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Environmental Activity Suggestions

What are some examples of projects that CLEAN Communities could implement?

There are endless ways municipalities can reduce their impact on the environment and improve their community’s quality of life. Here are a few ideas to get projects underway.

Suggestions by Environmental Media:

Accidental Releases and Emergency Response

  • Evaluate and analyze the potential for environmental accidents or emergencies
  • Review post-occurrences and update emergency preparedness and response plans accordingly
  • Test emergency response procedures where practicable
  • Improve drainage catch basins

Air Emissions

  • Develop and implement an air quality improvement plan to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants and greenhouse gases
  • Retrofit buses, fleets, and equipment to run on biodiesel, electric or natural gas
  • Join the Clean Cities Program
  • Provide educational outreach to reduce the use of lawn mowers on ozone awareness days and mow less frequently
  • Reduce mobile source emissions (natural gas buses, more carpooling efforts, diesel emission reduction initiatives)
  • Implement a Clean Air Action Day Program to notify public on CAA Days, recognize those businesses that have partnered with the community or signed a pledge to reduce emissions on high ozone days, or have the local government pledge to take steps to reduce emissions on high ozone days
  • Partner with local solid waste management districts to establish a program to enforce illegal trash burning.
  • Pass a local ordinance that includes enforcement measures to ban all open burning
  • Reduce diesel emissions in shipping and other equipment
  • Implement a "No Idle" policy at all public schools to reduce diesel fumes from school buses

Community Sustainability

  • Become a Tree City USA
  • Plant native species of trees and other plants on community property
  • Have a tree giveaway event for community residents
  • Use recycled content materials in city parks
  • Use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to set aside funds for environmental projects
  • Implement aspects of the Green Communities Program
  • Implement aspects of Smart Growth Programs
  • Conduct periodic communications or meetings with the community, especially related to natural resource issues, pollution prevention, and stormwater issues
  • Establish community partners to work together on sustainability initiatives
  • Establish a national coal combustion products partnership to increase use of coal combustion products for road and building construction
  • Promote and support IDEM's environmental recognition programs to local businesses (Environmental Stewardship Program, 5 Star Recognition for Child Care Centers)
  • Environmental justice projects
  • Utilize brownfield redevelopment for construction and expansion projects
  • Encourage business and industry participation in local government environmental planning committees (a brownfield is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant)
  • Establish a local business environmental group that meets regularly to discuss local environmental concerns
  • Consider Eco-Industrial Parks and require potential tenants to develop an Environmental Management System
  • Develop and implement Smart Growth policies such as land and waterway zoning
  • Conduct a life cycle analysis
  • Utilize Design for the Environment practices
  • Utilize environmental cost accounting to capture the environmental, social, and economic costs and benefits of proposed alternatives in decision making – otherwise known as the triple bottom line
  • Invest in green space
  • Green building considerations for renovations or new buildings (see Energy Use)
  • Hold meetings that meet "green" requirements

Energy Use

  • Conduct energy assessments of all municipally owned facilities
  • Incorporate energy efficiency into purchasing protocol
  • Promote use of renewable energy
  • Improve building and equipment maintenance programs
  • Improve heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to conserve energy
  • Perform and document maintenance on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • Investigate temperature and humidity settings for air conditioners in different locations and floors to determine uniformity, comfort, and optimal energy efficiency
  • Use energy efficient lamps and ballasts, office equipment, pumps and motors
  • Implement energy efficiency technology in new or renovated building designs
  • Increase water heating system efficiency
  • Optimize air compression systems
  • Implement best management practices techniques
  • Implement a waste heat recovery program
  • Develop and implement an energy conservation plan
  • Participate in an EPA energy efficiency program (ex. Energy Star program)
  • Set printers and copiers on energy saving mode when not in use
  • Determine if energy provider has any rebate program for converting to more energy efficient lighting
  • Conduct baseline survey/inspection of each floor to determine how many people leave their lights or computer on overnight - provide employee education for efficient energy use
  • Determine if lighting is necessary in all areas of the building
  • Use motion detector lighting in bathrooms and closets
  • Insulate and caulk windows, exterior doors, and frames
  • Check efficiency of vending machines (ask vendor to turn off lights)
  • Replace Exit signs with LED lights
  • Incorporate Alternative Work Schedules (AWS) for energy savings
  • Design buildings to maximize energy efficiency, performance, and sustainability through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
  • Participate in a state or federal environmental or energy efficiency recognition program (e.g. IDEM's Voluntary Idling Program). Additional information on federal programs is provided on the U.S. EPA List of Partnership Programs.

