Nov 19 2017

Green Proposals: Students Should Walk to School and Have Reusable Water Bottles, Eat Vegan, Drive Electric Cars, Fly Less, Walk to Bus Stop

Piedmont Climate Action Plan Meeting – Students provide input! 

On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, I attended a Piedmont Climate Action Plan meeting at the community hall, led by the Piedmont Climate Action Task Force.  This meeting was to discuss the second Piedmont Climate Action Plan.

Presenters, included City Council members and representatives from clean energy companies, spoke in detail about what Climate Action Plan #2 and the intent to reduce Piedmont’s fossil fuel emissions by 40% by 2030. Additionally, Piedmont’s progress towards this goal was reported, as positive.  The continuation of a multitude of methods to reach goals were presented. Methods included reducing transportation emissions through carpooling and converting housing and transportation systems into clean energy (“electrifying”).

“Putting Action Into Climate Action” was a large topic discussed during the meeting. Many speakers emphasized cultural change in Piedmont, and encouraging members to make changes in their behavior in order to reduce the town’s emissions. One speaker mentioned the option of walking to the bus stop every morning instead of driving, even though it requires 15 more minutes, and how choosing this would make a large difference.

Audience members were also allowed to participate, but minimally for the sake of time. It was apparent that attendees wished for more discussion time, as people occasionally talked over each other in expressing their opinions. I also noticed that some attendees felt somewhat defensive when learning of staggering, embarrassing statistics.

When a graph was presented of Piedmont’s electricity use, it was revealed that our town uses three times the amount of natural gas as the average PG&E customer, and that our carbon footprint is twice the size of Oakland’s. Many audience members picked apart the graph and questioned the source, bringing up the fact that statistics like these are easy to pose on Piedmont because of our average income.

Though it may be true that Piedmont is stereotyped into being excessive because of wealth, I interpreted these responses to be defensive. It is true that not all Piedmonters are excessive in their gas and electricity use, but I do believe that all Piedmonters must at least check themselves in their environmental habits. Defensive attitudes like these will keep people from even checking to see if the stereotype of being excessive is at least a little bit true. It takes extreme statistics and statements like these to make people really question themselves, and if people do so, many will realize that they can cut down on transportation or energy use.

At the end of the presentations, audience members were sorted into discussion groups with Climate Action Plan Task Force Committee members. I was put into a group with two other students and three adults. We discussed matters such as where used water ends up, how to make drastic changes in lifestyles we are used to, and how the schools have been taking up green education.

I interviewed one of the adults, Jen Cavenaugh, about her attendance at the meeting. She is a City Council member, and a PHS parent. Cavenaugh was at the meeting because as a City Council member, she wanted to gauge the community feedback on the Climate Action Plan. She kept mentioning the importance of community involvement, otherwise it would only be “worth what’s on pen and paper.” In other words, all the planning at the multiple meetings would mean nothing, if the community was not completely enthusiastic for the plan. It pleased me to hear her say that at the meeting she realized how “thoughtful and engaged” Piedmont students are.  She was hopeful in the fact that “students can change families.”  According to Cavenaugh, the next step to getting the community involved is organizing events such as a community-wide competition that could be block by block, or an education campaign.

I agree with Cavenaugh about the importance of community involvement, because members of Piedmont are very capable and outspoken when passionate. If the community became as passionate as the people at the meeting, a massive difference would be made

Unfortunately, because of limited time at the meeting, I did not have the opportunity to speak to the whole group. However, in my discussion group at the end, I mentioned my opinion of how environmental classes should be required at Piedmont and Millennium High Schools, as they are at the Middle School. I believe this is one of the best ways to make a change.

My personal experience with an environmental class is important to mention: I took AP Environmental Science (APES) last year and came out with a new lens through which to see the world. Because of my new deep understanding of how the environment works with a multitude of topics, I realized the amount of fixing that needs to be done on this planet. I am now inspired to stand up for the environment in as many ways as possible– even if it is a small gesture. For example, I learned about the impact of air pollution on disastrous weather, and it inspires me to make a change in my lifestyle: to replace at least one car ride a week with a walk, and to eat less beef.

Furthermore, I studied trees in APES: how to identify them by their subtle characteristics and Latin name. Though tree identification seems like a small, useless skill, it has opened my mind to see the beauty of the world, and it makes me more passionate to save and take care of it. I realize that only the students who choose to take APES as their elective have the opportunity to open their mind up like me. If all students took APES, we would have an entire student body with that mentality, and we could change the world by storm.

