The Town of Hillsborough's mission statement charges personnel with enhancing the quality of life for the living beings and land within our town. Strategic objectives include conserving natural resources and expanding recreation, walkability and connectivity. This environmental stewardship role is reflected in the Town of Hillsborough Strategic Plan and the Town of Hillsborough Comprehensive Sustainability Plan. See the Plans page to view these plans and others.
Below are some of the environmental initiatives of the town government.
The town adopted a comprehensive sustainability plan in 2023 to advance its sustainability and resiliency goals, including its clean energy pledge. The plan will guide future development and the transition to 100% clean energy, balancing environmental stewardship, resiliency and racial justice with smart growth that will allow for a thriving economy and quality of life for the residents of Hillsborough. For more information, see the Plans page on this website.
Energy use and emissions
A major Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade in 2014 significantly reduced the amount of electricity used in treating the town's wastewater.
Other energy-saving initiatives have included replacement of the windows in the Wastewater Treatment Plant's administrative building, the use of programmable thermostats and a tankless water heater on the Town Hall campus, the use of LEDs in streetlights of newer developments, and the retrofitting of LEDs in older streetlights and in town buildings.
The Public Works Division has designed efficient solid waste collection routes to reduce fuel use. Newer dump, brush, leaf vacuum and garbage trucks use diesel exhaust fluid to lower exhaust emissions. Public works employees use a battery-powered cart when collecting trash and recyclables along Riverwalk.
The Police Department has replaced older vehicles with hybrid models and limits vehicle idling to reduce fuel use and emissions.
The town has adopted a resolution supporting the goal of using 100% clean energy by 2050 and fostering a resilient and sustainable community.
Fleet Maintenance Operations has taken several actions to benefit the environment, including:
- Extending oil service intervals from 3,000 to 5,000 miles where possible.
- Replacing a chemical-based parts washer with a water-based washer.
- Recycling used oil and oil filters.
- Separating oil from water drained from the shop and wash pit.
- Advising other departments on vehicle replacement with vehicles using the smallest engine sizes feasible.
A town ordinance allows property owners to convert lawns to managed landscape areas, which provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing mowing.
Guidelines within the ordinance help keep managed natural landscapes from impacting neighbors. The areas must be mowed once a year and cannot be planted in rights of way.
View a list of native plant and seed suppliers on the North Carolina Cooperative Extension's Resource List for Pollinator Conservation webpage.
For more information about managed landscape areas or the ordinance, contact Public Space and Sustainability Manager Stephanie Trueblood by email or by phone at 919-296-9600.
The town has contributed to Eno River water quality by building a wetland area in Gold Park and installing a canoe and kayak launch at Kings Highway Park that removes excess nutrients by also serving as a floating wetland.
Pollinator gardens have been installed in several town parks and at the West King Street parking lot. Compost blankets, a bioretention garden and a cistern have been added to Cates Creek Park. Compost blankets have also been added to other town land in Hillsborough.
Additionally, the town has a grounds maintenance contract with environmentally friendly requirements for pruning and mulching and for limited use of chemicals.
Tree City USA
As a designated Tree City USA, the town's Public Space and Sustainability Division and Tree Board work to protect the town's trees and educate community members about the importance of urban forestry.
Bee City USA
As a designated Bee City USA, the town works to raise awareness of the role pollinators play in sustaining more than 75% of the world’s plant species and helps expand pollinator-friendly practices and environments in town. The town's public space division and tree board work with the Hillsborough Garden Club to develop the program and educational materials, including actions residents can take.
The town has partnered with Orange County for curbside collection of recyclables throughout town and to provide collection bins for recyclables downtown and along the Riverwalk greenway. Fleet Maintenance Operations recycles used oil and oil filters when performing equipment maintenance. Additionally, the town collects appliances and scrap metal for recycling. More information is available on the Garbage Collection page on this website.
The town is using electronic distribution of payroll direct deposit information, saving thousands of sheets of paper and an equal number of envelopes every year. It also is paying as many of its vendors as possible via electronic transfer, saving additional resources.
In addition, water and sewer customers are encouraged to enroll to receive emailed bills and to pay electronically. The community newsletter is available electronically, and its paper version was reformatted to a single piece of paper that is included with water and sewer bills rather than mailed separately.
The town addresses discovered water main and water service leaks immediately. It performs routine water leak detection with an outside consultant. The town also has reduced flushing hydrants to once a year, which uses about 6 million gallons of water for each effort. It is looking at optimizing which hydrants are flushed during this annual program instead of flushing each one. Additionally, plumbing at town facilities is checked for maintenance issues that could waste water.
The Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection Division works to prevent sanitary sewer overflows and the environmental damage they cause by performing sewer main cleaning programs. The division’s fats, oil and grease program includes frequent social media posts, newsletter articles, bill inserts, educational presentations at schools and public events about keeping these blockage-causing substances out of the town’s sewer system.
The Stormwater and Environmental Services Division was created to comply with a number of state and federal mandates for environmental stewardship. The division has since grown to include local initiatives. Among the division's functions are:
- Reviewing new development plans to ensure compliance with stormwater and stream buffer requirements.
- New development construction sites to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.
- Town facilities to ensure compliance with stormwater pollution prevention practices.
- Town construction projects to ensure compliance with environmental permits.
- Private and public stormwater control measures to ensure functionality.
- Implementing stream buffer protection and illegal discharge and dumping programs.
- Providing stormwater pollution prevention training to town staff and environmental education programs for schools and civic groups.
- Coordinating community trash cleanup programs and volunteers for wetland and stream buffer plantings.
- Supporting the Clean Water Education Partnership, Upper Neuse River Basin Association and Eno River Hydrilla Task Force.
The division also has:
- Designed and built a rain garden in conjunction with Orange County’s Stillhouse Creek restoration project.
- Served as the principal team member for the C.W. Stanford Middle School stormwater retrofit project.
- Assisted Eagle Scout projects that included invasive species removal and the creation of rain and pollinator gardens.
As part of its efforts to make Hillsborough a more walkable community, the town has improved sidewalks and pedestrian crossings in the downtown area. It also has created new sidewalks and connections to the Riverwalk greenway in West Hillsborough.