designed to LEED Gold standards and a conference center that will be LEED Platinum.  Livingston is glad to be guiding the projects as the whole concept of green building gets increased attention.

“It’s a big movement.  Knowing that you’re involved in efforts in the region to contribute to something the public cares about is satisfying,” Livingston says.

The County was one of the partners that transformed a Chula Vista home into a showcase of energy efficiency.  The home will be open for tours so that visitors can see a variety of features that contributed to a 50 percent energy savings.

 We’ve kept boosting the amount of energy we draw from the sun.  Late last year, a 1-megawatt solar power system was switched on at the East Mesa Detention Facility in Otay Mesa.  It’s now the largest photovoltaic system on County property, expected to save taxpayers $1.3 million in power costs over 20 years.

And building permits for residential solar power systems continued to be approved at a high rate.  The County’s Department of Planning and Land Use is on pace to issue 1,441 photovoltaic permits by the end of the fiscal year – a 47 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. The Board also approved a 308-acre commercial solar farm in Borrego Springs, a project expected to power roughly 20,000 homes a year.

The County also stages a variety of recycling events throughout the year.  That included several Tire Amnesty Days, the latest one held just last week, and a program for small businesses to recycle fluorescent bulbs.

Supervisors recently approved a pilot program to start composting food waste at six County cafeterias. That’s expected to keep as much as 50,000 pounds of food material out of landfills.

Again, those are just a few highlights.  You can learn more about County strategies for staying environmentally friendly from the County’s Energy Management Program and this collection of Waste and Recycling links.