To recycle aluminum, they pack soda cans from work to home, often making the commute on bicycle.
Every day they look around and see ways to improve county operations, such as enhancing the recycling system, buying better light bulbs and switching to hybrid vehicles. But they are individuals and staff members without the authority to make countywide change, until now.
A contingent of Clallam County employees gathered in April to discuss how county operations can become more efficient, reducing greenhouse gases, increasing sustainability and cost effectiveness.
The commissioners request for us to review ways to reduce the countys carbon footprint unleashed a flood of energy from the group, said Cathy Lear, a county planner and group member. The countys already done so much and many departments or individual employees have taken measures into their own hands to reduce their impact while at work, but an overall plan could significantly improve sustainability overall.
The group released recommendations April 28 on how to move forward.
Clallam County Commissioners Mike Chapman, Mike Doherty and Steve Tharinger have the document in hand and are considering what action to take.
We will have a response soon, Doherty said. It may involve some sort of budget matter, although Im not totally sure about that, and at the very least we will probably make the employee group permanent rather than temporary.
The groups first recommendation is to create a coordinator to take the lead in instituting more efficient county procedures.
The county has joined the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI, and received a software package to track its carbon footprint.
We have the software but not the training to fully utilize it, which ties in with creating a position to take the lead on instituting the groups recommendations, said John Miller, director of Community Development and chairman of the group. We have an offer from a citizens group out of Port Townsend to help, using their successful program as a model for our own.
Port Townsend, Jefferson County and Clallam County all have signed on with ICLEI. Doherty said having similar data sets will help compare the effectiveness of different programs.
The state Legislature passed a bill requiring the state to review carbon emission reducing efforts and create a local government program to present back to the Legislature, Miller said, indicating the ICLEI program will help the county participate.
Other recommendations include taking an inventory of possible improvements, expanding the courthouse recycling system, creating a composting program at the jail, giving green-built-approved construction projects priority and making the Clallam County Fair a low-waste event.
Not everything is developed. This is preliminary since we have only met three times, Lear said. But that goes along with making this group permanent, so that we can move into better defined planning and into a position to take action.
The county already is energy conscious. Decades ago it installed several solar panels on the county courthouse. It has purchased five hybrid vehicles with plans to buy more and the diesel fleet is running on biodiesel to reduce emissions.
The hybrids have been placed with departments that clock a high number of miles, said Tom Maley, county equipment and fleet manager. Plus the biodiesel is running great and has become less expensive than standard diesel.
County not alone
The city of Sequim has its own climate advisory committee, although the members are waiting to meet again until the city becomes a member of ICLEI.
As far as Im concerned, one does not need to be an environmental convert to reduce their carbon footprint, said John Beitzel, committee member and former city councilor. By becoming more efficient, the city saves money, its that simple.
Beitzel said the group investigated what the city could do to manage sustainability in-house. Members want to find what the citys carbon footprint is with the ICLEI software before moving on and they have a resolution prepared for the city council to authorize an ICLEI membership.
The North Olympic Peninsula Resources Conservation and Development group is providing half of the membership cost, Beitzel said, indicating the citys cost would be $300.
The Clallam County Public Utility District recently joined a different organization to track its carbon output.
In the years to come, our participation in The Climate Registry will serve to expand our knowledge of climate change issues, anticipate their physical and legislative impacts and develop informed responses with our customers best interests in mind, PUD Commissioner Hugh Haffner said.
Sustainability-related groups in the area agree that creating more efficient means to provide the public with service will improve the environment, save tax dollars and showcase the North Olympic Peninsula as a leader in whats expected to be a new style of operating, given current and pending state and federal mandates regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
Helpful links related to local government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are:
• The International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives is at www.iclei-usa.org.
• The state Legislatures Bill 6580 can be researched at www.leg.wa.gov.
• The state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development site regarding energy policy is at cted.wa.gov/site/853/default.aspx.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
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