Another Way to Act on Climate: Getting Smart on Brownfields Reuse

For 20 years, the brownfields program has worked with local communities to help support reuse and development of former and current contaminated lands. Cleaning up brownfields has put a lot of land back into use, helping communities and boosting local economies. This work has another huge benefit, too: as we redevelop brownfield sites to significantly reduce the impact of climate change.

In Milwaukee, a 5-mile strip that was once the site of several industrial facilities is going through an extensive cleanup. Over 60,000 tons of contaminated soil and more than 40 underground storage tanks have been removed. One of the community’s ideas for the land’s next use is building a green, linear park, with bike trails to encourage lower-impact forms of transit. The park will use green infrastructure elements to reduce stormwater runoff, protecting local waterways during storms that can be made more intense by climate change.

We’re now reusing brownfield sites to significantly reduce the impact of climate change. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S., so the potential impact is significant. There are many ways we can help communities become more climate resilient as we clean up brownfields:

  • We can work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when we’re assessing and cleaning up brownfields.
  • We can site renewable energy projects on these sites through our RE-Powering America’s Land initiative.
  • We can develop public transit, leaving more open space and reducing air pollution.
  • We can protect people and infrastructure from changing weather by revising or enhancing zoning, and working to change building codes and permitting requirements.
  • We can incorporate green infrastructure into brownfields redevelopment plans.
  • We can incorporate parks, foliage and urban gardens into brownfields reuse plans to promote carbon sequestration.

This September, please join me at the 2015 National Brownfields Training Conference in Chicago, where acting on climate will be a big focus. I invite developers, community members, cleanup companies and other interested groups to participate and learn from one another how we can tackle climate change together.

This Training Conference will include opportunities for community leaders to share information on addressing climate change as part of their brownfields redevelopment projects. We will also have sessions on reducing greenhouse gases when assessing and cleaning up brownfields, how to incorporate green infrastructure into brownfields redevelopment plans, how to adapt community revitalization plans to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events, how the incorporation of parks, foliage, and urban gardens into brownfields reuse plans can promote carbon sequestration, as well as many other topics.

Let’s work together to reduce the impacts of climate change. Register now at

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