The growing awareness of global warming has developed over the past decades with massive support for environmental initiatives. Seattle has taken these issues to heart and made the commitment to become the nation’s first carbon neutral city by the year 2030. Every since the 1970s, Seattle has been pursuing “Green” initiatives to lessen its negative effects on the environment. Thanks to its Climate Protection Initiative, the city’s green businesses, programs, and education initiatives can shine in the spotlight of successful for eco-friendly change around the country. Seattle seeks to set an example for others to show that change is possible to limit our effects on the earth.
Seattle’s efforts in environmental action are based on the goal of climate neutrality. To become climate neutral, the city provides to its population many products, services, and enterprises that operate while having no effect on the earth’s climate. The goal of climate neutrality is gained by either purchasing offsets or reducing emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases that are harmful to the environment. In making these efforts, Seattle hopes to prevent any changes in weather patterns that could have drastic environmental effects such as increased flooding and erosion, as well as disruption to water management systems and infrastructures.
Seattle’s Climate Protection Initiative
In order to maintain Seattle’s climate, the mayor began the Climate Protection Initiative in February 2005 claiming the city would either meet or surpass the national target of the Kyoto Protocol. To reduce Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent before 2012, the initiative includes programs to diversify its transportation options, promote clean energy and conservation, and encourage compact communities. The initiative also involves preparation for any climate change that may inevitably occur such as improving infrastructure, facilities, and services to become adaptable to unforeseen climate phenomena.
Seattle Climate Action Now. As the leading city-wide effort in support of the initiative, Seattle CAN assists individuals, businesses, and organizations, in making eco-smart adjustments to management and methods of operations. It has successfully decreased the city’s water usage despite a population increase of 25 percent since 1975. Seattle CAN has also improved the waste management system, and it is very close to reaching its overall recycling goal of 60 percent by 2012.
Mandate on Food and Yard Waste. Starting in small areas and eventually expanding outward, collective efforts began reforming the waste disposal system with support from single-family households. For this program, each household receives a cart for its food waste. At the end of each week, it is collected and taken to a composting facility where it can be made into soil. Recycling has become a requirement for households and businesses, and those who do not recycle face fines that should dissuade further wasteful habits.
Plastic Bag Initiative. In efforts to reduce waste, Seattle’s City Council approved a fee for using plastic bags while shopping. The fee aims to discourage consumers from using plastic bags that most likely end up in landfills and persuade them to purchase reusable shopping bags. If the fee was implemented and not visibly contributed to environmental efforts, it would be largely criticized. In consideration of this, the fee for each plastic bag is twenty cents, which goes to the Solid Waste Fund to provide for its recycling programs.
Green buildings. To reduce carbon emissions and conserve energy, Seattle supported the establishment of environmentally friendly buildings for businesses and homes for families. Through home energy audits, Seattle is working to provide every home with an Energy Performance Score and advice on how they can be improved concerning energy efficiency and other environmental factors. To make every home-away-from-home eco-friendly, Seattle also has more than 100 hotels that are recognized as eco-friendly. The Washington State Hotel & Lodging Association lends support for environmentally friendly hospitable accommodations through Greening Washington’s Lodging Industry Program. Some of Seattle’s most widely recognized green hotels include the Pan Pacific Seattle nearby the Space Needle, the Grand Hyatt Seattle with 425 modern and fashionable guest rooms, and the Renaissance Seattle Hotel downtown, only minutes away from the best shopping in the city. These hotels are setting the standards for new businesses that aim to provide eco-friendly services and accommodations in green Seattle.
Zero Net Emissions Goal. Seattle City Light is an electric utility that promotes energy efficiency and other conservation efforts in to local businesses, institutions, and residents. It helps customers reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to benefit the environment while saving money. City Light became the first electric utility in the country to eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions. Along with its promotion of conservation through cost effective methods and using renewable resources, City Light invested in a biofuel program to support cleaner fuel use for local transportation and service vehicles. Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions have already been decreased by more than 60 percent in comparison to the 1990 levels.
Fuel Reduction Plan. Upon the start of the Fuel Reduction Plan, Seattle began investing in hybrid and electric vehicles to cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions, and it funded research into alternative fuels. New standards were put in place regarding purchases of new vehicles to be more eco-friendly. It set a goal of reducing the fuel consumption of its fleets by 3 percent in 2009, which would be a decrease of 80,000 gallons. The city managed to cut its consumption by 2.7 percent, and it earned the Green Fleet Award granting Seattle certification as an environmentally conscious city.
With a citywide initiative to be eco-friendly, more than just the big businesses have to make the investment for environmentally safe infrastructure and operations. As a result of the local trend to achieve climate neutrality, small businesses and growing firms alike have made the commitment to become eco-friendly.
Architecture. Environmental Works is a non-profit community design center that establishes sustainable architecture for low-income community groups in Seattle. After beginning in the 1970s, it made its primary goals to improve physical, economic, and social environments for the enjoyment of the population. In 2009, it completed a community center that doubles as a demonstration site for the benefits of green building.
ECOSS. The Environmental Coalition of South Seattle was established in 1994 to promote actions for a healthy environment. It works to provide education, resources, and technical assistance to communities and businesses to raise awareness of environmental initiatives and conditions.
Education. Seattle is an ideal destination for a learning experience about the environmental impacts we have had on earth as humans. Seattle University is the top educational facility on the nation for those interested in environmental and natural sciences. The program features elements that can provide for careers in ecological restoration, natural resource management, urban planning, corporate sustainability, or journalism. The environmental education available in Seattle is suitable for any career in conservation and ecological initiatives.
From its businesses to its transportation and resident participation, Seattle has become the greenest city in the U.S. Upon the adoption of its Climate Protection Initiative, the city mayor challenged other mayors around the country to make the same move and protect the environment and the people. The U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement was accepted by more than 1,000 mayors in the nation to keep their cities green and better maintained for the environment.
In December 2008, Seattle presented proof of meeting the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol and decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions by its target of 7 percent. Though the city’s population had already grown 16 percent since 1990, these collective efforts at carbon neutrality prove to be most effective.
The move by City Light to begin a widespread energy conservation plan in 2008 predicted that it will save its customers over $310 million in energy bills over a five-year period. Its continuous efforts to keep Seattle running with energy efficient facilities is one of the significant factors of the city’s environmentally friendly recognition of today. Many other businesses are taking initiatives to cater to the environmentally conscious population of Seattle, such as real estate companies and other service providers. Everything from salon services to moving boxes and wedding arrangements can be acquired from eco-friendly businesses. Seattle residents experience green living with every step in their homes and in the community as it accommodates for a fully green lifestyle.