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High and low carbon footprints of Cleveland vs suburbs

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/10/16 @ 9:00am  |  Posted in Live

In a nod to Throwback Thursday, GCBL revisits a post from two years ago that looks at who has the smallest and largest carbon footprints in Cuyahoga County by ZIP Code?

<br />Gates Mills (in the dark red blotch) has Northeast Ohio's highest carbon footprint. Households there produce 50 tons more carbon per year than in Cleveland. Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013).<br />Carbon footprint analysis of Cleveland's 44106 ZIP code, the most densely populated (in green) in the city. Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013)

A carbon footprint analysis of Cuyahoga County reveals that the average carbon emissions or “footprint” per household in Cuyahoga County is 50 tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) per year.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and a leading contributor to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has figured out the limit of carbon dioxide emitted globally needs to remain below one trillion tons to avoid permanent damage to the earth.

Using the University of California-Berkeley online map of the carbon footprints of every ZIP code in the United States, it is possible to compare the overall carbon intensity of living in a place.

Take, for example, the variation in Cuyahoga County between Cleveland and the wealthy suburb of Gates Mills whose carbon footprint is 85.6 tons of CO2e per household / year. That is a huge carbon footprint. Transportation—flying and driving—alone for the Gates Mills household produces 27 tons per year. Houses, being larger, emit 27 tons per year. Consumption of goods and services produce 10 and 15 tons per household.

Now compare 44106—Cleveland’s most densely populated ZIP code (6,256 people per square mile), where household CO2e is 34.3 tons per year. Or, take 44114, a more sparsely populated eastern part of downtown Cleveland in the Superior Warehouse District and Asia Village where household CO2e is 26.5 tons. Housing—including the old, drafty warehouse live/work spaces —contributes 10 tons. While transportation for those living in downtown Cleveland is more in line with New York City residents at 5 tons per person.

By comparison, 44117 which is part of the City of Euclid with a population of 10,000 has a CO2e per household of 37.3 tons.

Cuyahoga County’s outer suburbs form a large red block of high carbon living. The least sustainable places in Cuyahoga County are: Chagrin Falls (68.5 tons of CO2e), Solon (68.3 tons), Brecksville (65.3), Bay Village (62) and Strongsville (60.6). In most cases, energy use in homes tops the list of carbon emissions, followed closely by transportation.

The study concludes that: “While population density contributes to relatively low household carbon footprints (HCF) in the central cities of large metropolitan areas, the more extensive suburbanization in these regions contributes to an overall net increase in HCF compared to smaller metropolitan areas.”

They found that suburbs contribute 50% of the U.S. carbon footprint. There is a connection between density of land use and the size of a carbon footprint. Most cities have considerably higher energy use from homes than transportation, while suburbs, well, at least in Northeast Ohio we found that their large carbon footprint is a product equally of homes and transportation. The other major contributors to personal carbon footprints are food, products and services. Where wealth tends to be higher, so does consumption of products and services.

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