City Looks to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions With Low Carbon Diet

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Walking 10,000 steps per day has been part of Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates' personal agenda since May, but at a low carbon diet workshop next week, he will expand these and other actions as part of a community-wide movement to meet the city's greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

"As mayor, I'm just trying to set an example that you can reduce your carbon footprint and live a very healthy lifestyle," Bates said. "You're doing something that's good for you as an individual and you're doing something good for the planet.

On Jan. 28, Bates will kick off the "Learn How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint" workshop encouraging Berkeley residents to go on low carbon diets together to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions.

The workshop, inspired by David Gershon's "Low Carbon Diet: a 30-Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds" workbook, will take place at 7 p.m. at the Hillside Club in North Berkeley. The mayor's office will donate the workbooks to the first 50 attendees.

A partnered effort by the city, Ecology Center and Berkeley Energy Commission-the workshop is meant to contribute to the city's environmental consciousness efforts.

In 2006, Berkeley voters passed Measure G, which directed the mayor to work with the community to develop a plan aimed at reducing the city's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

A second draft of the Climate Action Plan, written in January 2008, has been available for public viewing since September. A third draft, expected in March, will be sent to the City Council for consideration in the spring.

A chapter of the plan calling for community outreach and empowerment makes the low carbon diet particularly meaningful, said Nils Moe, assistant to Bates.

"More than just developing a Climate Action Plan, it's about developing a climate action movement," he said. "(The low carbon diet) is one of the many steps along that route to really building a truly community-led movement."

The Ecology Center has been conducting climate change action groups since August using the workbook as its curriculum, said Debra Berliner, the center's climate action coordinator.

Participants in the Climate Change Action Project, a month-long program, begin by calculating their carbon footprint and creating an action plan. In the following weeks, they choose ways to change their lifestyle and household routines, eventually expanding efforts into their community.

"We are also training people with the tools and resources to form their own group with five to 10 friends, family, co-workers," Berliner said.

Scott Murtishaw, chair of the Berkeley Energy Commission, said the low carbon diet is a unique approach to reducing emissions because it encourages individuals to keep each others' decisions in check.

"It really encourages people to read about not only their actions as individuals, but is oriented towards getting people together ... and hold each other accountable," Murtishaw said.

Timothy Burroughs, the city's climate action coordinator, said the low carbon diet is a healthy step for the city that each community member is encouraged to take.

"Ultimately, what we'd love to see is hundreds of these groups sprouting throughout the community," he said. "The effect of that would be huge."


Jessica Kwong is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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