Working to reduce our carbon footprint

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A local environmental organization is pushing forward plans to help reduce Austin’s carbon footprint, as part of the “Cool Cities” initiative endorsed by the city council last September.

“We want to achieve things yet this summer,” said Sue Hurm, president of the Austin Coalition for Environmental Sustainability.

ACES approached the city last fall about the agreement, which pledges to reduce carbon emissions through local policy and education. Thus far, 850 cities nationwide have passed resolutions or announced mayoral consent to the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Project Agreement to reduce global warming pollution in their cities to 7 percent before 1990 levels by 2012.

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The council members unanimously passed a non-binding resolution Sept. 17, 2007.

ACES teams have since been working to devise a plan to help the city work toward a greener future; city administrator Jim Hurm presented their suggestions at a work session meeting last Monday.

They include 10 items, such as research of local environmental policy, education of city employees on saving energy, a citywide greenhouse gas inventory, energy audits for government buildings, workshops, a work plan and outreach.

“There’s a lot of things we can try to do that will Austin more environmentally-friendly,” city intern Kate Jordal said, adding that ACES is working simultaneously to gain sustainable funding and establish non-profit status.

“One thing that we really want to do is to raise awareness in the community about what ACES does, and what it’s hoping to achieve,” she said.

In that vein, they are working to organize a luncheon for organizations, business leaders and other community members in order present their work and offer environmental solutions across sectors.

According to a document distributed by Hurm Monday, ACES will also be studying and reviewing others’ environmental policy, as well as hosting a “green” workshop to cover zoning, renewables and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards to design public projects this summer.

Participants will eventually make recommendations to the city council.

Also scheduled to take place this year are the local greenhouse gas inventory; solutions planning; budgeting for small projects; and energy audits for government buildings. The last will occur through the help of the Retired Engineers Technical Assistance Program, a free service that provides anti-pollution advice for municipalities and other groups.

Hurm said during a meeting Monday with the Austin-Mower County Area Transit board that its Oakland Avenue West building will be one of the first two audited by RETAP in August.

“I don’t know if they are going to do all of the governmental buildings, but we would start with city hall and this building,” Hurm said, adding, “Our hope is that they will identify projects that will turn into energy savings in the future.”

Jordal said the ACES will also work to better inform city employees of ways to contribute at work and at home.

“There’s a lot of small things you can do in your house,” she said. “It’s starting with the city staff, and learning all the things they can do to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Jordal said the organization will coordinate a mid-September event celebrating Austin’s first anniversary for the “Cool Cities” resolution soon, and promote an initiative pushing more bicycling in the community.

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