NORTH LIBERTY– What would you choose? An energy-efficient splash pad in a west side park; LED lighting at Penn Meadows Park; or LED lighting on the bike trail?
One of these North Liberty projects will be funded by Alliant Energy utility company, as part of their Hometown Rewards program that encourages energy-saving behaviors and upgrades for Iowa towns, but only if North Liberty residents sign up to save money and energy.
In 2010, North Liberty was the first city in Iowa chosen to be a part of Hometown Rewards, and it has been picking up steam since.
To get the rewards, the community must meet some challenges in reducing energy and water use, increasing recycling and decreasing solid waste.
The challenges were laid out by a committee that is now transitioning to an action plan for achieving three-fourths of the list of goals and become eligible for one of the three rewards.
Many on the list are easy or already being done in some households, turning off lights and appliances when not in use, adjusting the thermostat to use less energy, installing insulation, energy-efficient appliances and compact fluorescent bulbs.
Some are already on the city’s radar, like reducing energy consumption and associated green-house gas emissions from North Liberty government facilities by eight percent by the end of 2012 and 25 percent by 2020, shortening city staff commutes and greening the city’s transportation fleet.
Others will involve Hometown Rewards Coordinator Maggie Wiederen presenting information at workshops on weatherizing homes and other energy and sustainability topics.
She’ll use North Liberty Television, public schools and the library to present educational forums on going green, but she needs the community’s help.
A minimum of 1,000 residents must sign up and pledge to conserve water and energy. Once they have signed the pledge, they can vote for their favorite reward (splash pad or the two LED lighting projects).
Residents will also start saving money by line-drying laundry, for example ($91 annually), or by walking or biking instead of driving (over $100 annually).
Baseline energy use has already been mapped for residential, government, industrial and commercial sectors in North Liberty. Residents and business owners will need to green their buildings to meet the challenges and the city is already meeting some of its goals.
North Liberty City Clerk Tracey Mulcahey said the city has some water-saving rules in place. They eliminated irrigation meters for watering new sod lawns and, in light of the summer’s historic drought, they won’t require lawns for new homes built this summer until the fall.
The city’s water treatment plant has an aquifer storage retrieval (ASR) system that injects treated water back underground. Mulcahey said the ASR came online this summer and they did not use it during the drought, but she was glad to have it in case of another.
Mulcahey said the whole point of Hometown Rewards is to clean up North Liberty, become sustainable, and maybe prevent another power generating station from being built nearby.
Mulcahey and Wiederen are seeking “sustainability captains” (Hometown Rewards committee members) to help plan activities and get the word out, so anyone interested in being a green ranger and bringing sustainable practices to homes and neighborhood, visit the website www.northlibertyiowa.org/hometown-rewards/  to find out how to get involved.
Or take the pledge and sign up for workshops offered through the program.
On Sept. 14 and 15, the Center on Sustainable Communities (COSC) begins their free Energy Efficiency Rehab training. The first two days of the program are in DeWitt– another Hometown Rewards city– and the next two training days will be held in North Liberty on Oct. 4 and 5. Participants can learn comprehensive renovation training focusing on sustainable building techniques and energy efficiency available and, if they pass a test, can receive certification from COSC. The workshop goes beyond simple weatherization techniques.
For Wiederen, it’s all about getting the word out about going green, saving some green, and greening up North Liberty.
But don’t wait to get involved; the program ends in 18 months, and without the community’s help there won’t be any splash pad or LED lighting installed on the energy company’s dime.
Find out more about North Liberty Hometown Rewards at through Alliant Energy www.alliantenergy.com/northliberty .