I am glad that I attended this meeting, not only because I learned that many members of Piedmont are quite active in climate change, but also because my fervor for making a change in the world was replenished. It was mentioned that methods of achieving Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan 2 will not be presented to the City Council until December or January. I hope to be there when it is presented so I can show my support.

by Kay Sibal, Piedmont High School Senior


    On November 7th, the Piedmont Climate Action Task Force Committee held a meeting at the Piedmont Community Hall. The meeting’s purpose was to inform community members of Piedmont’s proposed, new Climate Action Plan and future endeavors regarding green initiatives in the community.

    Since the beginning of 2017, the Climate Action Task Force Committee has scheduled monthly meetings for ideas on how to reduce Piedmont’s carbon emissions. The main product of the meetings is the Climate Action Plan 2.0. It’s a revamped version of a past climate initiative proposing ambitious changes. The plan boasts a projected 20% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2040 and an 80% reduction by 2050. The committee’s membership is comprised of community members, scientific heads of industry, and devoted climate activists.

The Committee and participants have created unique solutions toward Piedmont’s emission trend.

    The presentation began with Mr. Christopher Jones, a UC Berkeley research associate and the Cool Climate Networks Program Director, presenting Piedmont’s footprint in recent years. Jones presented the majority of information on Piedmont’s footprint. He showed how energy consumption’s been broken up and where the most wasteful are. Jones introduced the Cool California Challenge, “a competition between California cities to reduce household carbon footprints” and a few people were genuinely receptive to it. During the presentation a man asked, whether Jones’s data was specific to Piedmont or if it was modeled and if so how. Jones stopped his presentation to answer, explaining how the numbers were modeled after similar cities in size, wealth, and tendency to Piedmont and that he could say with some certainty that the numbers are quite fitting. The majority of community members holding doubt, were satisfied with this response. As well as Jones’s presentation, a few other Climate Action Committee members spoke.

    Ms. Margaret Ovenden, Ms. Sarah Moe, and City Council member Tim Rood, all spoke on the issue as well, and shed additional light on various parts. Ms. Ovenden spoke more specifically about how Piedmont is heading towards electricity. She explained how, in time, all of our energy will come from electricity because it’s the most sustainable source. Many times, she reiterated the term “electrification.”

   Then, Council member Rood spoke about the current East Bay Community Energy plan set to go into action over the next few years. He explained how implementation would work seamlessly and potentially save Piedmont residents some money. He outlined specifically the 75% green plan as well as the 100% green plan and the implications of both. Rood added how the city would  buy the energy initially from plants and citizens would then buy it back from the city at a cheaper price, effectively removing PG&E from the equation.

    Finally, Ms. Sarah Moe spoke about specific appliances that would dramatically impact electricity usage in the home. She enlightened the participants on types of heaters, how they work, and which are most sustainable and efficient for the home. The presentation ended around 8:30 p.m. with time for each attending member to find their way into a small group.

    Mr. Cody Harrison, a member of the staff, spoke briefly with me afterward about his feeling on the meeting. First, he gave me his background working with Americorps and explaining his civic passion after completing college. The conversation progressed through his motivation to become sustainable. As for the meeting, he said, “of all things, I am proud to see the EBCE transition being received really well, and having so many people turn out to see it.”  Harrison is confident about the future of the plan and Piedmont’s trend in carbon emissions taking an overall decline.

by John Jogopulos, Piedmont High School Senior


On Tuesday November 7th, the Climate Action Plan Task Force hosted a workshop at Piedmont Community Hall. The Climate Action Plan Task Force has met monthly since March to advise staff and Piedmont citizens about improvements and updates to Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). Piedmont’s CAP was completed in 2010 and has goals all the way through 2020. The CAP consists of measures that Piedmont residents, business owners, and schools can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Piedmont.

The meeting started off with Sarah Isabel Moe introducing what will be discussed such as updates to Piedmont’s CAP. One of the main updates was that Piedmont residents will be automatically switched from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to the East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

After the introduction, Chris Jones of University of California, Berkeley gave a presentation about the sources Piedmont’s Carbon Dioxide emissions compared to that of the United States and Oakland. Jones presented this information through graphs found on In the United States, motor fuel is the biggest source of CO2 and electricity production comes second. In Piedmont, vehicle emissions are the biggest source of CO2, but air travel comes in at second. Jones explained that Piedmont has a smaller carbon footprint than the national average when it comes to electricity because many Piedmont houses have little heating and no cooling along with utilizing solar panels.

After showing graphs, Jones proceeded with showing a color coded map of the Bay Area; the redder the color, the larger carbon footprint. Unfortunately, Piedmont was a big, red dot. To reduce Piedmont’s carbon footprint, Jones suggested that residents replace their cars with electric ones, use solar heat pumps to decrease natural gas emissions, focus on local services, and reduce meat and dairy consumption.

