Alamedans formed a house united in favor of green at the kick-off meeting of the public-private partnership Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA).
Local politicians, business stakeholders and interested residents congregated earlier this month at the "O" Club at Alameda Point to discuss CASA's role in reducing Alameda's carbon footprint and making the city as sustainable as it can be. All were invited to share their thoughts on the new group's direction as it works to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent before 2020.
Introductory speeches from city and consulting officials took assessment of what has already been done to green Alameda, and what is left to do. This gave way to a series of "tabletop discussion" brainstorming sessions on next steps.
Mayor Beverly Johnson greeted the crowd of about 100, who milled about before gathering at their assigned roundtables.
"Alameda is really truly committed to these issues and to moving these issues forward as aggressively as possible," said Johnson, noting a growing trend in green policies in Bay Area municipalities and across the nation.
CASA was formed at the behest of the Climate Protection Task Force, a city staff and resident committee created in 2005. But just what form the new group will take is undecided.
Charged with implementing the Local Action Plan for Climate Protection — which mandates the 25 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions — CASA could become a non-profit organization, a branch of city government or a lobbying group.
Former Climate Protection Task Force member Stan Schiffman reported on the city's current carbon footprint, using data the task force collected in 2005. Overall, he said, Alameda ranks below many area cities, including Berkeley and Oakland, in annual greenhouse gas emissions. Fifty-four percent of Alameda's carbon emissions come from transportation; 29 percent from residential use; 17 percent from commercial and industrial use, he said.
The task force settled on five main goals. First: a zero waste strategy to reduce emissions and promote recycling and reusing; second, creation of a multi-faceted community outreach program; third, implementation of green building standards; fourth, promotion of carbon-free energy; and fifth, implementation of alternative, eco-friendly transportation.
A facilitator at each table helped structure the brainstorming sessions, which were annotated on large, presentation-size scratch paper mounted on easels at every station. Attendees were asked to give strategies for CASA's transportation, energy, waste and recycling, and outreach and education initiatives.
Former members of the task force and city officials mixed with musicians, environmental epidemiologists and Alameda Power and Telecom employees, all of whom had come to have their voices heard.
The resulting ideas — including a San Francisco CityCar Share-style fleet of electric cars, free and subsidized bus travel, home energy audits, incentives for composting and recycling, even a performance-based outreach and education group — were inspired, attendees said. The wide-ranging hypotheticals underscore a complex reality: CASA remains a largely nebulous entity without a determined funding source for many lofty ambitions.
But this house was built with optimism for the future. As task force consultant and Kyoto USA founder Tom Kelly told the audience, "The fact that you're in this room "... gives me a sense that "... there's a lot of enthusiasm and excitement "... to really do something substantial about climate change."
The meeting adjourned to an 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 gathering at the new (green-built) library at Lincoln and Oak.