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Louisville Metro offers year-end update on sustainability efforts

A photo of Metro Hall.
Roxanne Scott
Louisville's Metro Hall.

Louisville Metro's swapping out light bulbs, using geothermal technology and switching to e-filing to reduce emissions.

Leaders of several Louisville Metro Government departments shared how they have made their workplaces more sustainable on a video call with Mayor Craig Greenberg on Monday.

The show and tell came as Greenberg’s office seeks to uphold an October 2022 pledge by his predecessor to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

Louisville Office of Sustainability Director Sumedha Rao presented the call as an opportunity for departments to share ideas about how to reduce the city’s carbon footprint as they craft their budgets.

Presenters included Amanda Baker of the Louisville Metro Revenue Commission, who said her agency has shifted to collecting most tax returns electronically. In 2019 70% of filers sent in paper returns. Last year paper returns accounted for just 32%.

Gretchen Hunt, director of the Louisville Metro Office for Women, said her office is hoping to secure solar lighting to reduce gender-based violence in the city’s streets.

“Looking at how solar lighting can be mapped onto areas using our crime data to figure out how to increase visibility, increase safety but also do it in a sustainable way,” she said.

Zachary Tyler, energy manager for Louisville Metro Government, said the city’s facilities and fleet department is trying to reduce utility costs and usage by 2030. So far, Tyler said the city has reduced energy usage and costs by 11% since a 2019 baseline, mostly by turning down the HVAC systems in buildings when they are vacant during nights and weekends.

Tyler also pointed to a $700,000 Energy Innovation Fund, allocated by Louisville Metro Council, to pay for 16 projects. Most of them are building-wide conversions to LED lighting, he said.

Tyler said the city also is looking for an energy consulting firm to help the city with “deeper energy retrofits…and not just stop at low-hanging fruit like lighting.”

Both Tyler and Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District Director Rachael Hamilton pointed to the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles. Hamilton said out of her department’s fleet of 20 vehicles, two are electric and one is hybrid.

Tyler said overall Louisville Metro has 25 electric vehicles and 75 hybrids, but that supply chain issues are making it challenging to purchase more.

Hamilton said her department is also using solar to partially power one of its air quality monitoring stations. The Air Pollution Control District also helped secure a rebate program for people who want to purchase electric lawn mowers and trimmers.

The Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport said it’s made strides towards reducing emissions. Dan Mann, director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, said switching to geothermal technology has reduced the carbon emissions associated with heating and cooling by 80%.

Mann said new flight paths proposed for the airport by the Federal Aviation Authority will save “millions” of gallons of fuel a year.

He also pointed to the water-bottle filling stations in the terminals, which he said reduce single-use plastic bottles.

Rao, the city’s sustainability director, called the ideas presented “super inspiring.”

Greenberg said he “learned a lot.”

“I hope that this spurs creativity for everyone on the call,” he said.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.