Bay Area cities find ways to fill green niche 

In the wake of Al Gore’s documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," many Bay Area cities are examining what they can do to reduce any harm they do to the environment, particularly when it comes to carbon emissions.

Many are weighing how they can implement recent recommendations, such as the one from Sierra Club that calls upon everyone to reduce their carbon emissions by 2 percent per year for the next 40 years. However, many cities have each found a niche when it comes to sustainability, from stricter green-building laws to the creation of recycled-water pipelines.

Here’s a quick rundown of what cities are working on:

San Francisco: The City has been environmentally friendly practically since the Gold Rush, when locals began recycling, according to Robert Reed, spokesman for Norcal Waste. Nowadays, recycling and composting are second nature to many residents, while officials continue to develop ways to go greener.

San Francisco is pursuingan aggressive goal to reduce overall carbon emissions by 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2012, according to David Assmann, deputy director of the Environment Department. As of this month, The City’s garbage trucks all run entirely on cryogenic fuel or biodiesel rather than standard diesel, a move that will reduce carbon emissions by 5,400 tons per year, Reed said.

In addition, all new buildings are required to meet green-building standards developed by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

San Carlos: Green buildings need suppliers, and San Carlos officials will meet May 14 to discuss how to convert the city’s booming building-supply sector to something greener, according to Assistant City Manager Brian Moura. The city is already home to one such firm, Ecodesign, as well as Tesla, the producers of the first all-electric sports car.

Daly City: As new green buildings go up and older ones come down, cities are finding ways to recycle old building materials and new construction materials. Daly City is kicking off new rules that require any renovations costing more than $15,000 per square foot and any new construction costing more than $25,000 to divert waste materials to recycling facilities.

Menlo Park: Menlo Park hopes to create an enclave for alternative-fuel producers and a "green vehicle" auto mall, according to Mayor Kelly Fergusson. A number of fuel firms, including Unidym, Solazyme, Direct Carbon Technology and Zeachem, are already established in the city.

Fergusson kicked off the Green Citizens Committee in March, a group that will examine policy for local businesses, government and residents — as well as protection against the effects of global climate change on low-lying parts of the city.

Burlingame and Millbrae: Both of these cities are launching or upgrading "co-generation" wastewater plants thatuse alternative fuels to get their jobs done. Millbrae takes local restaurant grease, turns it into biodiesel, and saves roughly 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. Burlingame’s facility captures methane and uses it to generate up to 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Not to be outdone, the San Francisco International Airport is installing solar panels that will save up to 5 megawatts of electricity for Terminal 3. More solar panels are planned at the airport, according to airport spokesman Mike McCarron.

Redwood City: Redwood City was using more than its allotment of water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, yet wanted to expand. To do so, the city constructed a recycled-water system that treats wastewater and pipes it to local business parks. The system launched this spring and is designed to reduce Redwood City’s water use by nearly 300 million gallons by 2010, according to Community Development Director Peter Ingram.

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Beth Winegarner

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