Shortly after Jones’s presentation, Council member Tim Rood spoke about Piedmont’s upcoming switch from PG&E to EBCE. EBCE is an electricity company that will buy electricity on the market and will sell it to Piedmont. Rood explained how the consumer still will have many choices with EBCE and will spend the same amount of money as they did for PG&E. In fact, EBCE might be cheaper than PG&E. In addition to all of this, adopting EBCE in Piedmont homes will reduce Piedmont’s greenhouse gases. In 2018, all Piedmont residents will be automatically enrolled for EBCE, but may opt out and stay with PG&E. This automatic enrollment will make it more likely for people to stay with EBCE since it will be more work to opt out of it.

Sarah Isabel Moe came up to speak one more time about what residents can do in their own homes to reduce their carbon footprint. The presentation started off with a picture of a triangle with four terms: reduce demand, electrify, increase resilience, and 100% renewable. Piedmont has some of the oldest homes, which calls for renovations for becoming more green.

Moe emphasized the importance and benefits of installing heat pumps. Heat pumps basically take heat or cold out of the air and can work both as a heater or as an air conditioning unit. Installing heat pumps will be cheap in the long run and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Moe also talked about how residents should think about installing solar rooftops. If every Piedmont house had a solar rooftop, it would be very beneficial to the environment and greatly reduce Piedmont’s carbon footprint. She also suggested that people switch to using electric cars if they haven’t already, since motor fuel is the greatest source of CO2 in the United States and Piedmont.

The presentations brought a lot of questions and comments, but only three people were allowed to speak. The first was a man who was concerned with Piedmont’s electrification. He asked that since electrifying is going to use about 2.5 times as much electricity, where is it going to come from? Jones answered that along with using more electricity, Piedmont should invest in more storage and build resiliency.

The second person to speak up was a Piedmont High School student who asked what teenagers can do since they don’t have much influence on their parents. The response was that there should be a formal engagement program where teens and adults can discuss how to be more environmentally conscious and that teens should push their parents to help the environment.

Lastly, another PHS student made a short speech about how there should be more green education in high school and students should be encouraged to walk to school instead of drive because she knows people who drive to school when they are completely able to walk. Her speech resulted in applause and nods of approval.

After the presentations and questions, everyone was broken up into groups to discuss what else residents can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Our discussion facilitator worked on how to use less water and talked about how it takes energy to move water up to Piedmont since Piedmont’s water comes from below. People input ideas on how to use less water like saving the cold water that comes from the shower when waiting for it to warm up.

We also discussed how the school should have more mandatory classes and electives so students can become more aware of global warming and the environment. My classmates and I also brought up how the high school should have more environmental clubs such as a vegan club. Someone else suggested that people should plant more native plants and that there should be a law banning the use of sprinklers during a drought since Piedmont seems to have a problem with that.

It was great to be an active citizen and hear and discuss ideas on how to make Piedmont a more environmentally conscious city.

Afterwards, I was able to interview Pam Hirtzer, a resident of Piedmont. Hirtzer has gone to many Climate Action meetings in the past and is part of CCL. She has been interested in climate change for fifteen years. To help the environment, Hirtzer is planning on buying an electric vehicle to replace her gas powered car. Before the meeting, Hirtzer didn’t know anything about the future switch from PG&E to EBCE, but said she thinks “it’s a great idea”.

Attending this meeting was very enlightening because, like Hirtzer, I didn’t know anything about the new environmental plans for Piedmont. I think what the Task Force is planning is going to be very beneficial to the environment and will definitely reduce Piedmont’s carbon footprint.

However, there are more things Piedmont residents should be doing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. I think that since air travel is a large source of CO2 in Piedmont, people should be more aware of how damaging frequent traveling can be to the environment. I’m not saying that people should limit their traveling, but that they should know the harmful effects of it and maybe plan a trip somewhere reachable by car since the West Coast has so many great vacation spots. I also think that Piedmont has a big sprinkler problem and that there should be some type of law implemented to limit how people use sprinklers.

by Brina Bodnar, Piedmont High School Senior


    I attended the Climate Action Plan (CAP) Task Force meeting on November 7th from 7:30 to 9:10 p.m. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Piedmont Climate Action Plan 2.0, which outlines what steps need to be taken in order to meet the goal of 80% less emissions than 2005 by 2050.

    At the meeting, we also reviewed what improvements and changes have already been made, and what more can be done. The CAP Committee meets much more frequently by themselves than they do with the public. This public forum/informational meeting was to receive feedback from citizens, and answer questions about what the CAP will mean for lifestyle in Piedmont.

