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Houston, we have a solution: Turning 'car city' into green city

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(CNN) -- Houston may be a city built on the profits of oil and gas, but it has a green dream.

The dream is to create a city that is "more liveable, walkable and bikeable," according Laura Spanjian.

Spanjian has been the director of sustainability for Houston since 2010, when current Mayor Annise Parker was elected. They have launched several sustainability initiatives under the "Green Houston" program and Parker says the city has cut its greenhouse emissions by a quarter.

CNN: Why is Houston trying to be more sustainable?

Laura Spanjian: We are known as producing oil and gas, but we also produce other resources that are important to our economy and to the sustainability. For us it's about being green, but it's also about saving resources and money and being a very efficient and affordable city.

The number one thing to think about is trying to improve the health and the quality of life of the citizens.

CNN: Does Houston have any geographical advantages or disadvantages?

LS: Houston is a very hot and humid city, so there's a lot of air conditioning which leads to buildings consuming a lot of energy. We want to work on an initiative trying to get people out of their cars and to use less energy in their homes. That can prove to be quite the challenge.

An advantage we have is that we can make great use of the wind. Texas is the largest wind (power) producer in the U.S.; we now produce 12,000 megawatts of wind (power).

CNN: If you had a magic wand, how would you use it for your work?

LS: I would want every building to reduce their energy usage by 20% by 2020. I'd love that. I would also love more people to commute less to work, by living closer or by using alternative transportation. Houston is still very much a car city.



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