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Published April 23, 2009, 08:06 PM

Going green got easier

As the nation celebrates the earth this week, city and county officials are making “being green” a little easier.

By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram

As the nation celebrates the earth this week, city and county officials are making “being green” a little easier.

On Wednesday, Superior and Douglas County officially launched a program designed to bring environmentally-conscience consumers together with green businesses.

Thursday, city officials announced the rollout of an easier-to-use recycling program — the new 65-gallon wheeled cart start rolling out Thursday.

Count Me Green is a voluntary program for businesses and organizations in Douglas County that reviews, certifies and recognizes those that make a commitment to improve operations to reduce the impact on the environment. The program allows owners and managers to evaluate operations, set goals and take action to become more environmentally and economically sustainable. Count Me Green is a collaborative venture between the city and the county, said Mary Klun, Douglas County’s recycling coordinator. The incentive-driven program provides opportunity for businesses and other organizations to improve their operations to reduce their impact on the environment and improve their bottom line.

While the initial effort was to encourage recycling among businesses and organizations, Klun said the program has grown to be much more with funding granted to the city and county by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation.

Count Me Green is just one of the new initiatives Douglas County is participating in as the county’s energy committee introduces proposals and policies to help conserve energy and taxpayer’s money.

Supervisor Dave Conley, who serves on the committee, said Focus on Energy incentives helped pay for lighting projects that are helping reduce energy at the county’s highway and forestry facilities. The committee has also developed policies such as requiring staff to turn off office equipment at night and purchasing Energy Star-rate replacement equipment in efforts to reduce the county’s energy usage and save taxpayers money, as well as reduce the county’s carbon footprint.

According to an article published by USA Today, nationwide, organizations waste $2.8 billion per year to power unused machines.

Participating businesses and organizations that accrue 30 points for their efforts to reduce their impact on the environment can be certified “green.” The program does have some required points in specific areas, but others are determined by the goals set by businesses and organizations. Green efforts include waste management, communication and education, energy efficiency and conservation, water quality and wastewater management, air quality, wildlife and landscape conservation, transportation and purchasing. Recycling is a mandatory requirement.

For city residents, the residential recycling program is about to change to make it as easy as dumping the trash. Residents will no longer be required to sort recycled materials.

People will start seeing the new carts show up in their front yards as Hartel’s/DBJ collects recyclables on Thursday, said Dan Hartel, owner of the Proctor company. He said once the new carts are delivered, residents will place their recycle carts in the same location as trash cans for pick up every other week. The recycling schedule will not change.

The goal of the program is to increase recycling, and use of the carts in rural Douglas County communities have proven successful in increased the amount of materials recycled.

Mayor Dave Ross said the cost of the expanded program — $1.9 million over five years — is paid for by profits at the Superior Municipal Landfill, and has the added benefit of saving money down the road because it will extend the life of the landfill.

For more information or an application for Count Me Green, call Klun at 395-1293.

For information about the city’s new residential recycling program, call 729-5446.