Working to reduce Atlanta’s carbon footprint

You have to start somewhere.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin unvieled the city government’s municipal carbon footprint today at a press briefing.

She was one of nation’s mayors who pledged a couple of years ago to a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 7 percent by 2012.

A thorough study, done by Georgia Tech Professor Valerie Thomas and her students, have determined that the city of Atlanta produced 540,000 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2007.

Asked if the city would be able to reduce that number by 7 percent, Mayor Franklin said: “I think it will be hard to meet that goal.”

But she quickly added that it’s not impossible. The idea is that cities must have aspirational goals as motivation to change practices and behaviors.

“We know we can do better,” Franklin said. “We know Atlanta is challenged when it comes to water. We know Atlanta is challenged when it comes to auto emissions.”

But she added that companies, governments and individuals can try to adjust their lifestyles to try to meet those goals.

The city and Georgia Tech will conduct a carbon emissions report every year to track how the city is doing.

It is part of a multi-pronged effort the mayor adopted in 2008 at the urging of the Kendeda Fund, a charitable.

She established Sustainable Atlanta, a nonprofit entity headed by the city’s former chief operating officer, Lynnette Young. The city also established an Office of Sustainability, and hired a director — Mandy Schmitt.

“At City Hall, we have cut our energy use in this one building by 20 percent,” Schmitt said. “That is $135,000 in savings.”

Atlanta does have a ways to go. In a national ranking, Atlanta is 19th among the nation’s 50 largest cities when it comes to sustainability. The ranking, conducted by Sustainlane, broke down its ranking in different categories:

Atlanta is 3rd when it comes to the number of LEED buildings; 11th for transit; 47th for air quality; 45th in congestion; 40th in water quality; and 42nd in planning and land-use.

“By ranking 19th, we are anxious to move up in those rankings to make us a greener and more sustainable community,” Franklin said.

Atlanta has made progress. A year earlier, the city’s overall rank was 38th.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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