Kansas City is known for its barbecue, jazz, fountains and Royals baseball. It's increasingly becoming known for its efforts to be green.
The National Geographic Green Guide ranked it 25th out of all 251 metropolitan areas with populations of at least 100,000, based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Green Building Council.
SustainLane, an Internet company focusing on green issues, named Kansas City's water quality the best among the 50 largest U.S. cities. The city garnered the third spot for using alternative fuels in city vehicles. All city diesel vehicles use biodiesel and about 225 operate on compressed natural gas, which is much cleaner and cheaper than gasoline.
In July, the city became the first to adopt a climate protection plan in the four-state region of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. Its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020, and it is well on its way.
"We are going through a green revitalization," said Dennis Murphey, chief environmental officer for Kansas City, Mo. "We are taking a look at things in whole new different ways."
Lawrence leaders are looking to the city, just 40 miles to the east, as an example of what is possible. Lawrence formed a 13-member climate task force in March and is modeling its climate protection plan after the one adopted in KCMO. The task force plans to submit its plan to the City Commission this spring.
"Kansas City is just up the road and they've got a lot of great initiatives and concepts out there that I think we can emulate and put forth in our community," said Mayor Mike Dever, who is chairman of the climate protection task force. Growing green
During a recent day trip to the region, I received a firsthand look at some of the city's green efforts. Among them was a 47,000-square-foot community center being built to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) standards. That means a third party will be evaluating it based on categories such as recycling, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials used from within 500 miles, landscaping and air quality.
The new $150 million Bartle Hall ballroom garnered a LEED distinction by using more than 20 percent recycled content, reducing water use by 30 percent and keeping 75 percent of the construction waste out of landfills. The design also incorporated daylight.