Letter to the editor: Small changes can have big impact on climate change

Dear Editor,

During the past several months, many citizens of our community joined the City of Edmonds invitations to be part of an online workshop (March 25) and survey (March-May) to help guide our local environmental sustainability plan to reach carbon neutrality. This community input will inform our city’s efforts to minimize Edmonds’ contribution to the already changing climate.

This recent survey is part of the city’s update of the Climate Action Plan (CAP). We, the members of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee (CPC), feel it is important to emphasize for your readers some of the findings from our community. To review the entire survey results, workshop notes, and CAP progress please visit (https://www.edmondsclimate.com/).

Four hundred fifteen Edmonds residents responded to the survey via the webpage, and via paper surveys mailed to randomly selected households. The majority of the respondents (285) lived in Edmonds, while approximately one-fourth lived and worked in Edmonds.

While the majority of respondents were concerned about every type of regional climate impact, over 75% of respondents were either “extremely concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the climate impacts of:

  • Increased wildfires (82%)
  • Loss of habitat and species (79%)
  • Poor air quality (79%)

In addition to high regional climate concerns, the majority of respondents also expressed concerns about local climate impacts. Most were extremely or somewhat concerned about the “well-being of future generations” and “local natural, open spaces” (75% and 71%, respectively).

Results indicated there is a clear sense of shared responsibility for who should engage in climate actions. Individuals as well as federal/state and city governments, and large and small businesses are all responsible for acting on climate change. Additionally, respondents agreed that action to minimize climate change is good for businesses in Edmonds, it helps to save money and resources, and for the health and livability of their community.

When asked what strategies the Edmonds community should apply to minimize climate change, respondents replied:

  • For buildings and energy:
    • replace fossil fuels with renewable energy resources for energy supplied to the community,
    • improve efficiency of existing buildings and infrastructure, and
    • improve efficiency of new buildings.
  • For transportation:
    • reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through more sustainable land use patterns (e.g., transit-oriented development), and
    • reduce VMT by improving transit systems.
  • For waste and natural resources:
    • increase carbon sequestration, and
    • reduce material consumption, waste generation, and resource depletion.

And, last, people were asked two key questions:

  • What individual actions are they already doing that supports climate action goals, and
  • What individual actions are they willing to do to support climate action goals?

Many replied that they already engage in a variety of everyday activities, such as recycling, saving energy by turning off lights and water, and buying energy-saving bulbs. Respondents also use reusable and compostable containers and beverage bottles or bring their own, and shop at local businesses.

Plus, many respondents are willing to engage in actions that require a higher level of effort (i.e., time or money) including purchasing or driving all-electric or zero-emissions vehicles and invest in solar panels for homes or businesses.

Clearly there is a sense of urgency in the community to take action to minimize the dangers of our already changing climate, and a willingness to make changes in our lifestyle to help accomplish that.  That sense of urgency has been heightened by the impacts we have recently experienced with the extreme heat this summer and the smoke we endured in the last two summers.  To achieve our community goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, a combination of individual and institutional actions are necessary. Each sustainability focused change that individuals, governments, and businesses make contributes to a healthier climate and an improved community.

Why not join us in taking one new sustainability action?  A relatively easy step that can have a significant impact is reducing your local car trips. Perhaps, just once a week, combine your car trips around the area. For instance, go to the library to pick up those books on hold on the way to the grocery store instead of going home between each errand. Better yet, invite that neighbor or family member along who has trouble getting out. Enjoy the conversation as you shop together. Reducing car trips by even a small amount makes a difference. If all Americans reduced their car trips by just 10 percent, that would reduce carbon emissions by roughly 110 million metric tons (about the same as taking 28 coal-fired power plants offline for a year). Source: Root, Tik and Schwartz, John, “One Thing We Can Do: Drive Less”, New York Times, Aug. 28, 2019.

Pledge to make one small change this week; the climate and your loved ones, your children, and grandchildren will thank you.

Sincerely,

Bryn Chighizola, Lisa Herb, Cynthia Pruitt and T.C. Richmond
City of Edmonds Climate Protection Committee

  1. I am surprised to see no mention of protecting our tree canopy. With eighty-seven percent of trees in Edmonds on private property, it is up to developers and homeowners to safeguard the important role that our trees play in pulling carbon out of the air and releasing oxygen. I lament the steady loss of trees that I have witnessed in the 60+ years I have lived here, and I worry what the next 60 years will bring of we continue to allow the kind of clear-cutting and removal of old, healthy trees that seems to characterize current property development and redevelopment.

    1. I have been actively trying to save 2 Heritage old growth trees on a sub-plat development in my neighborhood since last year. I was able to get a temporary hold on their removal (as was originally planned), and am now waiting for the public hearing to be posted while trying to inform my neighbors.

      It’s going to take citizens monitoring development notices on the City website and/or keeping an eye out for Land Use placards to save more trees. The recent tree code work has helped but it’s not the end-all.

