City’s carbon emissions targeted by study
July 14, 2009
Park City does not take kindly to failure. The municipality is now hoping to add carbon emission reduction to their list of successful undertakings. And the first part of setting realistic goals is knowing where you stand, so you know where you can go.
Now Park City knows that municipal carbon dioxide equivalent emissions increased by 2.03 percent in 2008 from 2007’s first carbon measurement, as presented to City Council last Thursday.
The City has taken a two-fold approach to addressing municipal carbon output and setting a realistic carbon reduction goal. First, the sustainability department measured the municipal level of carbon and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, with EPA- developed software, to see the change in levels between years. Second, city sustainability experts went directly to 13 city departments and held collaborative discussions on areas for improvement, from existing inefficiencies to windows of opportunity.
"They’re preventing a lot of work in the future by sort of doing this work up front," Crystal Ward of the Sustainability Department, said. measuring Park City’s municipal carbon output and evaluating areas for improvement from the bottom up, City Council and the Mayor hope to set realistic carbon emission reduction goals.
By combining these rates with the potential effects of increased service levels, the sustainability department estimates a 2.56 percent increase annually for "business as usual," or without any conscious attempts by city departments to reduce their carbon footprints.
Meetings with all levels of employees in city departments allowed workers to reveal "pet peeves" about their jobs and brainstorm individual ways to reduce carbon emissions.
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"We wanted them to be a part of the decision making process, own it, figure out their own ways of doing it and it’s amazing the amount of work and time that people put into it in really thinking through what measures would be effective and what wouldn’t," Liza Simpson, City Council member and sustainability liaison, said.
Recommended actions included idling fleet vehicles for less time in the mornings and reducing the use of personal space heaters in buildings that were kept too cold for employees. Ward said "space heaters have a huge electrical consumption load" which can lead to burnt circuits and more work for building maintenance employees.
"As the sort of environmental person, I never would have known that, that those are an issue for the building maintenance crew," Ward said.
Other department members, from managers to vehicle operators, suggested converting vehicles to run on natural gas. "They had done the homework on it," Ward said. "These guys and gals really knew what they were talking about."
Over the ten-month process, city departments worked with sustainability experts to evaluate the three primary sources of carbon emissions: energy use, fuel and water.
Costs and carbon effects of recommended actions were evaluated and ranged from investing in new technologies and infrastructure to changing policies and habits. They then broke the actions into three categories, based on financials: no- and low-cost options; no-, low- and mid-cost options; and high-cost options.
The sustainability department recommended the low and no-cost options, which have $6,600 price tag for one-time implementation costs.
"We estimate that if we do that and we put into action the 16 recommended actions, we could then save the city $19,000 a year," Ward said. No- and low-cost options, Ward reminds us, are not necessarily easy changes to make. Many of the actions relate to habit and policy changes, which "aren’t necessarily going to happen without effort."
At last Thursday’s city council meeting, council members responded positively to the mid-cost options as well.
"As a city we’re really trying to be responsible stewards with the taxpayers’ money and at the same time really think out of the box about any steps that we can do that will help," Simpson said.
Mid-cost options mostly focus on pumping and distributing water for the city and include monitoring water usage and adopting new technologies that employ renewable energy sources and more efficient ways of transporting water. While the city pays to transport water, there are no regulations on how much water residences use.
"Folks just don’t know that it takes so much electricity to treat and get it to you," Ward said.
No-, low- and mid-cost options would be a $60,000 investment in the first year, but would result in estimated savings of $250,000 within the first year after implementation and would give Park City the "biggest bang for the buck in terms of carbon reduction," Ward said.
Ward said she understands you have to "spend money to save carbon in the long run, but if you can understand that as an investment rather than a cost, it will be easier to communicate what is potentially here." Notably, none of the proposed options would require a reduction in municipal service levels.
"Park City is pretty progressive when it comes to understanding the cost, benefit of these," Ward said.
The City is also planning a project that will allow community members to measure their carbon footprints online by connecting with our specific water and electricity providers to understand individual impacts on the environment.
"It’s a big part of why we live here and we’re a community that’s ready to step up and be a leader in figuring out how to move forward and be responsible stewards of that environment that’s so important to us," Simpson said.