Berkeley residents and city departments have vowed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 2 million pounds as part of an Earth Day pledge to help the environment.
But city leaders want residents to do even more.
“There is no reason not to stop,” said Councilmember Linda Maio. “We will continue asking people to take additional steps, over and above what we are doing now, to protect the climate.”
The city, led by the Berkeley Energy Commission and the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, called on residents to pledge to take actions that will reduce negative effects on the environment. Those actions include carpooling or reducing car travel by at least 15 percent, installing low-flow showerheads, using compact fluorescent light bulbs in at least four fixtures, and promising that the next car they purchase will be 30 percent more fuel-efficient than their current vehicle.
When the first tally was made, for Earth Day on April 22, pledges came to 1.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide. By late last week, that figured had passed the 2 million pound mark. So far, 357 households have made pledges. The most popular action was the pledge to make the next vehicle more fuel-efficient.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 6.6 tons of greenhouse gases are released every year, per person – that’s almost 15,000 pounds for each of us. Emissions increased about 3.4 percent between 1990 and 1997, the EPA says. About 82 percent of these emissions come from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and power cars.
Neal De Snoo, the city’s energy officer, previously told the Daily Planet that city departments have made their own pledges to reduce total emissions by 15 percent. The city’s action plan focuses on four areas: reduced transportation fuels, reduced energy use in city-owned buildings, reduced levels of solid waste materials that generate methane as they decompose, and increased planting of trees.
The city has expanded its fleet of electric vehicles, and has installed a recharging station downtown that can be used by city-owned and private vehicles. The recently adopted Bike Boulevard Plan is another beneficial step, De Snoo said.
Energy-efficient bulbs can reduce the amount of electricity used in homes and business, he said, noting that about 30 major businesses have pledged to reduce energy use in this category.
Methane emissions are worse for the environment than carbon dioxide emissions are, De Snoo said. The decomposition process in landfills is a significant contributor. As a carbon-based material decomposes, it produces methane if there is no oxygen present. That’s why composting is encouraged: The process incorporates oxygen into the mixture of food, dirt and green waste, and the end product can be used in a garden.
Pledges are still being accepted online (www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/housing/energy/pledge.html) or by mail. Call 510-665-3486 for a pledge card, which can then be mailed back to the city.