The average city services cost for a residential household is nearing $1,800 for the city of Tempe, according to a study by the Municipal Budget Office.
Outraged citizens have begun showing their frustration publicly as utility costs throughout the industry continue to rise.
“The city needs to start making changes where they can before this gets out of hand,” said Tempe resident Victoria Rios, “Or else I might have to think about living somewhere else.”
The city’s Solid Waste team, who is responsible for important sanitary functions such as waste and recycling collection, bulk trash and green organics collection, is working hard to manage the overall waste program more efficiently. According to Tempe’s Sustainability office, the city is pilot-testing a new weekly green organics pickup and commercial scale composting program in hope to transform trash into useful products. These efforts are continually ongoing, but have already achieved success as 1,680 tons of green waste were collected and converted to compost in the past year, saving the city $11,150 in total.
Despite these accomplishments, one of the most unique challenges that city officials face is water conservation.
“Residents of Tempe currently spend the third-lowest annual amount in the Phoenix-metro area on water and wastewater services per year,” said Lauren Kuby, a councilmember for the city of Tempe since 2014. “But we are not just going to settle for the middle of the road. We want to be the most sustainable and affordable city in Arizona.”
According to officials, a new tactic has been deployed by the city as they have recently supersized their water conservation programs so that residents can stay cool and save money while using water responsibly. Thanks to these new strategies, Tempe City Council reports that 4,752,100 gallons of water have been saved, which is the equivalent to filling 190 swimming pools.
“It is extremely hard to find a balance living in a climate like this desert,” said Madison Price, a junior studying sustainability at Arizona State University. “But with everything that the city is doing to go green, we will not only save money year-round but save our natural resources as well. I believe the future is very bright here.”
Nevertheless, the use of energy also plays a key role in the City of Tempe. On June 12, 2014, City Council adopted a goal of using renewable energy sources to provide for a minimum of 20 percent of municipal operations energy by the year 2025. The city’s overall plan is to noticeably reduce energy consumption, utility rates, greenhouse gas emissions, and the carbon footprint throughout the city while also increasing the efficiency of overall energy use.
In order to achieve these objectives, new energy efficiency programs have begun that include 600,000 square feet of municipal building retrofits, which accounts for almost 20 percent of Tempe’s streetlights. Furthermore, this mission has even crossed into transportation as hybrid-electric vehicles are now being driven by city staff.
The Tempe Sustainability Commission, who brings stakeholders together to exchange and promote the best practices, partnerships, and collaborations for the city’s most pressing sustainability problems, found an enormous amount of success with these methods during the 2016 fiscal year. According to the Sustainable Tempe Report, 5 percent of the city’s public facilities were powered exclusively by solar energy, with over 3.5 million kilowatts being generated per hour by these services. Additionally, about $394,000 was saved in utility costs as Tempe saw an overall decrease of 6.7 million kilowatts per hour throughout its boundaries.
“We have held many community meetings in the past where residents and customers of our services can come and voice their opinions publicly to the council,” said city councilmember Kolby Granville. “Sustainable development is one of our five priorities here, and we’re not going to stop until all of these goals have been met.”