Environmental/Children's Health

  • Implement plans to reduce vacant housing and/or absent landlords to reduce housing which attracts pests and/or spreads lead paint chips.
  • Improve enforcement of housing codes especially codes which reduce children’s exposure to lead, mold, pesticides, etc.
  • Implement programs which eliminate the ability of a home to lead poison multiple children.
  • Pass “No Smoking” policies, laws
  • Pass open burning bans
  • Open a permanent unwanted medication collection site at the local police station. Assist local schools with disposal of unwanted medications. Train local hospitals, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices on proper disposal of unwanted medications
  • Take action to reduce meth labs or to clean up meth labs
  • Partner with local schools and universities to encourage students to consider environmental science careers
  • Offer space for community gardens
  • Install new park equipment and/or playgrounds made from recycled plastic
  • Implement a lead paint abatement program for public facilities with a focus on lead paint in child occupied buildings
  • Encourage and support environmental management system development and implementation for all public schools
  • Develop conservation and environmental education programs for adults and children making conservation and environmental science part of the core curriculum (TNC)
  • Establish nature centers in under-served areas to serve youth that do not have the opportunity to visit nature in their local community (TNC)
  • Implement recommendations from the state Lead and Asbestos programs
  • Asbestos abatement
  • Implement a mercury-free purchasing policy
  • Create "close to home" parks and trails that children and adults can use
  • Promote environmental education activities for the public (support school programs, make presentations in schools and community meetings)
  • Create classroom compost bins and recycling programs in local schools

Hazardous Waste Generation

  • Reduce use of toxic materials
  • Reuse or recycle hazardous materials or wastes
  • Develop and implement a hazardous waste reduction plan
  • Identify all chemicals used in your local government and evaluate them for the level of hazard they impose
  • Identify hazardous materials in use and implement purchasing policies to replace each over time with more environmentally sound materials
  • Implement a household hazardous waste collection, storage, and disposal program
  • Establish an electronics recycling and routine white-goods recycling pick-up program
  • Hold mercury thermometer collection/exchange events

Materials Use

  • Assess soil conditions and fertilizer needs on city property to determine the fertilizer application schedule
  • Implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems
  • Reduce pesticide use on school property
  • Reduce the amount of salt applied to roads - calibrate salt trucks, monitor truck speed, and explore the possibility of using mixed ash and salt or molasses
  • Conduct citizen education and outreach on the detrimental effects to water quality of improper phosphorous and fertilizer use
  • Develop and implement chemical management plans to minimize chemical use

Mentoring or Partnership Activities

  • Educate other local governments about the importance of participating in CLEAN and encourage their enrollment
  • Participate in environmental mentoring with other members of CLEAN
  • Offer guided tours of the community to CLEAN members

Pollution Prevention

  • Adopt an inventory system to minimize leftover, expired, or unused materials
  • Establish a pollution prevention training or mentoring program to be given by Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) to industrial wastewater treatment plant personnel or other local government personnel
  • Adopt economic/environmental rating tools to measure improvement related to environmental compliance and reduced adverse environmental impacts (waste generated compared to population)
  • Develop and implement a plan for quick remediation for all environmentally related community complaints
  • Reduce light, noise, and odor pollution
  • Produce a public environmental report
  • Provide more outdoor recreation opportunities (such as disc golf, basketball courts, softball and soccer fields, amphitheater, horseshoes, playgrounds)
  • Support a community vegetable garden
  • Establish a local environmental recognition program (i.e. Mayor's Mercury Free Pledge)
  • Establish local government and business/industry partnerships for local environmental outreach efforts (household hazardous waste collections, mercury collections)
  • Support a community-wide goal to reduce toxic releases from industry by 10% each year (or another environmental goal)
  • Develop a local workgroup to discuss technology and resource sharing (example, if WWTP needs warm water in winter, allow permits to be flexible to get warm water from businesses)
  • Require review of emergency preparedness and response plans for vendors, contractors, and suppliers prior to contract approval

Preservation and Restoration

  • Conduct brownfield cleanups
  • Conduct environmental remediation
  • Purposefully protect and preserve significant natural areas/features through site design or documented management plan
  • Restore or enhance native plant communities
  • Acquire a linear corridor for public trail use that is at least one-half mile long
  • Acquire land and conservation easements to link natural areas and create natural migratory corridors for wildlife (TNC)
  • Restore wetlands and other areas to link current natural areas, thereby creating preserves and refuges of sufficient size to protect endangered wildlife (TNC)
  • Create green areas ranging from parks to nature preserves
  • Develop local park systems to accommodate interests and the growing demand for greenspace, including adequate funding for staffing needs (TNC)
  • Protect the most fragile and most threatened lands from development by creating nature preserves (TNC)
  • Participate or evaluate the restoration of natural resources (Natural Resources Damage Program)
  • Include local Soil and Water Conservation District in initiatives that are related to natural resources
  • Develop a habitat protection program (adopt a stream program)
  • Support a community cleanup program
  • Develop and maintain multi-use trail facilities
  • Add greenspace to facility grounds
  • Create a Trails and Greenway Plan
  • Establish public access sites for canoe/kayak or water trails
  • Develop and maintain a website identifying and labeling all public trails, bike routes, and canoe/kayak access
  • Create a 5-year Park and Recreation Master Plan* (*Plan is required for several DNR - Outdoor Recreation grant applications)

