Island Forum: A race to reduce the damage

The Mercer Island Green Ribbon Commission (GRC), with assistance from Councilmember Bruce Bassett, launched the first annual Green Ribbon Commission Carbon Challenge on May 15. The Carbon Challenge pits Mercer Island City Councilmembers against School District Board members in a friendly competition to see which group can collectively reduce its carbon footprint the most in the next year. Participants will use the carbon calculator on the “EcoShift” Web site at www.ecoshift.org to measure and track their carbon footprint. Several GRC members will serve as “data concierges,” assisting council and board members in using the carbon calculators. The GRC data concierges will help Carbon Challenge participants collect and interpret collected data, and provide suggestions on how to reduce participants’ energy usage and carbon footprint.

The GRC will provide Carbon Challenge participants with a Kill-A-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor in order to measure and track the electricity usage of various home appliances and computer components. Participants will use information on their electric and gas usage as well as the amount of automobile miles driven and airplane flights taken to help calculate their overall carbon footprint on the EcoShift Web site. Funded by an economic stimulus grant, the Kill-A-Watt monitors are city property and will be available for citizens to check out once the Carbon Challenge between the City Council and the School Board ends.

This Carbon Challenge between the City Council and the School Board is one of the GRC’s first major campaigns. The main goal of the challenge is to help foster awareness about participants’ impact on the environment, and to encourage participants to reduce their carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The GRC believes we are all personally responsible for our contribution to global warming.

Founded in 2007, the GRC includes Mercer Island residents, city staff, city councilmembers, members of the faith community, and members of IslandVision. The GRC mission is to develop innovative ways to educate our community and encourage sustainable behaviors that reduce our individual and the Island’s collective carbon footprint.

The GRC will keep Islanders updated on the progress of the Challenge and findings via the Mercer Island Reporter, the GRC Web site, www.mercergov.org/greenribboncommission, and in the MI Quarterly Newsletter. At the end of the competition in May 2011, the winning group will receive a prize.

Island residents can also participate in the Carbon Challenge by tracking their household carbon footprint using the tools provided at www.ecoshift.org. The easy-to-use site is an excellent way to measure one’s energy use and determine one’s carbon contribution to the atmosphere. For assistance, contact the “carbon concierge” team at greenribbon@mercergov.org.

Elliot Newman is a member of the Green Ribbon Commission.

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