Jan 28 2020

Going Greener in the 2020s for Climate Action

Most Piedmont residents produce the majority of their carbon footprint outside of our city, especially through online shopping, vehicle use, and travel.

Climate Action Vacations

Air Travel

In 2018, the journal NATURE found tourism was responsible for 8% of greenhouse gases.  A single long haul flight emits at least a half ton of carbon per coach passenger.  Business and First Class passengers generate three to four tons of carbon on long haul flights.

Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology reports that air travel accounts for 10% of the average Swede’s  carbon footprint and trends indicate aviation could ultimately account for up to a quarter of the global footprint without altered lifestyles.  (The New York Times (12/22/19)

Cruises are not Green Vacations

The NYT (7/15/15) reported that “Ships intentionally dump more engine oil and sludge into the oceans in the span of three years than that spilled in the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez accidents combined, ocean researchers say, and emit huge amounts of  certain air pollutants, far more than all the world’s cars.”

Ships are like floating cities, reproducing the least sustainable aspects of cities often generating as much water and air pollution as cities.  The high sulfur content of their diesel fuel is a contributor to acid rain

While concentrations of so-called ultrafine particulate matter on a Beijing street reached about 30,000 particles per cubic centimeter, such concentrations aboard cruise ships at sea ranged from more than 45,000 particles per cubic centimeter on a Carnival vessel to over 157,700 particles per cubic centimeter on a Princess Cruises ship.  {Ultrafine particles are also a health hazard, contributing to lung and heart disease.} US News  Jan. 24, 2019

A single cruise ship in one day generates as much particulate matter as 1 million cars, and 15 of the world’s biggest ships emit more sulfur and nitrogen oxides than all the cars on the planet.

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest luxury cruise operator, emitted nearly 10 times more sulfur oxide (SOX) around European coasts than did all 260 million European cars in 2017. (Transport and Environment  June 4, 2019)

Train travel is greener, but offers fewer option.  Estimates of cruise passengers from North America in 2019 vary from 12 million to more than 14 million.

Festivals and Trash

Mass Music Festivals are Popular –too often producing Massive Trash

In 2017 the Coachella Festival in Indio generated over 100 tons of trash every day according to the environmental impact analysis.   Their diversion rate away from landfills was only 20% according to the 11/17/19 New York Times.

Green Streets

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates Americans generate an average of 4.6 tons of carbon per vehicle per year.  CO2 emissions in Piedmont and elsewhere can be reduced by prioritizing public transit use.  Reducing on-street parking is one strategy used to decrease car use in suburbs, while making streets more available for neighborhood play and celebrations.  Making use of the streets for activities is particularly relevant as backyards shrink with expanding houses and the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units.

Online Shopping

Online shopping is convenient and fast, but is it really a green alternative?  Where were the products manufactured and what about the increasing number of returns when people order several sizes or colors in order to choose the right one comfortably at home.

Newcastle University scientists in the Institution of Engineering and Technology studied the “feedback effects” of returns.  The positive incentive to reduce CO2 emissions by shopping online instead of driving is cancelled out by the negative environmental impact of returned packages. A further negative effect occurs with one or two day deliveries because the trucks then carry fewer packages or drive a larger area.

Online reseller shopping is increasingly popular and has the benefit of extending the useful life of items as well as reducing the flow to landfill.

Some suggestions to make online shopping greener:

  • Order from few different companies, and consolidate orders.
  • Buy goods such as shoes, which have high return rates, in shops.
  • Give preference to delivery services that use returnable crates or recyclable cardboard.
  • Set up buying groups to place collective orders.
  • Use standard delivery rather than express delivery so that parcels can be transported in optimally loaded trucks.

Climate Change Food

beef = 27 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram

chicken = 6.9 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram

tofu = 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram

lentils = .9 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram

Alaskan pollock = 1.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram

farmed mussels = .6 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram

Read more from the Environmental Working Group here

Don’t forget the basics: Reduce, Reuse, Compost, Recycle



Purchase less.

When ordering online, avoid one-day shipping which results in delivery trucks not optimally loaded.


Paper with a lot of printing on it cannot be composted even if its drenched in food.

Rinse or scrape off food containers in order to recycle them. Recycled materials that don’t compost can’t be recycled if covered in yogurt or other food.

Single Use Bags are collected at California Supermarkets.

One Response to “Going Greener in the 2020s for Climate Action”

  1. ADUs may well add to city parking problems but will they add to the city’s CO2 problem? By some estimates, Piedmont produces more CO2 per capita than any East bay city.

    Many cities are requiring that all NEW construction be electric – no natural gas. ADUs are new construction. Seems counterintuitive to add density with ADUs to offset climate change while increasing the city’s CO2 output at the same time.

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