Emeryville Lowest Per-Household Carbon Footprint in the Bay Area according to UC Study

Published On February 15, 2016 | By Rob Arias | News, News & Commentary

Emeryville’s been on its share of best/worst lists. This is a good one. A joint study between UC Berkeley’s CoolClimate Network and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) was recently released analyzing the Bay Area’s carbon emissions. The ambitious study ranked each census block in the nine-county Bay Area by its carbon consumption. The study found that our city has the lowest per-household carbon footprint … in the entire Bay! The study takes into account each household’s energy use, transportation, food, goods, services, construction, water, and waste.

The study doesn’t elaborate specifically what factors about Emeryville give it the top spot, our mixed-use formula appears to be a factor. “Cities exemplify the ecological benefits of density—having a lot of people living close to work, entertainment, and each other cuts down on overall greenhouse gas emissions” according to this assessment on CityLab.com.

The “ideal” living situation, as noted in this SF Chronicle’s analysis of the data, is an area with low carbon footprint per household and high population which seems to epitomize Emeryville. Other criteria that seem to fit the Emeryville template well include size of home (thus the amount of energy it takes to heat or cool it), the number of cars owned and commute time.

Emeryville has been criticized for its ample studios & lofts and general lack of “family-friendly” housing but clearly these smaller, denser units are more efficient than the typical 3-Bedroom with a detached garage suburban sprawl model. The study doesn’t seem to take into account our large daytime population (estimated to be three times our resident population) and the amount of cars drawn to us. The Emery Go-Round does a good job of offsetting this and accounts for 1.7mm riders annually. Having several grocery stores within a 1 mile radius is presumed to also be a factor.

Oakland was also cited as an example of a “low-carbon city” having a low-carbon footprint combined with a high population. The unincorporated community of Stanford is a bit of an anomaly as it contains a high population of college students with lower household incomes, compact housing and robust transportation practices.

Smallest Bay Area carbon footprint per household by tons of carbon dioxide equivalent:

  1. Emeryville: 30.7
  2. Stanford: 3.15
  3. Rio Vista: 33.7
  4. Richmond: 36.3
  5. Oakland: 37.2

On the other end of the spectrum is the County of Marin who despite a reputation of being eco-conscience, fared poorly in the study. Wealthier communities as a whole seemed to rank low in the study, something exacerbated by lifestyles that include frequent travel, higher consumer consumption and low use of public transportation. Some of these lifestyle choices are offset by overall high rates of recycling and adoption of higher-efficiency appliances and vehicles according to this article in The Marin Independent Journal.

Largest Bay Area carbon footprint per household by tons of carbon dioxide equivalent:

  1. Atherton: 85.7
  2. Piedmont: 75.9
  3. Alamo: 72.4
  4. Ross: 69.2
  5. Portola Valley: 68.0

The study claims to be the most granular carbon footprint assessment in the world and is an attempt to showcase how each region is contributing to global climate change. The nations of the world committed to slashing carbon emissions at the COP21 summit recently held in Paris.


Emeryville’s Carbon Footprint

No. of Households: 1099
Emeryville’s Total Emissions: 29.67 MT CO2e
The chart below breaks down the key sectors contributing to the total CO2e emissions:

emeryville-carbon-footprint-graph

A further breakdown of the criteria outlined in the study:

Total Emissions:

Greenhouse gas emissions per family vary depending upon household income, household size, home size and location, and many other factors. This map displays average household carbon footprints at a fine-grained geographic level, the US Census block group. (Block groups in the Bay Area contain an average of 690 households.) Emissions are based upon an econometric model that employs data from surveys and other sources to estimate GHG emissions on a full life-cycle basis. As the map shows, household GHG emissions can vary considerably from one block group to the next within a given city. Likewise, emissions vary from city to city.

Transportation:

The transportation sector, which accounts for 33% of total Bay Area emissions, includes GHG emissions from motor vehicle use, public transit, and air travel, plus emissions embedded in the production and maintenance of motor vehicles. Transportation emissions vary at the household level based upon proximity to public transit, density of the neighborhood, access to local goods and service, etc. Air travel varies greatly and is highly correlated with household income.

Housing:

The housing sector, which accounts for 13% of total Bay Area emissions, includes construction and maintenance of residential housing; consumption of electricity, natural gas, and fuel oil for residential heating, cooling and cooking; water consumption, and waste disposal. Home size and energy efficiency of the home are key factors in GHG emissions from the housing sector.

Food:

The food sector, which accounts for 19% of total Bay Area emissions, includes emissions embedded in the production of meat, dairy products, cereals, fruits and vegetables, consumed both in the home and outside the home. GHG emissions related to food consumption are similar regardless of household income.

Goods:

The goods sector, which accounts for 18% of total Bay Area emissions, includes emissions embedded in the production of clothing, home furnishings, electronics, recreational gear, personal care and cleaning, and health supplies. Consumption of goods is highly correlated with household income.

Services:

The services sector, which accounts for 18% of total Bay Area emissions, includes emissions embedded in the full range of services that comprise a major segment of the modern economy, including healthcare, education, entertainment, financial services, information, and communication. Consumption of services is highly correlated with household income.

The SF Bay Area Carbon Footprint Map:

Other notable lists that Emeryville has appeared:

Most Stressful Community in California (CreditDonkey.com)
Most Dangerous Bay Area Cities (FBI)
Walkability/Affordability Ratio (Walk Score/Zip Realty)
Best City to Start a Business (NerdWallet)

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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