Want this City Hall job? Better count your emissions
July 7, 2009
The people who want to become City Hall’s next environmental sustainability coordinator, an important post as the local government presses ahead with its green programs, must answer two nontraditional questions early on in the hiring process, both meant to find out if the person does their part for the planet.
In the advertisement for the opening posted on City Hall’s Web site, the people who apply are directed to include answers to the following questions in their cover letter for the job, among the other information requested:
"What is your carbon footprint?"
"What could you do to reduce your carbon footprint?"
Carbon footprint is a term that is often used by people in the environmental movement and government officials to define the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions attributed to a group of people or an activity. Many link the emissions to global warming. Others dispute those assertions.
One of City Hall’s priorities is to reduce the amount of emissions tied to the municipal government, and officials have devised a wide-ranging program to do so, relying on a fleet that uses cleaner-burning fuels, environmental upgrades at public buildings and efforts to encourage people to ride buses, walk or ride bicycles instead of driving their own vehicles.
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"Actually, I think that’s kind of clever," Mayor Dana Williams says about the questions in the advertisement.
The mayor has been a leading figure in City Hall’s environmental efforts, and they have been a hallmark of his administration. He says the job, which has contract instead of full-time status, could be made a full-time staff position someday. He is unsure what sorts of answers the questions about carbon footprint will elicit.
"I think, if anything, it will create some interesting answers," the mayor says.
The person who holds the position now, Crystal Ward, plans to attend graduate school and is leaving City Hall. The position entails a one-year contract, and it pays between $14 and $19 per hour. Two-thirds of the person’s time will be spent on reducing carbon emissions, according to a chart that accompanies the advertisement and describes the position’s workload.
Diane Foster, who manages City Hall’s environmental programs, says 23 people applied for the position. Four finalists were scheduled to be interviewed early in the week. Foster says she hopes somebody is hired within two weeks. She says the answers show whether someone understands the job, but she also says the responses will not doom someone’s application.
"Somebody needs to have a clue. They need to know what a carbon footprint is," she says, adding, "Somebody could walk in and say ‘I don’t believe in climate change,’ and might be the right person."
There are numerous Web sites providing calculators to determine the emissions attributable to someone. One, known as the ‘Household Emissions Calculator,’ is provided on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site. The address is http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html .