    One of the main topics of discussion was Piedmont’s greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to the Bay Area, and the country. Piedmont, being a largely residential, wealthy community, had staggeringly higher emissions from transportation and energy than many other cities in the Bay Area and the country.

   Piedmont is doing well at composting and recycling compared to the rest of the United States, but the recycling of paper and food waste does not offset the emissions from transportation and energy. Piedmont has a huge emission from transportation because many families own more than one car, and many individuals drive to work or school. The energy emissions are so high because houses have heating and cooling systems, as well as cooking and cleaning appliances, and lights to power.

    A large portion of the meeting went to discussing solutions to clean energy, and energy conservation. Sarah Moe, a Senior Consultant in the Sustainability Buildings and Communities sector of DNV-GL, discussed alternatives to in-home heating, and more sustainable ways to heat and cool a home, like a heat pump. A heat pump uses the air already in your home and pushes warm air out, keeping cool air inside during the summer, and keeps warm air in and pushes cool air out in the winter.

   Another way Piedmonters can conserve energy, is to find better ways to store it. In a place like the Bay Area, where our days are relatively sunny year round, by harnessing solar energy and storing it for cloudy days or cloudy months, homes could begin to completely power their houses from their solar panels alone, as well as sell their energy back to energy companies like PG&E, who could get the clean energy to more homes.

    Many of the older folk who were in the audience were concerned with cost and labor of installation of these new environmentally friendly technologies, and a few students asked questions about how they could make a difference, not being homeowners, and having little control over the energy sources and consumption in their home.

   One student, Hanna Hohener, raised the issue of many Piedmont and Millennium High schoolers driving to school. I have always walked to school, until my dad moved to lower Piedmont, but I still walk everyday when I am at my mom’s house. It is a little ridiculous that high school students who have walked their entire life decide that once they get their license, they are too cool to walk. There are environmental and health benefits to walking more, and Piedmont is so small that there should definitely be more initiatives to get more upperclassmen to walk to school. I think as far as sustainable energy in the home, this is something that could greatly reduce Piedmont’s and the country’s carbon footprint. Though shutting off the water when brushing your teeth, or biking instead of driving to work have an impact on an individual’s carbon footprint, by making a home be powered by entirely clean energy, the unseen byproducts of emissions in drilling for coal, refining oil, and unclean energy are eliminated.

    At the end of the meeting, I interviewed Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh. She was at the meeting because “this is one of the City initiatives we have going on right now … and the most important element of that is community engagement.” We discussed how without community action, the Climate Action Plan is “only worth the paper it’s printed on.” Cavenaugh commented that she was very pleased to see so many high school students present and engaged, especially in the small group discussions.

    The meeting broke up into groups of about 10 participants and we got to discuss solutions and other ways for Piedmont to strive for sustainability. Councilwoman Cavenaugh said, “She would have loved a lot more detail,” because issues of changing habits and lifestyle are very complicated, and it is hard to pinpoint solutions for such complex issues. She sees the next step as a “deep dive in community engagement” whether that by educating people, or creating an incentive for individuals to be motivated to go green.

    There was no opportunity for community members to speak in the official meeting, but as we broke out into smaller groups,  I got to voice my opinions to some fellow students as well as community members, who I did not know.

    Here is what I would have said if there were a speaking portion of the meeting. I wish I had been in a group with fewer students, because it felt like somewhat of an echo chamber talking to my peers about issues we had already discussed in APES (Advanced Placement Environmental Science).   Many students were APES students like myself. I would have loved to hear more opinions from adult community members.

What I would have said:

    Hello, my name is Ko Narter, and I am a senior at Piedmont High School. Students make up a huge portion of Piedmont residents, so by starting at the schools, we can greatly reduce the town’s carbon footprint. One of the easiest ways to do this, is to stop selling plastic water bottles at food service. I have seen students purchase two bottles in one day, and this practice is ridiculous as well. If a student is going to purchase a water bottle, there should be more encouragement to have them keep that water bottle for the day, and fill it up. We now have water bottle filling stations in multiple locations on campus, which makes it easy for kids who bring a water bottle to school everyday, like myself, to access drinking water and bring it back to class. If students really protest over not being able to buy water bottles, we could start a reusable water bottle return system where kids take bottles for the day and then return them to be washed, or just sell reusable water bottles at food service, which would sort of force students to have to bring reusable water bottles to school, if they want water in class. This is a fast and easy way we can minimize the school’s and the town’s carbon footprint.

by Ko Narter, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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