Sustainability Office

The Sustainability Office undertakes initiatives designed to make Portland a vibrant, environmentally friendly community now and into the future. We collaborate with all departments to increase the efficiency of City operations and seek innovative approaches to improve municipal services. We partner with community organizations, citizens, and businesses working to conserve energy, reduce waste, and preserve our natural resources. We promote actions that will make Portland resilient in the face of a changing climate.

The office supports the Sustainability and Transportation Committee of the Portland City Council.

Current Initiatives

LED Streetlight Conversion

The City has begun a major initiative to convert the existing streetlights to LED. The project will reduce electrical use for street lighting by 2.7 million kWh per year and contribute to safer streets by providing better quality light. Learn more about the project by visiting the project page.

Reducing the Use of Pesticides

On January 3, 2018, the City Council passed a pesticide ordinance that prohibits the use of most synthetic pesticides on public and private property. Beginning on July 1, 2018 it will take effect on City owned properties.  It will take effect for private properties on January 1, 2019.  The ordinance is designed to protect public health and the environment by reducing chemical inputs used for maintaining landscapes.  For more information about the ordinance please visit the Pesticide Ordinance page.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

The City has had great success reducing waste and increasing recycling. In 1998, crews delivered 23,000 tons of waste to ecomaine (then RWS) but less than 1,000 tons of recyclables. Now, we deliver only 9,5000 tons of trash to the facility and about 5,500 tons of recyclables. Our curbside recycling rate stands at 37%. The Sustainability Office recently led the effort to deploy wheeled recycling carts to every household in the City. The new carts hold four times more material than the old blue bins and have a lid that protects the recyclables from the weather. This has already led to a significant reduction in windblown litter. Learn more by visiting the Recycling web page.

In 2014 the City of Portland adopted its Green Packaging Ordinances, banning the use of polystyrene packaging and placing a $0.05 fee on disposable shopping bags. (Portland became the first municipality in Maine to adopt a bag fee.) These ordinances have led to more sustainable packaging for take out meals and beverages and have inspired shoppers to bring their own bags when shopping. Staff continue to provide information about these ordinances to communities in Maine and across the country.

Solar Power

Our climate action plan calls for the City to explore opportunities to produce renewable energy. As part of that commitment the City Council has authorized the construction of a 660 kW solar array on the closed landfill behind the Ocean Avenue Dog Park. The Sustainability Office will be working with Revision Energy to build the project. Construction of the array will begin upon completion of maintenance work on the landfill cap.

Energy Benchmarking

We can't track we we don't measure - so we are working to create energy performance benchmarks for all City of Portland buildings. As part of this effort we are working with the utilities and a Portland based sustainability consultant to streamline the reporting of data from the utilities to customers. The consultant will use the data to create dashboards that will allow us to see the energy performance of each of our facilities on a monthly basis.

In November, 2016 the City Council enacted an ordinance that will require the owners of commercial properties larger than 20,000 square feet and residential properties with more than 50 units benchmark their energy performance and report it to the City. This ordinance will not take effect for private property until at least June 1, 2019. In the interim, this office will continue to work with the utilities to streamline data reporting and develop training opportunities for affected property owners to learn about energy benchmarking and how to report the data.

Resiliency Planning

The Sustainability and Transportation Committee received the final report from the Bayside Adapts neighborhood resiliency study during their meeting on October 18, 2017. The report includes important information that the City will need to prepare for rising seas caused by global climate change. This includes updated sea level rise projections synchronized to the City's mapping datum (NGVD 29), an analysis of existing stormwater infrastructure, and guiding principles for future planning work developed by community stakeholders.

The Bayside Adapts process also included a design challenge funded by a grant from the National League of Cities.  Five local design teams imagined what a future climate ready Bayside might look like.  Their designs show that a resilient neighborhood can be thriving and viable with creative interventions to address challenges such as rising seas and increasing amounts of stormwater.  See the designs on the design challenge web page.