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UC Berkeley Carbon Footprint Study Puts 'Peer Pressure' On South Bay Cities

SARATOGA (KPIX 5) -- Statistics about the carbon footprint of some Bay Area cities have sparked a bit of competition.

The CoolClimate Network, a UC Berkeley research project, crunched data that included a wide range of metrics; everything from commute times and traffic to house size and whether people ate greenhouse-intensive foods. They came up with a color-coded map; the redder the area, the bigger the carbon footprint.

GHG map
A section of the map created by CoolClimate. (CBS)

Some of the worst offenders in the South Bay include Saratoga, Los Altos and Woodside.

Affluent, outlying suburbs like Saratoga did not fare well in greenhouse gas output, especially when compared to Stanford, where most of the residents are students who live in dorms or apartments and often walk or bike to get around.

City of Saratoga
City of Saratoga sign. (CBS)

Chris Jones, the study's lead author, said that when word of the findings got out, cities were reaching out to defend their energy credentials. He said the study wasn't meant to "greenshame" anyone, but it did have a powerful side effect.

"Cities with higher emissions, this can light a fire under them to do more," said Jones. He said that there is "peer pressure" between cities, households and businesses as they make commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Berkeley researchers said one of the most effective things that affluent suburbs like Saratoga can do is electrify their homes and cars.

Saratoga mayor Mary-Lynne Bernald said the city has already converted six city vehicles to electric or hybrid and has installed six charging stations. The city has also streamlined the permitting process for installing charging stations in homes. It also voted to go carbon-free in all city buildings.

"I think Saratoga is already on notice and very proactive," said Bernald. She bristled at the notion that her city wasn't doing enough to help the planet.

"My first reaction was shock because we have been doing so much recently," said Bernald.

The city of Woodside has adopted a 99-page detailed climate action plan. They just approved funds to study the optimal location to install solar power for the city and where to place its first charging station.

The city of Los Altos in an email stated, "Los Altos has already taken the most important step by being one of the first cities to join Silicon Valley Clean Energy and requiring all of our city to purchase energy through SVCE, unless they choose to opt-out."

"Step up. Make your commitments now. Make them deep and rapid, and hopefully others will follow suit," said Jones.

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