City of Hillsboros conservation efforts gain recognition in a national forum

Hillsboro is not the biggest city in the nation, or even in the state. But at this year’s U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Las Vegas, Nev., representatives of the city of Hillsboro discovered that even a relatively small city can set a big example.

During the late June conference, Hillsboro received an honorable mention for its efforts in climate protection, and Mayor Jerry Willey, who traveled to Las Vegas to accept the award on behalf of the city, said the honor means Hillsboro is being recognized as a leader in energy savings and sustainable living.

“We set out to sustain the exceptional quality of life here in Hillsboro, and we are achieving great results,” said Willey. “We recognize the importance of saving energy and the benefits — reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tremendous cost savings — and now we have been recognized as a leader among cities nationwide.”

Peter Brandom, the city of Hillsboro’s project manager for sustainability, said winning recognition from the U.S. Conference of Mayors is validation that the city’s efforts are having an impact.

“We’re not a major city, but we’re doing some important work and seeing results that are bigger than expected,” said Brandom. “It lets us know it’s worth it to make the investment, because these investments pay off.”

Brandom was hired in 2008 to coordinate the sustainability functions of all of Hillsboro’s 14 city departments, and Willey said the initiative that led to the award started in earnest at that point.

Brandom explained that when the program got started, 60 city employees engaged in a thorough planning process and decided as a group to “focus on using less stuff.”

“We set up a plan that applies to all departments to implement goals,” Brandom said.

According to Brandom, the city’s employees and staff focused on three key facets to meet its sustainability goals: use energy efficient vehicles, facilities and equipment; practice energy conservation; and use renewable energy sources.

“We also have a very effective water conservation program,” added Brandom. “The city is growing, and we need to do more with less.”

In those early planning sessions, city leaders set what were considered “ambitious” goals of reducing energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020 and by 60 percent by 2030.

Brandom said the plan is working. He pointed out that Hillsboro has decreased its energy and water consumption by 15 percent since 2009, saving the city more than $420,000 in the process.

Hillsboro also is making headway in its goal to have 80 percent of the energy the city uses come from renewable sources. To help get there, the city has been making a transition to energy-efficient vehicles, including installing several new electric vehicle charging stations.

“The infrastructure we’ve developed for a city our size is impressive,” Brandom said.

The city’s departments and employees were taking action toward environmental sustainability and conservation in general before 2008, but there was little cohesion to the efforts.

“They brought me on board to organize these efforts in a more deliberate fashion and to define what sustainability is and what does it mean for us,” explained Brandom. “But it’s not for me to take credit. It’s the guys up on hot roofs doing the work who deserve the credit.”

Willey said the award proves the approach Hillsboro is taking to reduce the city’s overall energy use is working.

“Our investment in energy efficiencies at city of Hillsboro facilities is strong evidence that sustainability can benefit the bottom line and the planet,” Willey said.

Brandom said the award validates the city’s efforts.

“We think of Hillsboro as a small city, and it’s great to get recognition for our hard work,” Brandom said.

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