Solid Waste Generation

  • Develop and implement efficiency plans for waste reduction, recycling, and composting programs
  • Establish reuse or recycling programs
  • Increase the number or capacity of existing recycling programs through changes in the collection program and public outreach
  • Implement a leaf, wood, and food waste collection/composting program
  • Participate in an EPA waste reduction program (ex. the U.S. EPA Waste Wise program)
  • Inventory municipal waste and look for other businesses or local governments to reuse the materials
  • Develop an electronic filing system
  • Recycle paper into note tablets to be used again
  • Find reuse opportunities for sludge to reduce the amount being landfilled
  • Use double-sided printing as the default setting on all printers and copiers
  • Support a community recycling program
  • Implement a curbside recycling program
  • Provide access to recycling locations through satellite drop-offs or partnering with local businesses for convenient locations
  • Develop a local forum of businesses to discuss waste reuse

Supply Chain Activities

  • Implement a "green" purchasing program (purchase recycled content materials, re-refined motor oil, energy-efficient equipment, low toxicity cleaners and adhesives)
  • Include environmental considerations in the selection of contractors


  • Promote use of alternative fuels in vehicles (natural gas, propane, gasoline-electric hybrid, diesel-electric hybrid, electric or fuel cell vehicles)
  • Promote development of alternative fuel filling stations
  • Provide preferential parking for car or van pools at city buildings
  • Provide, or sell at a discount, public transportation passes
  • Develop a telecommuting program allowing employees the ability to work from home
  • Provide an employer vehicle for connection to public transit routes
  • Develop a bicycle and pedestrian plan incorporating roads, shoulders, routes, trails, and designated lanes
  • Install bike racks, showers, and lockers
  • Consider cost of maintenance and gas mileage when purchasing vehicles and machinery
  • Improve regular maintenance schedule for vehicles (keep engines in tune, routine tire pressure checks, use of radial tires)
  • Use re-refined oil and recycled antifreeze in fleet vehicles
  • Identify local service stations and businesses that provide re-refined oil and recycled antifreeze and promote use to community
  • Coordinate delivery logistics to avoid unnecessary delivery trips
  • Use crushed glass/coal combustion waste for road construction
  • Require emission testing for diesel trucks
  • Establish clean air zones

Vulnerability and Security Issues

  • Complete a vulnerability assessment for potential environmental hazards
  • Finalize an emergency response and preparedness plan and test procedures for potential environmental hazards where practicable

Water Discharges

  • Investigate green infrastructure opportunities to manage storm water
  • Create a program to reduce loading from Pretreatment facilities
  • Develop and implement a wellhead protection program for those communities served by ground water
  • Develop and implement a flood plain management ordinance and participate in the National Flood Insurance Program for streams within a community's corporate limits
  • Develop and implement an Emergency Action Plan for dam structures
  • Install an oil/grit separator between storm drain inlets and outlets to streams
  • Reduce or prevent contamination of storm water runoff
  • Protect water quality by fostering programs to reduce sediment such as conservation tillage, reforestation, filter strips, and fencing to keep livestock out of rivers and streams (TNC)
  • Use indoor wash bays with drains to the sanitary sewer system when washing vehicles
  • Implement mercury effluent monitoring at the wastewater treatment plant
  • Include pollution prevention language in the permits of local wastewater dischargers: require dischargers to submit a report indicating pollution prevention measures and possible cost savings if pollution prevention (P2) were implemented and mail P2 information with renewal notices to permit holders
  • Provide POTW inspection staff with a pollution prevention checklist to be utilized during inspections
  • Provide industries with specific fact sheets relating to their particular type of work
  • Include pollution prevention suggestions or recommendations in the POTW inspection reports
  • Include pollution prevention language in the Pretreatment Permit application process requesting applicants to evaluate prevention methods instead of treatment
  • Certify septic system design and construction, and initiate septic maintenance districts in areas that do not have sewer systems (TNC)
  • Implement and execute surface water inflow and infiltration remediation program
  • Implement a storm drain marking program
  • Provide training opportunities to construction industry related to erosion, sediment control, and stormwater management issues
  • Develop and implement a watershed monitoring program within the community

Water Use

  • Install efficient flush toilets and shower heads
  • Limit times and duration of sprinkler use
  • Fix leaking pipes and drains
  • Use efficient-flow hose nozzles

Note: "(TNC)" indicates suggestions provided by The Nature Conservancy.

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