“Saving Our Planet: Starting in Our Community” — a virtual Earth Day recognition event hosted Thursday by the Charlottesville National Organization for Women and the Sierra Club Piedmont Group — showcased local efforts in Charlottesville and Albemarle County to support the To mitigate effects of climate change.
During the event, Gabe Dayley and Susan Elliot, managers of the Albemarle County and City of Charlottesville Climate Action Programs, presented their jurisdiction’s current plans and goals to address climate change.
“The core of the program is focused on helping the community reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change,” Elliot said. “So climate resilience and climate adaptation – what that looks like in the end is a multitude of things.”
The Climate Protection Program provides services and resource programs directly to members of the community, such as: composting Program. Cooperation with community partners supports the program communicate Educating households and businesses about building retrofits, energy efficiency updates, and increasing support and participation in campaigns such as Solarize Charlottesville — which aims to reduce the cost and complexity of switching to solar energy. In addition, the program addresses policy and helps other City of Charlottesville departments improve operations related to climate.
In Dayley’s presentation, he presented information about a new resource on the Albemarle County website. That Environmental Stewardship Hub — launching April 22 — will be a one-stop website for you to learn about district programs such as biodiversity, climate action, clean water and waste reduction, as well as different ways community members can take action on climate change.
Elliot also provided some goals and updates for Charlottesville. Since 2011, Charlottesville has seen 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to current targets of reducing emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
As a member of Global Convention of Mayors – A Global Alliance for City Climate Action Leadership – Charlottesville has measured citywide greenhouse gas emissions, set a greenhouse gas reduction goal, begun developing a climate action plan, assessed climate vulnerabilities, and launched a climate adaptation plan by identifying climate hazards.
In addition to Dayley and Elliots’ presentations, Office for Sustainability Director Andrea Trimble shared the university’s climate change goals and achievements.
“Our first goal was a 25 percent reduction below 2009 levels by 2025,” Trimble said. “We achieved this six years in early 2019 through various actions – utility-scale solar power, lots of work on the district facilities side, and lots of work in existing buildings.”
That New goals set by the university, will be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil fuel free by 2050. As of 2020, the university listed a 43.9 percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to 2010.
2019 the university partner with William and Mary to help each other achieve carbon footprint reduction goals. This partnership has supported the university in its efforts to complete its first climate action plan.
Does the university implement existing strategies, e.g decarbonization new and existing buildings — which consist of reducing or eliminating carbon emissions from a building’s energy reserve — and increasing renewable energy sources, could account for 56 percent of projected emissions — the amount of the university’s purchased electricity emissions in 2020 eliminated.
Peggy Van Yahres – chair of the Charlottesville Tree Commission and speaker at the closing event – shared the commission’s progress and plans to raise tree canopies in Charlottesville.
“Every four to five years we do a canopy survey to see how the tree population in Charlottesville is, whether it’s growing or declining,” said Van Yahres.
Van Yahres’ presentation outlined several ways in which tree loss is affecting local climates – including the inadequacy of current levels of tree planting. The permanent annual goal is 200 trees, but this goal has not yet been reached. In fact, Charlottesville is often lose more trees than are planted in one year. In addition, low-canopy neighborhoods such as 10th and Page have higher energy costs
“Many families there pay 10 percent or more for energy, while the city average is 2.3 percent of family income,” said Van Yahres.
Van Yahres also described a new fund initiated by the Commission ReLeaf Cville.
“Our [ReLeaf Cville] three goals are planting trees, preserving trees and education,” said Van Yahres. “We really did more on the educational part, especially with kids and teenagers.”
The Tree Commission isn’t the only organization working to get students involved in the fight against climate change. U. Va. Sustainability works with students at the university to educate their fellow students on the importance of sustainability.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Julianne Humidifier, a sophomore and student assistant on the Office of Sustainability outreach team, explained what U.Va. Sustainability takes place at student level. wetter leads the Sustainability Advocate Program – with a focus on semester-related projects on an overarching topic – with two other student employees.
Outside of Moisture’s job on the outreach team, she has worked on zero-waste training for commissioned independent organizations and Greek life. The training sessions are 15- to 20-minute presentations that provide CIOs with the resources they need to host their own zero-waste events while educating them on the university’s climate goals.
Currently, the Office for Sustainability runs three climate-focused student leadership programs – the Sustainability Advocates, the Zero Waste Ambassadors Program, and the Eco Leaders Program.
Humidifier also mentioned lifestyle changes students can make to take action on climate change, including reducing waste and using single-use plastics, trying to incorporate plant-based eating habits, and reducing fast fashion consumption.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Elliot made similar suggestions for college students.
“One day a week or two days a week, students can start changing some of their behaviors,” Elliot said. “It all adds up eventually.”
In terms of volunteering and getting involved in programs outside of the university, Van Yahres suggested volunteering at community organizations like ReLeaf Cville.
“We could use volunteers to plant trees,” said Van Yahres. “We will also be starting a teenage ambassador program in the 10th and Page neighborhoods so eventually we can use volunteers to help us with that.”
While individual efforts are needed to combat climate change, action at the community level is just as important. Through the efforts addressed during Saving Our Planet by the Albemarle County and City of Charlottesville Climate Action Program, the University and the Charlottesville Tree Commission, the Charlottesville area is making strides in the fight against climate change.