Utah’s Sundance Resort, known for its annual film festival, is home this week to an environmental conference gathering 40 mayors from across the nation. Representing Iowa, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie says the “Sundance Summit: A Mayors? Gathering on Climate Protection” is very informative and he’ll bring several ideas home to help save money — and the planet.

Cownie says they’re talking about the environment, best practices, helping each other and what’s happening in Des Moines, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and elsewhere around the U.S. He says Iowa’s largest city has adopted several green practices in recent years, including the inclusion of hybrid vehicles in the city fleet, using alternative fuels in other city vehicles, and replacing incandescent stoplights with energy-efficient L-E-Ds.

Cownie says other ideas he’ll bring home include offering incentives to developers who work in a “sustainable green fashion” to lower energy consumption, that can improve the environment and the quality of life for people working or living there, use sustainable materials, and build for the longer-term, not the short term. Actor and environmentalist Robert Redford called the summit at the Sundance Preserve, which is paying the mayors’ expenses.

Cownie, who drives a Toyota Prius, says he’s glad Des Moines has started putting the hybrid gas-electric vehicles in its fleet. He says “Think of how often as we drive through downtown, you’re sitting at a stoplight, minute after minute, the light turns green and you go for a few blocks and you stop yet again and wait for the next light to change, or waiting in a parking lot and your car is constantly idling.”

With hybrids, the gas engine shuts off during such pauses. Cownie would like to see hybrid city buses, too, and he wants to find a way for planes at Des Moines International Airport to go directly from the gates to the taxiways instead of idling for so long, belching pollution and needlessly burning fuel. The conference near Provo concludes tomorrow (Wednesday).