Gilbert landed dead last on a list of 100 largest U.S. cities when it comes to promoting a green lifestyle, according to WalletHub.
Other East Valley cities didn’t fare much better with Scottsdale ranked at 53, Chandler, 95, and Mesa, 98 on 2022’s Greenest Cities in America report. Phoenix was No. 72 on the list while San Diego, CA achieved an overall No. 1 ranking.
“Cities should invest in going green,” said James Van Nostrand, director for West Virginia University’s Center for Energy & Sustainable Development. “The primary benefits are cost savings, which will provide financial benefits to cities and their taxpayers.”
Van Nostrand said a good example is investing in energy-efficiency measures for city-owned buildings and adopting policies that encourage businesses and residents to take advantage of available energy efficiency programs.
“Cities’ investments in energy-efficiency measures in government buildings will produce immediate benefits for taxpayers, in the form of lower energy bills and freeing up financial resources to provide other essential city services,” he said.
The personal-financial website compared the municipalities across four key areas – environment, transportation, energy sources and lifestyle and policy – using 28 relevant metrics.
Under environment, Gilbert was rated on factors such as air-quality index, greenhouse-gas emissions per capita and green space and had an overall ranking at 99.
The town received an overall ranking of 92 for transportation that took into consideration its share of commuters who drive alone, walk score, and accessibility of jobs by public transit.
Gilbert did better for energy sources that included share of electricity from renewable sources with an overall ranking of 76.
And under lifestyle and policy, which included farmers markets and number of smart-energy policies, Gilbert’s overall ranking was 68.
Gilbert, however, has several projects and initiatives in place aimed at making the community more sustainable, said town spokeswoman Kelsey Perry.
She ticked off a list of examples, including the town’s investments in renewable energy sources like hydropower and solar power, the implementation of a dust-control program and chemical scrubbers at its water treatment plants to reduce air pollution and improve air quality and a Household Hazardous Waste Facility that helps prevent hazardous waste from reaching the landfills.
Perry said the town also does inspections and proper cleanup of 100% of illicit discharges on its streets to prevent surface water contamination, has installed smart-irrigation controllers at all Gilbert parks and recently launched a smart irrigation controller rebate program for residents and business owners to encourage a reduction in outdoor water use.
Gilbert recycles and reuses 100% of the community’s wastewater for landscapes to recharge its aquifers and has an “award-winning Landscape Water Budget Program that reduces water usage for large landscapes like HOAs or commercial properties,” she said.
And, the reconstruction of the North Water Treatment Plant will allow Gilbert to fully utilize its renewable water resources and protect groundwater supplies while implementing new treatment processes that will make it easier to adapt and address water-quality challenges, Perry said.
She also pointed to the town’s Shade and Streetscape Master Plan, which was developed to create a” healthier, more livable community through the strategic investment in maintenance and growth of an urban forest and engineered shade.”
There are also the Green Gilbert and Water Wise Gilbert programs, which promote water conservation, pollution prevention and waste reduction in the local business community, HOAs and other organizations, according to Perry.
In August, Gilbert adopted an updated Transportation Master Plan that focuses on reducing vehicle congestion, expanding the Town’s bicycle network, improving walkability and enhancing access to transit, she said.
Residents also can do their part, according to Michael Russo, professor of sustainable management at University of Oregon.
“Conserving energy is the easiest win-win, and the collective efforts of households have made a big difference,” Russo said. “Walking instead of using the car saves money, reduces carbon footprints, and has salutary health effects.
“Even growing a few of one’s own vegetables is fun and educational for children. Anyone could start by completing one of those online personal carbon footprint calculators.”
According to WalletHub, clean energy and other “green” practices, such as recycling programs and urban agriculture, help create jobs and benefit both the environment and public health, all of which contribute to America’s bottom line.