On Monday evening, the city of Sterling Heights acknowledged the upcoming Arbor and Earth Days by planting a redbud tree, celebrating a 38th consecutive “Tree City USA” designation by the Arbor Day Foundation and rolling out a new umbrella brand for all City sustainability initiatives called Think Sterling Green. Think Sterling Green is focused on creating opportunities Sterling Heights residents and businesses can lean into to help prioritize the health and sustainability of our community. These opportunities include two brand new initiatives – a grant program for residential clean energy improvement projects and a free residential rain barrel program.
The city of Sterling Heights has leveraged $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to form the Go Green Grants program in partnership with Michigan Saves, the nation’s first nonprofit green bank for clean energy projects for more than a decade. The City’s ARPA funds combined with private funds used for energy efficiency improvements will generate an economic impact of $2.76 million that supports area contractors while saving Sterling Heights residents money on future utility bills.
The Go Green Grants program offers three levels of opportunity that give all homeowners access to funding for clean energy home improvement projects that reduce energy use and ongoing utility costs. The first level is an income-based full grant up to $7,500 in energy improvements with no out-of-pocket costs. The second level is a 20 percent grant for all homeowners up to $5,000, and the third level comes in the form of low-interest, unsecured loans for all homeowners that can be combined with either of the other levels.
With a statewide network of authorized contractors, Michigan Saves connects consumers to cost efficient lending as they work to make their homes more energy efficient. According to Michigan Saves Program Director Todd Parker, the partnership with Sterling Heights appears to be the first ever to use ARPA funds to directly benefit residents.
“We commend Sterling Heights leaders for making this million dollar investment to improve the health, safety and comfort of homes in Sterling Heights, while saving residents energy and money on their utility bills,” Parker said.
The grant program can be accessed at sterling-heights.net/gogreengrants. Grant applications will go live on May 1, 2023.
Another piece of Think Sterling Green is the ARPA-funded rollout of free rain barrels to Sterling Heights residents. Roughly 400 rain barrels will be offered in the first phase of the project through a partnership with MI Rain Barrel. Rain barrels capture water from a roof and hold it for later use such as on lawns, gardens or indoor plants. This process helps conserve water and provides free water for use in landscapes.
Free rain barrel kits will include everything needed including a 58-gallon barrel, a stand made from reclaimed wood and a package of mosquito dunks to keep captured water fresh and clean. Installation is easy, but for residents with special needs, a $50 installation can be added on. Interested residents can sign up for their free rain barrel at sterling-heights.net/rainbarrel for the next roughly 45 days leading up to a distribution event scheduled for Friday, June 2.
"Together with the help of the city of Sterling Heights, we are aiming to deploy 400 hundred rain barrels, totaling a yearly average of over two million gallons of water that will be held back from the sewers, reducing stormwater runoff and stress on Sterling Heights’ water infrastructure while also helping residents save money and reduce their carbon footprint,” said MI Rain Barrel Founder and CEO Joshua Rubin. “The plants, of course, will also love the precious rainwater!"
“Think Sterling Green, including these new grants and rain barrels, is a vital step toward creating a sustainable and resilient community,” said Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor. “By working together with residents, businesses and partners like Michigan Saves and MI Rain Barrel, we can make a significant impact in preserving the environment for future generations.”
Other sustainability initiatives that are, or will become, a part of Think Sterling Green include:
- The City’s new WaterSmart website that allows residents to save money by monitoring and managing their water consumption.
- An upcoming opportunity to add curbside recycling for every resident.
- An ARPA-funded initiative to add 2,000 neighborhood trees across the City over the next two years.
- The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, a long-term financing tool available to commercial property owners to pay for energy/water efficiency and renewable energy upgrades without incurring any up-front costs.
- A cooperative initiative between the Arts and Sustainability Commissions to stencil street drains, reminding residents not to discharge anything but water down these drains that lead directly to lakes and streams.
City administration will be providing regular updates on the progress of Think Sterling Green and encourages residents to get involved in the initiative now by applying for a Go Green Grant, acquiring and installing a free rain barrel and implementing other sustainable practices in their daily lives. “I’m proud we are working to help our residents adopt energy-efficient technologies, reduce energy consumption, conserve water and recycle. It’s time to Think Sterling Green,” Taylor said.