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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cool Davis organizers aim for more sustainable city

The City of Davis is known for its sustainability and commitment to energy efficiency, as Davis was the first city to adopt the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. A Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, also referred to as the Climate Action Plan, was created in 2010 to achieve this goal.

As a result, a group of citizens came together and started the Cool Davis Initiative, a grassroots organization intended to help the city achieve the goals from its Climate Action Plan.

“We started with a small group of people to implement the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan,” said Lynne Nittler, one of the founding members of Cool Davis. “Now after three years, we have a lot more people involved and name recognition in the community. We are ready to seek out grants for new projects.”

Since 2010, Cool Davis has held a festival each fall to help promote their cause and inform the community of new efforts they are undertaking.

Over the last year, under the leadership of Cool Davis, the City of Davis has been participating in the Cool California Challenge. The campaign encourages cities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions one household at a time. Residents are encouraged to visit the Cool California Challenge website and log their utilities and transportation usage.

According to Cool Davis volunteer Christine Backman, Davis is currently in first place and they are hoping to win the challenge, which ends on May 31.

Previous workshops
Backman described the many workshops Cool Davis has hosted to help encourage and inform residents of ways to reduce their energy usage.

One of the their most recent workshops in February was a Cool Home workshop held at the Mary L. Stephen’s Davis Branch Library. It was open to community members who wanted to learn how to measure their energy usage and improve home energy use.

“We showed people how to log on to the Cool California Challenge website and how to use the PG&E [Pacific Gas and Electric] website to do a self-audit of their energy use,” Backman said. “We also informed people that the library rents out wattmeters for free.”

A wattmeter measures how much energy a particular appliance consumes.

Nittler said that getting 75 percent of households involved and lowering their carbon footprint by 2015 is one of their short-term goals.

After the Cool California Challenge ends, Cool Davis will launch a new campaign in 2014 called the One Cool City Campaign, which has the same goals: reducing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation, energy usage and consumption.

City efforts
Cool Davis works toward the Climate Action Plan’s goals by focusing on getting the community involved with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to supporting the efforts of Cool Davis, the city hosts various forums on issues such as transportation, energy conservation, household carbon reduction programs, walkable neighborhoods and local food sources.

Nittler said the city and Cool Davis are currently mapping out the city in order to plan out alternative transportation methods for different neighborhoods. Based on the commuter patterns of the majority of residents in a particular neighborhood, the city will suggest different modes of transport, including biking, busing or carpooling.

Chris Granger, a member of Cool Davis, said that the city is in the middle of a new energy plan to help them achieve their goals by 2050.

“The city is working on looking at ways we can develop our own municipal utility services with Community Choice Aggregation (CCA),” Granger said. “CCA would allow the city to purchase power for the whole city and therefore be able to provide alternative energy sources.”

Granger said Marin County and Richmond have already adopted this model.

Community involvement
Cool Davis has a number of community partners that help them work toward the goal of carbon neutrality. A few include B&L Bike Shop, Davis Chamber of Commerce, the Davis Farmers Market, Davis Pedicab, Unitrans and the Valley Climate Action Center.

The newest partner of Cool Davis is the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation.

“Being part of a larger ‘green’ community such as Cool Davis will help us to focus our efforts. Just bringing us into the community with other organizations with sustainability as part of their mission will help to strengthen our resolve,” said pastor Dan Smith.

A variety of local organizations have teamed up with Cool Davis because they share the same goals of carbon neutrality and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in order to live more sustainably.

Jeff Falyn and Lyndsay Dawkins of Nature’s Theater, a group that produces environmentally-themed books and plays for children, said their mission is to get young people to engage in environmentally-themed plays and activities in order to show them the joys of being outside. Falyn and Dawkins said they are grateful for the opportunity to present their plays at the Cool Davis Festival in the past.

Village Homes, a passive solar community built in the 1970s, joined Cool Davis as a partner in order to spur individual homeowners into action. They want to further efforts to conserve water, produce zero waste and provide alternative transportation methods.

Additionally, in order to encourage individual residents to live more sustainably, Cool Davis awards Eco Hero awards each year. The awards are intended to highlight actions of ordinary citizens who model incorporating sustainable practices into their civic and everyday lives.

Mayor Pro Tempore Dan Wolk also presented businesses and organizations that model ways to reduce their environmental impact, and lead others toward climate stabilization with Climate Solutions awards. Davis Bike Collective, Local Government Commission and the Davis Flea received this award.

Student opportunities
The UC Davis student branch of Cool Davis is called Make Davis Cool. They reach out to students and organizations on campus that help people live more sustainably.

“Students are a wonderful force for good,” Granger said. “They have an opportunity to recognize values of sustainability in all aspects of the community, including the dorms and alternative transportation with bikes and buses.”

Cool Davis produced a pamphlet entitled “Cool Solutions: A Renter’s Guide to Sustainable Living,” which students living off campus could find useful, Nittler said.

In Fall Quarter 2010 and Winter Quarter 2011, Make Davis Cool organized a class called “The Field Guide to Sustainable Living in Davis” and taught close to 50 students about living sustainably in Davis.

Backman said that people can start with simple steps to living sustainably, such as drying clothes on a clothesline.

“Every person we contact helps to improve our project,” Backman said. “It helps us work towards our ultimate goal: engagement with 75 percent of the community in working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be carbon neutral by 2050.”

PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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