- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The District of Columbia will place about 100 signs throughout the city in the next year reminding residents to conserve water and avoid littering as part of a private-public partnership to improve the environment.

The District is the first city in the country to implement EcoZone, a joint effort among the city, business and environmental media company EcoMedia, Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday. The project, the brainchild of EcoMedia founder and Chief Executive Officer Paul Polizzotto, is designed to fund environmental initiatives and educate the public without billing taxpayers.

Corporate sponsors will pay about $5,000 each for the approximately 100 signs that project leaders hope will be put up within the initiative’s first year, Mr. Polizzotto said. The city will use half of the revenue for specific projects targeting clean air, less litter and more efficient use of water and energy.

Mr. Polizzotto and representatives from EcoZone’s four major corporate sponsors unveiled four signs yesterday. Each sign bore the logos of EcoZone and the sponsor, as well as a message from that sponsor and the District, such as “DaimlerChrysler and the District of Columbia ask you to ride share.”

The signs will be located along the city’s main thoroughfares such as Georgia Avenue and Martin Luther King Avenue, according to D.C. Director of Public Works William Howland. However, he said their exact locations have not been determined.

Other messages and their sponsors are: CH2M Hill, an international engineering company, asking consumers to conserve energy; AbTech Industries, which makes products to clean up pollution, asking consumers to recycle; and aluminum producer Alcoa, asking consumers not to litter.

In return for the corporations’ investments, the companies are able to build their brand, sell products and fulfill their social responsibilities, Mr. Polizzotto said.

Mr. Williams said the effort to fight pollution will be “never-ending and fruitless” if people are not educated about it.

When asked whether the signs themselves, added to an already abundant number of signs in the city, would be a form of pollution, Mr. Howland said the goal of educating the public is more important.

Mr. Williams said the city will receive a portion of the remaining sign revenue funds to provide community outreach and education, which Mr. Polizzotto said will include prime-time television advertisements.

One of the initiatives that the signs will fund is a project led by AbTech Industries. EcoZone will install “at least a couple hundred” of its Smart Sponge water filters throughout the Washington area, especially in storm drains that enter the Anacostia River, according to Glenn Rink, the company’s chairman, president and chief executive officer.

The filters are made of recycled plastic and use sponges to remove contamination, such as E. coli, from water, Mr. Rink said. The boxes, which last two to three years and hold up to 3 cubic feet of trash and debris depending on the model, cost between $500 and $800 to purchase and about $50 to install, he said. The boxes are cleaned out four times a year to remove the debris collected, and each servicing costs about $50.

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