The American Lung Association ranks Lancaster as the 15th worst city in the country for year-round particle pollution.
In an effort to inform the public about what’s being done to better the environment, Lancaster City leaders broke down their climate action plan Thursday evening.
For city planner, Douglas Smith, it’s all about getting ahead of the problem and changing daily operations.
“Changing our energy use to renewables, making our buildings more efficient, switching to cleaner-fuel cars…those are some of the ideas,” said Smith.
The driving force behind Lancaster’s plan is the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, which asks participating bodies to report yearly their plans for combating global warming.
Smith says their plan is about mitigation and adaptation.
“Mitigation is about reducing our emissions, our greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptation is about adapting to the changing climate here in Lancaster,” said Smith.
By 2050, city leaders want to reduce emissions by 80% – a lofty but attainable goal, says Mayor Danene Sorace.
“We will be judged by the steps and actions that we take, that have been so long ignored,” she said.
Sorace adds that Lancaster is working to improve walking and biking trails, and reduce water consumption on city properties.
The city is also changing how the streets are lit.
“We are in the process of purchasing 3400 street lights right now,” Sorace said.
That’s a $3.5 million purchase that Sorace estimates will save the city $450,000 a year on energy costs.
“It’s a small planet and we all have to share it, and we’re not doing a very good job,” said Lancaster resident and avid gardener, Persila Mertz.
She believes promoting one kind of green — saves the kind in your wallet.
“If you can take public transportation, if you can recycle, if you can use products that are more ecologically friendly,” she offered, saying it’ll lead to a more sustainable future. “It’s our duty to be better stewards, and it’s appalling that we’re not doing more.”
Mayor Sorace says the city can improve in some areas: one is their green vehicle fleet and getting more vehicles to use alternative fuels. Currently, only 7% of their vehicles use that kind of fuel.