Spotlight On: The City of University City

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As temperatures begin to cool off with autumn’s arrival just days away, the importance of keeping the region’s air clean still remains high. This fall, the Clean Air Partnership will continue to show appreciation for local organizations and municipalities that are stepping up to take action for cleaner air by working towards a more sustainable future, benefiting those who live and work in their communities.

University City, Mo., is one of the oldest suburbs in the St. Louis metropolitan area and has been a proud participant of the St. Louis Green Cities Challenge for several consecutive years. Known for its rich history dating back to the late 1800’s and named after the community’s proximity to Washington University, the city has become a center of learning and culture, as well as an area of prosperous commercial activity. Through participation in the Green Cities Challenge, Univeristy City ensures that consistent standards are applied to its planned economic development projects, which is essential as they continue to redevelop existing spaces and create new ones within the community.

Among their impressive green innovations to receive recognition in the 2019 Challenge was a major campaign for recycling anti-contamination featuring custodian training, staff education, mass digital information coverage and audits of residential carts. These initiatives have all contributed to lower rates of contamination, which is also a win for the region’s air quality! Prior to 2008, University City processed its own recyclables and sold the sorted materials to vendors. With a recent grant from the Solid Waste Management District, an evaluation of the city’s former Materials Recovery Facility assessed feasibility to renovate the space with new recycling equipment and process curbside recycling again.

During the Challenge, University City added a much-needed city-staff Green Team to lead interdepartmental sustainability. The Green Team’s first line of work included a survey and audit of each department to identify opportunities to reduce waste and improve collaboration. This year, the city set goals for installing water bottle fill stations in city buildings, supporting Earth Day related events and furthering education and outreach for city departments on recycling.

To further reduce environmental impact, University City signed the Mayors for Solar Energy commitment that is helping city leaders take concrete steps toward brighter, healthier futures. This pledge includes the endorsement of solar energy for local residents, easing the permit process and leading by example. University City is also a part of the regional Grow Solar St. Louis program, which promotes education and group purchasing discounts for residential solar power.

Another noteworthy accomplishment of University City was the purchase of five electric vehicles for use by property inspectors. This resulted from a financial analysis that showed the long-term payback would surpass the purchase of gasoline or hybrid vehicles. The city anticipates expanding the fleet if the electric vehicles are successful in saving money and reducing overall emissions.

For additional information about the ongoing sustainable efforts by University City and how your municipality can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities Challenge, subscribe to the bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.