Yesterday, the City of Atlanta announced its municipal carbon footprint and plans to reduce that impact by 7% over the next three years.

[Creative Commons photo by Steve Hardy]

That might not sound like a huge reduction, and I know that 7% (or 37,800 metric tons of greenhouse gases) isn’t going to save the world, but it’s a good first step! It’s the equivalent of 179 rail cars’ worth of coal or protecting 239 acres of from deforestation.

The City of Atlanta released a Sustainability Report outlining where they’re at and where they plan to go in terms of lowering the city’s carbon footprint.

[Atlanta Municipal Greenhouse Gas Inventory via The City of Atlanta website]

The City is teaming up with the nonprofit Sustainable Atlanta, and they’ve got some goals worked out:

  • 10% reduction in energy use through low and no-cost conservation measures yielding $300,000 to $500,000 in annual savings. I love this first one, because it really underscores that lowering your carbon footprint doesn’t have to mean spending money. It can mean savings!
  • 5% decrese in water use. I’d like to see a more aggressive water-reduction goal, given our ongoing drought situation, but it’s a start!
  • 3% decrease in fossil fuels used by municipal fleet. They estimate that this will save the city $267,000 per year!
  • At least two renewable energy demonstration projects. This one seems a little vague. What exactly is a demonstration project?
  • 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions “in general fund facilities.”

The next step is to develop an Atlanta Climate Action Plan, which Mandy Schmitt, Atlanta’s Director of Sustainability calls:

…our blueprint to guide all city departments so that current initiatives and near-term objectives are aligned with achieving the 2012 emissions reduction goal. This strategic effort to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions supports the ultimate goal of making Atlanta a community that lives within the self-perpetuating limits of its environment, while maintaining high standards for economic growth, environmental integrity, and social justice.

Who knew that Atlanta even had a Director of Sustainability? It turns out we do, and that Mayor Shirley Franklin established the Atlanta Office of Sustainability in 2007! This carbon footprint project is just one of the projects that the office is launching. The Office of Sustainability works closely with Sustainable Atlanta on recycling and green building initiatives. They also work on raising awareness about ways that individuals can lower their own carbon footprints.

Activists in Atlanta have been working hard to make this a more sustainable place to life. Thanks to projects like the Atlanta BeltLine and a “no net loss” policy for its trees, the city moved up to #19 on Sustain Lane’s 2008 city rankings. We have a lot of work to do, but City officials are setting a great example of where we need to go.