04/12/2011 03:25

Green index shows nation’s cities generally doing “good job” raising environmental awareness, but Netanya, Rehovot fare poorly.
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The nation’s cities are generally doing “a good job” raising environmental awareness among their residents and advancing long-term policy changes, according to a first annual green index released on Monday by the Local Sustainability Center of the Tel Aviv-based Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, in cooperation with the Life and Environment organization.

The index examined 22 cities – those that had participated in the lights-out Earth Hour on March 24 – and rated them in 10 categories on a scale of five emoticons, from “excellent” green smiley faces with yellow sunbeams to bright red pouting faces.

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More and more cities are declaring themselves as “green cities” and are taking steps to advance and initiate environmental change, the study team concluded in a statement.

While there was no clear-cut winner – “we’re not comparing them,” according to initiator Orli Ronen – some municipalities fared better than others.

“Most of the data was actually supplied by the cities themselves. The cities were very cooperative,” Ronen told The Jerusalem Post. “They are doing a good job – that’s something that needs to be said. These 22 cities are the leading cities, cities that have an environmental policy. What we’re evaluating is how progressive that policy is.”

The 10 categories examined were energy, public participation, environmental management, environmental and social justice, open spaces, sustainability education, water, waste separation, city biking, and local economy.

In terms of energy, the indexers looked at overall conservation, efficiency and climate preservation trends, explained Ronen, who is the deputy director of the Heschel Center and director of the Local Sustainability Center.

The public participation category considered the presence of environmental municipal groups and the growth of community gardens, while checking for “open spaces” mostly meant examining the prevalence of trees in each city, according to Ronen.

“We checked the number of trees per resident,” she said, noting that Tel Aviv did the best in this category, with one tree per two residents.

For sustainability education, the indexers looked at whether schools had received Environmental Protection Ministry certification, the number of public events on sustainability, and progress in implementing a “health for all” policy, Ronen said.

The water category focused on conservation, and the waste separation section asked cities if they had master plans for waste management and if they had already implemented pilot programs to test them, Ronen said.

The biking category looked for the presence of bike lanes and policy supporting biking as a “major transportation vehicle,” and the local economy section looked primarily at the municipalities’ efforts to promote local entrepreneurship.

Collectively, the cities performed worst in environmental administration, environmental and social justice, and local economy, and the most promising categories were water conservation and the use of renewable energies, according to Ronen.

The 22 cities that were included in the index were Eilat, Ashdod, Bat Yam, Givatayim, Dimona, Herzliya, Holon, Haifa, Yavne, Yokneam, Yeroham, Jerusalem, Kfar Saba, Modi’in, Ness Ziona, Netanya, Arad, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Ra’anana and Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv may have received the most green smiley faces on the chart, but Ronen stressed that this was no indication that the city was the winner because the study was far from complete.

“Even if Tel Aviv is very green at this point, there are a lot of things we didn’t look at like public transportation,” she said. “Maybe if we looked at that Tel Aviv wouldn’t have gotten as many points.”

Some of those she considered the best performers, however, were Tel Aviv, Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, Bat Yam and Yeroham, and she praised the energy policies in Ashdod.

Among the worst, she named Rehovot – for not “doing much” – and Netanya, a city that “is looking at expansion and continual growth, which is counter to sustainability.”

Other cities with leading green policies not included in this index – such as Beersheba and Ramat Gan – will be included in future studies, according to Ronen.

“This is just the beginning,” she said, acknowledging that the data was still very partial. “We will be developing it and expanding it more and more.”