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Youngstown buries the ghost with carbon reduction plan

Marc Lefkowitz  |  05/19/11 @ 2:45pm

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams is getting national attention for the way he's burying the city's ghost as a rust belt town, at the same time hitching its fortunes to a green economic engine. Southern California Public Radio reported on the effort, telling the back story on how the city got started.

"Jack Scott, the former head of Parsons in Pasadena, grew up in Warren, PA and went to Youngstown State. With the idea of giving something back, he held an engineering and energy conference in Youngstown-and Matt Petersen from GlobalGreen went. That's how the Santa Monica based group that's the U.S. arm of the Gorbachev-founded Green Cross International found its way to the city alongside the Mahoning River."

GlobalGreen helped the city conduct a detailed 'carbon footprint' analysis for both city operations and residential, commercial and industrial sectors using the same ICLEI tool that GreenCityBlueLake used to calculate the Northeast Ohio region's carbon footprint (and that Akron used to calculate theirs).

With this carbon emissions inventory, Youngstown acknowledges that it cannot change what it cannot measure. And change is what Mayor Williams has in mind. Since the report's release, details of how much and the cost of green house gas producing activities-from waste water treatment (the biggest source of GHGs at the city) to driving cars (the biggest source in the residential sector) ? are brought to light for all to see and analyze (and come up with solutions). For its part and for its citizens, Youngstown set an aggressive goal to reduce their emissions. The report states:

The City has set challenging yet achievable GHG reduction goals for Youngstown. For city government they are: a 10% reduction by 2020; 20% by 2030; and 30% by 2050.

Goals for the community-at-large are more aggressive: a 20% reduction by 2020; 30% by 2030; and 40% by 2050.

Since the level of emissions for the community is so much greater (97% compared to 3%), the community reduction goals are more critical and thus more formidable.

These targets represent future savings and what the mayor, business and environmental groups hope is a spur for innovative ideas. Youngstown City Government spent almost $5 million to power itself in 2009 ? its next step, the city will produce a carbon reduction plan followed by an implementation plan which could include pursuit of combined heat and power, the use of vacant land for renewable energy production or even planting hundreds of more trees to absorb carbon. GlobalGreen details what the city can expect:

Based on similar improvements to other local governments, installing LED lamps in traffic signals and street lights could lead to energy savings of between 30% and 60%. An energy reduction of approximately 10% could be achieved through equipment and operations upgrades to the municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant and city buildings and facilities could undergo upgrades and modernizations to improve energy efficiency by roughly 10%. If Youngstown were to implement all of these practices savings of $700,000 to $1 million dollars could be achieved annually.

What they found is how we live-our home energy use and how far and what make of car we drive-accounts for 54% of a Youngstown resident's carbon emissions. What innovations can you think of to reduce your carbon from your house and your commute?

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