Study shows Sonoma County has among smallest carbon footprints in Bay Area

by Guy Kovner pressdemocrat – excerpt

Sonoma County had the second smallest household greenhouse gas footprint of the nine Bay Area counties, and 11 local cities and towns accounted for carbon-related emissions below the statewide average, according to a new UC Berkeley report.

The average Sonoma County household had a footprint of 40.4 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, well below the statewide average of 45.7 tons per household and the Bay Area average of 44.3 tons, the report said.

Only San Francisco, the region’s most compact city with multiple mass transit systems, had a smaller footprint at 38.7 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, while affluent Santa Clara County was tops at 48.6 tons and wealthy communities like Atherton, Piedmont and Alamo accounted for 70 to 85 tons, as income, vehicle ownership and home size contributed heavily to the regional differences.

The average U.S. household accounts for about 50 metric tons of emissions.

Read the UC Berkeley report here

People with larger incomes “just consume more,” said Christopher Jones, program director of UC Berkeley’s CoolClimate Network and report co-author. They own larger homes which are “full of more stuff,” he said, and also travel by air more often, boosting their expenditures for transportation, which accounted for one-third of Bay Area emissions, the largest source by far.

Food is the second largest source of emissions at 19 percent, followed by goods and services (each 18 percent), heating fuels (5 percent), home construction (3 percent), electricity (2 percent) and waste (1 percent).

Rohnert Park households had the smallest footprint of the eight Sonoma County cities and three communities cited in the report at 37.7 metric tons of emissions per year, while Windsor was highest at 45.1 tons, exceeding the Bay Area average but still below the state mark.

Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen were in the middle of the pack, each at 39.5 metric tons.

Sonoma County households collectively accounted for 7.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Californians accounted for 585.5 million tons; households nationwide accounted for 5.8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, the Berkeley report said.

Sonoma County is a “good example of low-carbon development,” Jones said, noting the absence of widespread urban sprawl along with relatively modest household income and the benefit of a cool climate that reduces home energy consumption.

Sonoma County probably has an absence of widespread urban sprawl because it has no large cities. The economy is primarily agricultural, with many high-end wineries and tourists that cater to tourists, not construction and not tech. People choose to live there because they like wide open spaces, large yards and the ability to move about freely in their cars. Land values are through the roof. Vineyards, are worth more than dense housing so they protect Sonoma and Napa from dense growth.



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