Greenhouse gas emissions down again in Sonoma County

Greenhouse gas emissions declined in Sonoma County in 2011 for the third straight year, reflecting an expansion of renewable energy sources and a down economy, which lowered demand for power and transportation.

Still, Sonoma County's goal of reducing emissions 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2015 remains elusive, officials said Tuesday.

The annual report card by the Climate Protection Campaign was presented at the Sonoma County Strategies for Sustainability, a conference that drew 160 people from government, industry and the public to discuss better environmental practices.

"We have to try harder," said Michael Kyes, Sebastopol's vice mayor, who was attending the conference.

Setting such a lofty goal is important, even if it might not be met, said Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

"The goal is high, but not impossible," Helfrich said. "The big kahuna is transportation. . . . We are asking people to change their lives and that is a lot harder than telling people to put insulation in their attic or install solar."

To set the tone, the conference was held in Santa Rosa's new $40 million public utilities building, which includes enough solar to handle almost all of its energy needs, high-efficiency heating and cooling units and water recycling systems.

The bowls holding candy on tables were part of the city's so-called library of donated dishes. Plates were washable and reusable plastic water cups were handed out.

"Everybody with a little bit can make a difference," said Dell Tredinnick, Santa Rosa project development manager. "Individual contributions are important."

In 2011, there were 3.79 million tons of carbon dioxide released in Sonoma County. Most was generated by transportation, which accounted for 60 percent of the emissions, followed by natural gas use, 16 percent; electricity, 12 percent; and livestock waste, 10 percent.

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