Marin's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Billionaire Richard Branson’s latest entrepreneurial effort—besides planning flights into suborbital space—is financing a campaign to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. The drive’s motto is “FLICK OFF.” Honest truth. In the campaign’s logo type, the letters “L” and “I” curve together so FLICK looks like… use your imagination.

Marin has its own share of environmental concerns, not least of which is emission of greenhouse gases. A similar, if maybe not so edgy, slogan might help Marin get where we ecologically need to be.

In 2000, the county released 3.2 million tons of global-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, most of it from our cars, but homes, businesses and farms also contributed. In 2003, the Board of Supervisors set a goal of reducing that figure 15 to 20 percent by the year 2015. Would a catchy phrase help?

Marin burns more than 280,000 megawatts of electricity a year. This number, too, must be reduced. The power needed to generate and transport electricity—as well as move water and natural gas to our homes—emits considerable amounts of greenhouse gases. Here’s where a FLICK OFF–like slogan is needed.

Contrary to what you might think, given the number of hybrid cars on local roads, Marin’s ecological footprint is oversize. Due to our affluent lifestyle—large homes, SUVs, European vacations—the average Marin resident requires more than 27.4 acres of the earth’s land and water to support that comfortable way of life. By comparison, Italy’s per-person footprint is about 11 acres and China’s—with 1.4 billion people—is only five acres. Locally, of the nine Bay Area counties, Marin’s eco-footprint is exceeded by only Contra Costa’s and Solano’s.

Considering the above, isn’t it time Marin County developed a slogan for resolving our environmental concerns?

For instance, plastic grocery bags are a byproduct of oil (in the United States, 100 billion such bags, consuming 12 million barrels of oil, are used annually). These bags litter roadsides—Marin’s runners and bikers will attest to this—and are nearly impossible to recycle. “We treat them as garbage,” says Patty Garbarino, president of Marin Recycling. “They’re not recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.” Still, most of us routinely carry home purchases, groceries or otherwise, in plastic bags.

There are alternatives. Many markets already offer green reusable grocery bags for only 99 cents and this summer the Mollie Stone’s Markets in Greenbrae and Sausalito will give away 10,000 reusable bags. I’ve found the secret to using these bags is buying half a dozen so there’s always at least one in the car.

Plastic grocery bags are a hard habit to break, but some information sharing might help. Imagine this: whenever the person in front of you at the grocery store chooses plastic, politely inform him or her, “You should know these plastic bags are not recyclable—our local recycling center treats them as garbage.” Then, when the cashier asks you the paper or plastic question, say, “Neither, thanks, I have my own reusable bag.”

At home, a simple way to save energy is by turning off lights when you’re not using them and taking shorter showers. Imagine Mom comes home to empty rooms, lights ablaze and her teenager enjoying a half-hour hot shower. She immediately exclaims, “I will not have global warming occurring in this house!” Hopefully, the family will also switch from incandescent bulbs to the low-energy compact fluorescents. According to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), if everyone did that with just one light fixture, it would save as much energy as taking 6.3 million cars off America’s roads. The motto here could be, “Change a Light and Change the World.”

Marin’s major source of greenhouse gas emissions is the almighty automobile. Consider this: You’re driving down Highway 1 in your humongous Hummer and reading this bumper sticker on the Prius ahead of you: “Marin Is Reducing Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions—ARE YOU DRIVING WITH US?” Slogans alone won’t do the job, but they can provide the spirit that makes accomplishment possible. I’ve included a few ideas here. Now let’s hear yours.

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