Dallas, Texas

Green Dalllas...building a greener city

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The overall goal of EMS planning is to set objectives and targets for improving environmental performance. The City does this by analyzing all of the possible impacts City operations could have on the environment and then selecting the highest priority items to focus on. An objective, for example, might be reducing air emissions; a target (something that can be quantified and measured) would be to reduce these emissions by, say, 10 percent per year. Along with this comes a commitment from City management to provide the resources necessary to achieve these objectives and targets.

Now comes the implementation phase. First, someone is appointed to manage the EMS (in the City’s case, it’s the director of the Office of Environmental Quality). This manager and others create a structure, which becomes the mechanism for telling employees citywide about the EMS, helping them understand that their jobs have impacts on the environment, and then helping them implement EMS procedures and goals in their various workplaces. This “doing” phase also includes communicating EMS goals to the community at large, having clearly written policies, procedures and records, and finally developing procedures for any emergencies that may occur: spills, emissions, accidents and such.

From time to time, the City will measure how successfully it is achieving its environmental objectives. Trained EMS auditors will routinely check the EMS to ensure that procedures are being followed and goals met. They will bring discrepancies to appropriate managers and employees. The idea here is not to punish, but to correct any problems and continually improve operations (a process of perpetual learning). It also recognizes good performance and anticipates problems before they occur.

There is a formal annual review of the EMS by senior management. The process depends on managers asking key questions: Are we meeting our objectives and targets? Are we saving money? What changes seem necessary to help the EMS function better? They may decide that changes to the EMS need to be made and “Act” to make improvements. These questions bring the entire process back again to the planning phase, and the cycle begins anew.

Environmental Management System

Trash Clean-Up

More than 50 Years Ago, the City of Dallas Started Down the Green Path

It was half a century ago, back in the 1950s, when the City of Dallas realized it could not take the environment for granted. There had been a drought. And not an ordinary drought, but a severe and cruel period of little or no water for months and months. The city fathers resolved that Dallas should never again be left in such a vulnerable position. And so, the City developed long range water storage plans, which included creating and acquiring lakes and reservoirs for future water supply needs.

The result? The City has sufficient water supplies for today’s needs and continues to plan and work to accommodate for the project regional water needs of the future.

Dallas continued on its path to environmental stewardship in the 1990s, when it decided it would move toward a fleet of “green” municipal vehicles, trucks, cars, small carts and other transport that run on bio-diesel, batteries and other fuels that treat Mother Nature better than gasoline. Today, the City of Dallas fleet includes nearly 1,100 environmentally friendly vehicles in its motor pool.

From there, it seemed a natural step to adopt strategies promoting “green” buildings. In 2003, Dallas completed the Jack Evans Police Headquarters, its first LEED-certified structure (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental design). Now, the City expects to complete more than 30 LEED facilities by 2007, including eight libraries, six police and fire stations, four cultural centers, three recreation centers and three service centers. The City will leverage its commitment to “green” construction in campaigns to encourage private sector developers to follow its example. “We couldn’t very well ask the private sector to develop green buildings unless we did it ourselves, could we?” says City Manager Mary Suhm.

And the next step? Dallas had made the commitment to implement a visionary idea called an Environmental Management System (EMS). And it’s not just a simple commitment; it’s a Texas-size commitment. Fact is, the City’s EMS is more ambitious and wide-reaching than that of any major city in the U.S. It’s a huge commitment, and it will reap substantial rewards for Dallas—both from an improved environment as well as significant savings of taxpayer dollars.

Explore this page to learn more about the environmental programs and initiatives overseen by the City of Dallas.