For a More Sustainable Future

For a More Sustainable Future

Investing in green initiatives for a more sustainable future continues to be implemented throughout the City’s municipal services. As the City anticipates continued efforts toward its renewable energy goals, staff is working diligently to implement clean, sustainable, and environmentally friendly solutions. 

Renewable Energy

Green Team Relaunched

In December of 2016, the City Commission passed a Clean Energy Resolution committing the City to meet 100% of operational electricity demands as reflected by the yearly total of all municipal electric meters with clean, renewable energy sources by 2020. Renewable was defined as wind, solar, geothermal, and/or landfill gas. 

The resolution further committed the City to at least two sustainability projects per year through 2027, the formation of a 6-10 member Green Team composed of both department and community liaisons, and creating a plan to become “carbon neutral before mid-century.” Several states, cities, and universities are now beginning to develop plans and set goals to become fully carbon neutral by midcentury, which is what scientists agree is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change and sustain a livable planet.

The City and our municipal utility, Traverse City Light and Power (TCLP), have a history of leading on renewable energy. TCLP installed the state’s first utility-scale wind turbine in 1996 and first community solar garden in 2013. Renewable energy has broad community support, and surveys show that most area residents support more renewable energy and would be willing to pay more for it if necessary.

100% Goal Achieved

The idea for a 100 percent renewable energy goal was brought to the city by a group of community members and organizations, including Citizens Climate Lobby, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Michigan Environmental Council, MICAN, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, NMEAC, SEEDS, and TC350.

The 100% Clean Electricity for City metes goal was met in 2020 and serves a milestone toward more sustainable initiatives in the future.  100% clean electricity for City meters prevents an estimated +/- 7800 MTCO2e annually based on 2009 data. That’s equivalent to total energy used by 900 homes in a year or the annual carbon sequestered by 10,200 acres of forest.

Green Team Members (currently the Green Team is not active)

Marty Colburn, City of Traverse City
Frank Dituri, City of Traverse City
Shawn Winter, City of Traverse City
Tim Pulliam, Keen  
Tim Werner, City Commissioner
Harry Burkholder, DDA
Joe Berry, Grand Traverse County Facilities
Christine Crissman, Watershed 
John Taylor, Traverse City Light & Power
Jacob Hardy, Traverse City Light & Power
Chris Hackbarth, DTE
Dan Goodchild, NMC
Tom Beatty, Munson Health Care
Sarna Salzman, Seeds

Environmental Stewards

Planning Initiatives

The Planning Department will begin to draft a proposed Riparian Buffer Zone Ordinance, which includes standards to use less energy for mowing turf adjacent to the water’s edge. The ordinance would result in a reduction for the use of fertilizers and pesticides and preserve water quality. In 2024, the Riparian Buffer Committee was formed. 

Learn More

Restoring Kids Creek

Nearly $2,750,000 was invested into green infrastructure to restore Kids Creek. In 2021, a pivotal point was met in The Watershed Center’s large-scale Kids Creek Restoration Project, which was started in 2013 with the goal of reducing the impact of stormwater and sedimentation on Kids Creek and its tributaries so it could be removed from the State’s 303(d) Impaired Waters List. The removal of undersized culverts and replacing them with clear span structures improved 3 priority road crossings in the City along Kids Creek where a negative hydrological and hydraulic effect was had on the stream. Two locations were on Cedar Street and one location on Sixth Street. The project will restore natural stream function and improve fish habitat. In addition to this work, the pedestrian bridges in the Kids Creek Crossing area replaced an undersized culvert and will help restore proper hydrologic function to the creek. City Engineering led the design effort for the projects and provided engineering services and construction oversight. 

Two existing concrete box culverts were replaced with clear span pedestrian bridges in two locations on Kids Creek. This project is funded through a grant obtained by the Watershed Center Grand Traverse. One location is the old railroad grade between Division St and Silver Dr which was completed in conjunction with a paved path that is part of the Safe Routes to School Project. The second location is where Kids Creek crosses the abandoned portion of Elmwood Avenue between 11th Street and Silver Lake Road. The project is substantially complete. 

Reducing Salt Use on Roadways

In 2020, the Streets Division began using an ecofriendly alternative to sand and salt, Beet Heet, on City streets. The product is more efficient at melting ice, and is effective to much lower temperatures. Beet Heet is much less corrosive than salt and is rapidly biodegradable. Furthermore, the efficacy of its use translates into a substantial cost savings to the City when compared to the status quo.

Growing our Urban Tree Canopy

Urban Canopy & Assessment Plan

In 2018, the Parks and Recreation Division completed the Urban Canopy and Assessment Plan that serves as a guide for annual projects relating to the City’s tree canopy. Improving the City’s urban tree canopy can have numerous benefits, including reducing summer peak temperatures and air pollution, enhancing property values, providing wildlife habitat, providing aesthetic benefits, and improving social ties among neighbors. A robust tree canopy can also attract businesses and residents. 

Since 2012, City Parks and Recreation crews have planted 1,914 street and park trees. In 2017, the City started to increase tree planting efforts to boost future canopy. 1,102 trees have been planted since fall of 2017.

Tree Fund

As a Tree City USA for 30 years, the City has now established a “Tree Fund” to help supplement tree planting in addition to funds from the Parks budget and contributions made by the Garage Fund. A focus for the Tree Fund is to also shade buildings on the north side of east/west streets to help with the cooling of buildings and strategically plant evergreen trees to soften cold north winds in the winter.