      New development notices now include a tree plan that clearly shows the property, the existing trees, the species condition/health/size and proposed plan, that is, to be removed or saved.
      It’s a great resource! This info is now being provided as an outcome of the Tree Board’s work, I believe.
      Citizens can participate in public comments and/or share their input via email with the City Planning Office regarding development plans and tree removal. Our Legacy/Heritage trees should be protected whenever possible, and lot grading requirements/height restrictions can be the primary reason a tree is slated for removal.
      The question is “does a particular tree really need to be removed, or is there another solution?”
      It is up to the community- if we don’t speak up, no one will. We must all get involved. Gone are the days where we can assume “someone else” is going to do the right thing. Decisions are made based on very different parameters and desired outcomes that do not necessarily favor trees but the developers. While there have been improvements to the review of trees in the case of development, citizens need to be involved and advocate for the trees because the codes are not enough.
      Edmonds Development Notices link:

      https://edmondswa.gov/cms/one.aspx?portalId=16495016&pageId=17555268

  2. Kathleen Sears THANK YOU. I also wondered as to why trees weren’t mentioned. Too controversial I’m thinking. Walking by houses with no large trees around, just asphalt, it’s noteably warmer than the diminishing few houses with a tree or 2. Personal freedoms or a habitable planet?

  3. We need big changes !
    As the latest IPCC report makes clear, Climate Change is here, it is bad and it is going to get much worse.
    We need to stop driving gas guzzling SUVs. I look around and I see very few electric cars. We need to stop buying gas powered cars and and create economic incentives so that we can afford to buy electric cars.
    We need to stop using natural gas to heat our homes. Natural gas is is not a clean fuel. It is not a transition fuel . The methane released by fracking and use of natural gas is doing tremendous damage. Methane is much more toxic to our atmosphere than CO2. We must transition straight to renewable energy for our homes/buildings heating and cooling. There should be no new gas hookups for any new construction. We have the electric heat pump technology and new electric appliances. It is time to use that technology and leave the deadly methane in the ground.
    Time is of the essence. We must make these significant changes now, not later. We have a responsibility for our future generations and for our planet itself. It is a responsibility that we can bear gracefully . We know the facts and we must act accordingly. Whether we like it or not, it is up to us to make these necessary changes .
    Thank you everyone for doing your part!

  4. The single biggest thing we can do as a city and as Edmonds citizens to protect our environment and minimize climate change is to reject the Housing Commission recommendations to up-zone Edmonds and eliminate single family zoning. The more structures built on a lot, the more concrete and the less trees and vegetation — which means more heat and pollution since concrete absorbs heat and trees clean and cool the air. As developers develop, they cut down trees and tear down existing, viable homes. What once made up a home all goes to the landfill. Then more trees are cut down to supply lumber for building large multi-family structures, some of which will have zero lot lines. These cover more land than what was existing, which means a loss of natural habitat for wildlife. While development goes on, large, noisy construction vehicles will be driving up and down our city streets damaging our roads and emitting toxic exhaust fumes. With more people living in these new structures comes more cars, more pollution, and more infrastructure — none of which is good for our environment or the climate. Keep in mind, I am not advocating for no more building in Edmonds. There is plenty of building going on all over Edmonds. I’m simply saying that we have existing single family zoning that is good for Edmonds citizens and good for our environment so we should preserve it. If you want to make a difference, speak out against the disastrous Housing Recommendations. Write the council and mayor. Speak at council meetings. Let everyone know that you support the climate and our single family neighborhoods.

    1. Kathy,

      Thank you for your excellent comment. Save Our Marsh (SOM) and the Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds (ACE) issued a joint statement regarding the potential environmental impact of the proposed Citizen Housing Commission recommendations. Here is a link to their statement on https://housing.aceedmonds.org:

      https://housing.aceedmonds.org/joint-save-our-marsh-som-and-alliance-of-citizens-for-edmonds-ace-letter-regarding-housing-commission-proposals/

      And on myedmondsnews:

      https://myedmondsnews.com/2021/06/letter-to-the-editor-housing-policies-must-honor-unique-environmental-features-of-edmonds/

      You’re in good company with your concerns. Save Our Marsh is currently working to restore function of the Edmonds Marsh east of SR104. Here is a link to the most recent update on that project:

      https://myedmondsnews.com/2021/08/edmonds-marsh-restoration-more-volunteer-events-scheduled/

  5. In all of these comments I see no mention of one of the easiest and most effective changes individuals can make to reduce the impact of human activity on climate. More trees than we lose in Edmonds annually are cleared to provide grazing land for cattle. You don’t have to give up meat and dairy entirely to have an impact. If you currently eat meat daily, choosing one day a week that you give up all animal products can make as much difference as all of the other changes recommended above combined. If you have chosen one day to eat vegan, try adding a second.
    Also, especially critical during heat waves such as the one we are currently experiencing is to avoid the urge to purchase an air conditioner. They use more energy, further warming the atmosphere. Also, the coolants in AC have an enormous impact on greenhouse emissions if not properly disposed of. Improving your home insulation can net big savings on energy bills while making your home more comfortable. Adding solar panels further reduces the heat gained from sun beating down on your roof in addition to supplementing the generation of sustainable energy nearer the point of use.
    In addition, reducing the use of plastics (made with fossil fuels) by refusing to purchase “recyclable” plastic containers, very few of which ever get recycled, further adding to methane production from landfills.
    Finally, buying less, living more simply, replacing unproductive energy wasting lawns with vegetable and herb gardens, and rain gardens with native plants to support our declining native plant and animal populations are other steps we can take to improve our chances or retaining and restoring our planet’s livability for all.
    Each of us can choose some place to make a change and each change can lead to others until we find our way out of this catastrophe barreling down on us.

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