The goal for the morning was twofold: To thank those companies and individuals who have helped the City of Houston evolve into a bastion of sustainability, and to boast of past accomplishments and forthcoming initiatives.
As Parker and Laura Spanjian, the mayor's director for sustainability, made clear, those accomplishments are impressive. Over the past year, the city has implemented one of the largest electric vehicle programs in the country and now has 25 electric vehicles in its fleet.
Parker made clear her determination to make Houston known as much for its green and renewable energy as it is for its oil and gas industry.
It has retrofitted some of its buildings for energy efficiency, and applied adaptive reuse to an old warehouse on Washington Avenue to accommodate the new LEED-certified Permitting Center.
Fast Company named Houston the 2011 City of the Year. The U.S. Conference of Mayors selected Mayor Parker one of two winners of the 2011 Mayors' Climate Protection Awards. And the Environmental Protection Agency ranked Houston No. 7 among cities with the most Energy Star-certified buildings in 2011.
"Having a sustainable attitude is more than about purchasing vehicles or initiating energy savings in city buildings. It's more about rethinking everything that we do," Parker told the environmentally-focused crowd.
All endured the ever-thickening rain droplets, warmly applauding each accolade. Parker made clear her determination to make Houston known as much for its green and renewable energy as it is for its oil and gas industry.
In the next year, citizens should expect more recycling opportunities, with an aggressive roll out of single stream recycling in the coming months, as well as increased electric vehicle readiness, a draft for a climate action plan and initiatives to correct the food deserts that plague the city.
A new bike share pilot program will be introduced at City Hall, Market Square Park and Discovery Green in the next several weeks, and a "re-green" initiative — which includes a managed forestry program at Memorial Park — will return the city to its former verdancy.
Initiatives throughout the month of April include a program on April 21 where participating businesses will donate five percent of purchases to environmental non-profits, LightsOut Houston on April 26 and the National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation, which runs through April 30.