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Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge will green DC's buildings, more

It’s been almost a year since D.C.’s mayor first funneled $4.5 million toward a dozen projects that promised innovation in the name of sustainability. The projects were intended to implement new ideas, like installing anti-idling devices in police cars that could reduce the fleet’s fuel usage and emissions while making their electronics available. And designing a handful of compost sites where residents could drop off their refuse.

Several of the ideas impact how the city develops properties and neighborhoods and how agencies consider the environment in the process, while others look at more broad concepts like how to best address climate change in the city.

Some funds went toward feasibility projects to test uncharted territory: Could the oldest public housing project in the District run on renewable energy? Could more government-owned roofs be outfitted with green technology? Could the city transform some of its waste into energy with a new facility?

In an occasional series appearing here, we’ll take a closer look at some of the development projects that received money from the first round of grants and the progress they’ve made over the past year.

The 12 projects that received funding were examples “of how we can promote Sustainable DC’s ‘triple bottom line’ philosophy — improving our environment, our economy, and our community simultaneously,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said in the initial press release.

This first Budget Challenge, which is now called the Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge, was part of Gray’s 20-year Sustainable D.C. Initiative, which aims to make the District “the greenest, healthiest and most livable city in the nation.”

The money was intended to be a down payment of sorts on the mayor’s overall plan for a more sustainable city, and a handful of the projects are primed to be applied more broadly across the agencies that received funding.

Now, the District is poised to issue its second round of innovation grants, likely by the end of the year, which will be put to work starting in 2014. The mayor has set aside $2.5 million for this second round of grants, the project proposals for which have already been submitted. It’s not yet been announced how many projects will receive funding, but 12 out of 32 proposals from District agencies received funding last year.

If the next round of grants is anything like the first, they’ll be issued to a cross-section of D.C. agencies — from housing to police to parks and recreation — and they’ll give District agencies an opportunity to test ideas before implementing them on a larger scale.

Dan Guilbeault, a policy analyst with the District Department of the Environment, said the ultimate point of most projects was to make them repeatable.

“The point was to be catalytic, but you needed some money to get started.”

Read more articles by Whitney Pipkin.

Whitney Pipkin is a freelance journalist who covers food, agriculture, and the environment and lives in Alexandria, Va. She writes about food, etc. at thinkabouteat.com.
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