Going Greener in the Emerald City

Going green — By on December 11, 2009 at 6:02 am
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The Emerald City sparkles at night

Impressive news from the Pacific Northwest this week!  The city in which I grew up, Seattle Washington, announced that its greenhouse gas emissions last year were a full seven percent (7%) lower than they were in 1990.  They are obviously going greener in the “Emerald City,” Seattle’s unique moniker.

The levels that were achieved in 2008 are equivalent to those the city hoped to meet by 2012.  Really, how often can you say that government is four years ahead of schedule?

Let’s pause for a moment and let me bask in my hometown’s glory.  (O.K., so there’s not much “basking” in rainy Seattle… but… still)

Getting back to the greenhouse gas emissions news, Mayor Greg Nickels is rightfully entitled to some of the credit for the green accomplishments of Seattle.  He led the way in 2005 for a number of cities who pledged to go ahead and join the Kyoto Protocol, even when the Bush Administration wanted nothing to do with it.   The treaty pledged to cap CO2 and other emissions at 7% below 1990 levels.  The Emerald City decided that they could do it.  By August of this year, 965 additional cities joined in.

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So much beauty to preserve in the Pacific Northwest

Obviously, the Emerald City has much to be proud of.  Yet, with the “Great Wizard” leaving the city, and a new mayor coming in next year, what will happen next? There are some commentators who question whether Seattle will still meet the goal three years from now.

Among the highest priorities is the need to reduce emissions from vehicles, which have risen since 2005.  But electric vehicles and related infrastructure is a strong future growth sector in Washington State!

Mike Mann, the director of the city’s Office of Sustainability and Environment admits:

“We still have substantial challenges ahead.”

Consider these fast facts:

  • Population has increased 16 percent since 1990 even as emissions have declined.
  • Per capita emissions have declined since 2005.
  • Declines have come in every major category — homes, commercial buildings, heavy industry — except transportation.
  • Reductions can be attributed to conservation measures and investments by Seattle City Light in renewable energy, and a move away from oil burning for heat.
  • Seattle is making efforts to boost transit, build walkable neighborhoods and increase the cost of parking – all of which can encourage people to get out of their cars

All in all, I’d say that Seattle is entitled to big kudos!  Its a great city, all around.  Clean air, civic-minded people, gorgeous scenery and more!  The Emerald City is indeed a gem of the Pacific Northwest.

Lest you wonder why I left for Bend, Oregon …. two words: weather and traffic.  It seems that at least one of these factors will be positively addressed in the months and years ahead.  And then I’ll say to myself: “There’s no Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home!”

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