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Originally published Monday, April 21, 2014 at 8:03 PM

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Report details city’s environmental progress, hurdles

A new wide-ranging environmental report shows the city of Seattle making progress toward such ambitious goals as trying to curb climate change and boost recycling.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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If you want to get a picture of both the progress and the challenge Seattle faces in attaining its ambitious environmental goals, consider the carbon emissions of its residents.

From 2008 to 2012, the amount of carbon produced from transportation, building energy and waste — so-called “core emissions” — fell 6 percent per person per year in the city. But because Seattle is growing so rapidly, the total emissions produced annually in the same period grew 1 percent.

That modest growth in emissions, even while Seattleites are reducing their individual carbon footprint, makes it that much tougher to achieve the city’s goal to cut total core emissions by 58 percent from 2008 levels by 2030.

“There are places where I look and see our aspirations and our challenges and say, ‘Wow, we’ve got our work cut out for us,’ ” said Jill Simmons, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability & Environment. “Our goals are bold. There’s a lot to do.”

The data comes from a report, to be released by the city Tuesday for Earth Day, called Moving the Needle. The report assembles data on the progress Seattle is making on goals in seven broad environmental categories, everything from climate change to water use.

The report is the first time the city has compiled data about all its environmental goals in one report. Simmons hopes it will set a benchmark for the city to measure itself against in the future.

And she’d like the report to help identify strategies to reach multiple goals, such as designing sewage-overflow protection systems into sidewalks that also could make the city more pedestrian-friendly.

The city, which compiled the data, found it has made significant strides in its development of green buildings and use of renewable energy. But the report also showed Seattle’s transportation infrastructure isn’t keeping pace with needs.

“Transportation funding is a challenge for us,” Simmons said.

Among the report’s other findings:

• Hydropower supplies 92 percent of Seattle’s electricity.

• The number of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, certified commercial buildings in Seattle jumped 179 percent from 2008 to 2013.

• Seattle’s solar-power capacity today is 38 times greater than it was in 2008.

• In 2012, 49 percent of Seattle workers commuted in a single-occupancy vehicle, down from 53 percent in 2011.

• The city’s fleet of electric vehicles saved 9,000 gallons of gas in 2013.

• The number of P-Patch gardeners jumped from 4,772 in 2010 to 6,329 in 2013.

• While 70 percent of the waste from single-family households was recycled in 2012, only 30 percent of the waste from multifamily buildings was.

• The amount of waste sent to landfills declined 27 percent to 318,000 tons from 2006 to 2013.

• While the city removed 917 trees for power-line clearance, public safety and other issues, it planted 3,082.

The report doesn’t make any recommendations for improving the city’s environmental record or revving up efforts to meet its goals. Simmons said it is the first step in creating that “environmental action agenda.”

“Hopefully, by next Earth Day, we’ll have that,” Simmons said.

Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or jgreene@seattletimes.com. Twitter: @greene



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