WITH JORDANNA THIGPEN
San Francisco's Carbon Neutral Opportunity
By Jordanna Thigpen
July 20, 2006
We know that climate change (and don't say "global warming"
- otherwise, someone in denial will regale you with tales of "our
record-breaking cold weather last winter") is real. It has
far-reaching and deadly implications. The perfect convergence
- the perfect storm, if you will - of the effects of climate change
has already begun. Our ship is listing badly
to the right. Too late to return to port?
It is never too late. We all know, or at least are capable of
learning, what we have to do on an individual level. Our world
is not a $10.99 All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.
But the bottom line is that even if we as individuals sacrifice
and cut back and sell our cars and stop air traveling and wear
natural fibers and go vegan and just take a damn breath and enjoy
life, governments at all levels will still be overconsuming, with
no responsibility for their roles in climate change.
Individuals, families, and organizations can currently purchase
carbon offsets. What if San Francisco passed a law to mandate
purchase of carbon offsets for all our municipal carbon use, to
make us America's first carbon neutral city?
The average American produces 10 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
25% of the total carbon emissions come from individuals, although
that figure does not include consumer goods. The process of carbon
offsets is simple: one pays a fee to nonprofits like carbonfund.org,
or the Carbon
Neutral Company. The money goes to support renewable energy
resources and projects to encourage energy efficiency.
For example, according to the UK-based Carbon Neutral Company,
when I fly roundtrip to Santa Fe in August, my trip will produce
.4 tons of CO2. I can choose between three separate packages to
spend my approximate $10 in offsets, ranging from supporting native
forests in Wales, to contributing to solar panels in Sri Lanka.
Every city department is a vociferous consumer. Everything from
office supplies, MUNI routes, electric lights and HVAC, the IT
systems in every building, to street construction and improvement,
releases the deadly perfume of CO2. By mandating each department
to purchase carbon offsets, our City could alleviate the effects
of our own existence, and set the standard for municipal government
It is a radical, and necessary act, and one which will ensure
Supervisors just passed a record-breaking $5.7 billion budget.
Some argue that it was excessive, and certainly some departments
are badly in need of an audit. Imagine if the audits turned up
misspent funds, which could then be spent on carbon offsets? We
could start out with a fraction of the department budgets spent
on offsets, with the goal of becoming completely carbon neutral
We could go even further and do as the Department on the Environment,
Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the UK is considering, and
mandate personal carbon allowances. Too radical? Welcome to the
Climate change is happening. We can set the benchmark here in
San Francisco if we ask our government to take proactive steps
towards erasing our carbon footprints.
The world is waiting.
District 6 resident Jordanna Thigpen is an attorney, small
business owner and President of the San Francisco Small Business
Commission. You can usually find her at work and she doesn't get
to Ocean Beach often enough. Email Jordanna at firstname.lastname@example.org.