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Global Green counts (and cuts) Rust Belt carbon

Santa Monica-based Global Green USA has focused in recent years on projects like rebuilding in New Orleans: working to help that city back, and make it thrive. Now they've turned their attention toward cities that aren't thriving in America's Rust Belt: specifically, Youngstown, Ohio. 

I talked to Global Green's Walker Wells about the project late last week. He told me that 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 US arm of the Gorbachev-founded Green Cross International found its way to the city alongside the Mahoning River.  

"It's one of the few places in the rust belt that seems to have determined that the past is not prologue for is future," Walker Wells told me. "A lot of these places are still in this kind of anguish and nostalgia for lost industry and the glory days of the lost smokestacks and brown skies will somehow be revitalized."

Over the last year, Global Green calculated the city government of Youngstown's carbon footprint: from city buildings, facilities, streetlights and traffic signals, city vehicles, city employees commuting, and the wastewater treatment plant. 

And Global Green calculated the rest of the city's emissions, too: transportation made up the largest part of them, 28 percent. 

The fixes Global Green found were pretty easy, at least for city government. And valuable: Wells says they can save the city three-quarters of a million to a million dollars a year in energy efficiency. 

"Looking at their greenhouse gas today - the savings is from basic things like street lights, energy use in buildings, traffic signals, easily accessible energy efficiency," Wells said.  Those basic things could keep the city in the kind of green it needs to stay stable in a financially difficult time. 

Global Green recommended that Youngstown do a range of things, from energy audits, to building standards, to LEDs, to water conservation. They use steam heat - instead, Global Green recommended, they use combined heat and power. 

"I think we're talking to the residents of the city of Youngstown, saying this warrants your attention, you play a role in this undertaking of climate change prevention," said Wells. And, he adds, they're talking to Cleveland and Detroit and Buffalo and Erie: where population declines are leaving behind large patches of land and infrastrucure on which fewer people are scattered. 


(Photo of Youngstown by Sean Munson via Flickr. Licensed via Creative Commons.)

"Planning for this shrinking population is as challenging as planning for growth," Wells says.

So much of what we're concerned about in California is urbanization, sprawl. Another project Global Green began rolling out a couple months ago is LA's carbon index. They've only just begun to make recommendations - but they do make these observations about what LA could do to meet its self-set goals: 

Across the range of categories analyzed, the City of Los Angeles has adopted a broad range of initiatives related to greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Some adopted policies, such as the Green Building Ordinance, the Retrofit Ordinance, and the Small-lot Subdivision Ordinance, were innovative or first-of-their kind.

Initiatives that that would improve the City’s standing include: replacing coal with renewable energy as the largest source of electricity used in the City, supporting alternative transportation and zero emission vehicles, and encouraging higher efficiency in existing and new buildings, among many others.

As for what Global Green is doing next? Wells says his team is offering design assistance to the northern California community of San Bruno - a community ravaged by explosion and fire after an incident at PG&E gas lines last year. 

(Top photo credit: stu_spivack via Flickr. Licensed via Creative Commons.)