It may not sound like much, but 7 percent of 540,000 metric tons is actually quite a load. Eliminating 37,800 metric tons of the city government's carbon emissions, as Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin has said the city will do by 2012, would be like ridding a construction site of 21,000 unnecessary bricks; it would make a little dent in the clutter.
Can we do it? Conservation may not spring to mind with the word Atlanta. Admit it, you probably think my metropolitan home is one of the country's most sprawling urban centers. You’d be right. Atlanta was ranked the least dense of the nation's top 15 metro areas by a 2004 Metro Atlanta Quality Growth Task Force study. The bottom line: We take up a lot of space for relatively few people. Mayor Franklin disagrees with the superficial appraisal, having long ago signed onto the U.S. Mayor's Conference Climate Protection Agreement.
But enough bragging -- it’s time the get to work, not only to reach the 2012 carbon emission goal but also the larger 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 that many environmentalist have set as a goal. Atlanta’s director of sustainability, Mandy Schmitt, talked to me about how and why we’re doing this.
Here’s a portion of what she had to say:
"The city of Atlanta is actually seen as one of the top 10 leaders in sustainability in the country which we're very proud of. We believe in leading by example, and we've done a lot on water conservation and energy conservation. We're about to launch into a lot of investing in renewable energy technology as well.
"However I think it's really important for us to not use a relative comparison. We need to use an absolute comparison here, because being in the top 10 is powerful, but if we look at the ultimate goals that we should be setting, we all have a very long way to go ... And so I think it's really important for us to not sit on our laurels but always be working very aggressively ...
"Right now in the state of Georgia there is mediocre at best renewable energy deployment. We must have significantly more renewable energy deployed in a range of ways because we are so coal-dependent. We're Georgia Power customers ... and 70 percent of the electricity we buy from them is based on coal."
If you want to hear more about the city of Atlanta's coal usage and why it's bad, wait for the movie. I will incorporate a lot of Schmitt’s wise words into a documentary on the ATL’s carbon footprint that I’ll share with MNN.
So, from all us eco-friendly Georgians, y’all come back, ya hear?