Community Meeting on Making Monterey County "Green"
A Summary of Supervisor Jane Parker’s Community Meeting on the Making Monterey County “Green”
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This report summarizes the outcomes from a community meeting entitled “Making Monterey County ‘Green’”, held by Supervisor Jane Parker on Sunday June 21st from 3-5 p.m. Supervisor Parker and her staff will be seeking opportunities to implement the many good ideas which were generated by this event. This report will be posted online at www.janeparker.org
The Community Forum brought together nearly 40 people to discuss important environmental issues. Residents from many different cities, from Aromas to Carmel Valley, enthusiastically engaged in the sharing of information about current efforts of the County, local governments, and citizen groups to address a wide range of environmental topics. Small discussion groups were created for brainstorming ideas on different topics. Additionally, residents who could not attend submitted written ideas, which are included in this summary.
Presentation on County Environmental Initiatives
At the start of the forum, Supervisor Parker and her staff spent about 20 minutes on a presentation of County initiatives. First, an important step was taken at the Board of Supervisors meeting on March 31, 2009, when the Board unanimously supported Supervisor Parker’s motion for staff to work on the following initiatives: (1) a green building ordinance, (2) a Styrofoam ban, (3) financing for solar panels and other conservation improvements on homes and businesses (fashioned after the “Berkeley First” model), and (4) a Phase II energy audit of County operations. Supervisor Simon Salinas added his support for the creation of a board committee on the environment and alternative energy. The new Board Committee on the Environment and Alternative Energy will hold its first meeting in July, with Supervisors Parker and Salinas as the new committee’s members.
Also, local governments are working on a variety of environmental efforts, such as exploring the potential for alternative energy plants in Monterey County, more public transportation, improvements in waste management in recycling and reusing materials, expansion of the methane gas energy plant at the Monterey Regional Waste Management District, and an informal coalition of local agencies and electrical workers called the Plug-in Hybrid Car Coalition.
Local citizen organizations then made brief presentations on their activities, including the Sustainability Academy, Citizens for a Sustainable Monterey County and its subsidiary chapters, Citizens for Public Water, the United States Green Building Council, and the Sierra Club. Many initiatives were mentioned, such as education in green practices, promoting green building in Monterey County, encouraging local governments to adopt environmental goals, such as the U.N Urban Environmental Accords or the Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration, and the recycling of resources, including water.
Small Group Discussions
Following the informational presentations, the group split into five discussion groups: Transportation, Energy, Conservation, Water, and Land Use. The groups recorded the following on chart paper:
● Electric cars, with electricity from alternative power source. “Smart grid” where cars can return energy to the grid
● Reduce driving – car pool, telecommute, “pedal power” – create safe bike paths
● Maximize use of electric rail for transport of goods and people long distances (versus planes, trucks, and buses)
● Buy locally grown food, local products
● Start your own garden
● Keep cost of public transportation as low as possible
● Build in town – no sprawl
● Smart grid producing local power from renewable sources– no nuclear energy
● Decentralize energy systems where possible
● County commits to Green Building Ordinance – LEED standards
● County implements an AB 811 program to help property owners finance conservation improvements and solar panels
● Free energy audits
● Required standards to be demonstrated upon sale or remodel of home
● Develop a long-term climate action plan with transition period of 10 years
● Streamline permit process for solar and wind power systems
- Issues: Food, Marketing, health, cost, size/scale, perception in community
- Solutions: Develop local/regional markets, education, legal, organizational/individual commitments.
● Reuse – Deconstruction of structures
- Issues: historic preservation, develop local/regional businesses to refurbish salvaged materials/products, great local resource in old buildings, possible focus on low-income or senior homeowners.
● Recycling – waste reduction
-Issues: pilot programs
● No cultivation on steep slopes
● Build in town – no sprawl
● Conservation first: maximize use of greywater, rainwater, recycled water
● Regional desal program
Attendees were invited to submit in writing any ideas that did not have an opportunity to be discussed at the Forum. Additionally, those who could not attend were invited to submit their ideas to Supervisor Parker’s office. Those who submitted written remarks addressed a wide range of topics:
Monterey County needs a sustainability plan, similar to a business plan, looking at all aspects of implementation, addressing all areas of concerns (water, waste, energy, transportation, land use, resource conservation and maintenance), with stated goals, methodologies, standards, and timelines. We must have a long-term view with sustainable solutions that take into consideration potential environmental impacts of solutions.
Promote conservation and efficiency in all areas of consumption – energy, water, materials, etc. Studies show that we can achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption through changing human habits and increasing efficiency of our buildings and appliances.
Promote alternative energy through incentives in the permitting process (reduction or elimination of fees and streamlining), requiring PG&E to pay for power generated by individual property owners’ solar panels, and asking PG&E to build more alternative energy plants. Encourage local power generation in communities using solar and wind distributed through local/regional smart grids/micro grids
Education of citizens is also a key component. Install visible energy meters in work places to show employees how much energy is being consumed - or saved - by their actions. Create a matrix for cradle to cradle potential – make it easy for local resident to see where their waste falls in the cycle. Also, consider the Burbank model – Burbank sent a package to every household with a reuse bag, fluorescent light bulb. We could further help people recycle by increasing the size of the recycling bins and use smaller waste bins – in some towns, the recycling bin is too small.
Preservation of species is also a major concern. This needs to be addressed in all the contributing factors, such as pollution, destruction of habitat, and education of the impact of human activity on species.
In 2006, the State of California adopted Assembly Bill 32, also known as The Global Warming Solutions Act, designed to address climate change. The law requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 30% by the year 2020, and 80% by 2050. The law also encourages local governments to take voluntary steps to reduce emissions from government operations immediately. The federal government may be adopting a similar law in the coming months. There is also a statewide mandate to reduce water use by 20% by 2020. There are numerous websites addressing climate change, energy and other important environmental issues, more than we could print here, but the following are just a few that participants in the community forum shared with us: