By Gregg Fishman.
Addressing climate change across an entire government structure isn’t easy. So when the Alameda County Board of Supervisors decided they wanted to reduce the county’s carbon footprint 15 percent by 2020, the Sustainability Team drafted a Climate Action Plan—a blue print if you will, for how they would reach the goal. They knew that it would take a team effort.
In fact, it would take several teams to connect with 20 county departments that are now taking steps to reduce carbon emissions. Any department can foster recycling for example, or carpooling as methods to produce less greenhouse gas. Those things work almost anywhere. But you can also imagine that what works for the Department of Public Health might not for the Department of Public Works. The County Library system might find different methods than say, the County Jail.
So, how do you break down silos to effectively share that information, and get more people to participate? It’s not easy reaching out to county departments with the message that they had to start doing things differently. So the Sustainability Team created “climate action teams” people from various county departments that may or may not work together on a regular basis.
These teams helped collect information about what individual departments were doing. And they helped to share that information with their peers in other departments. The sustainability team provides structure and support, but the climate action teams spread the word even wider. They engage in friendly competitions, share innovative practices and even have some fun with carbon reduction.
The results are impressive. Alameda County now has electric vehicles in the fleet, a bike sharing program, plus bike racks and storage at many county facilities, and a virtual meeting app so people from Oakland, Fremont, Berkley and Pleasanton can have a meeting and no one has to drive. These are just a couple of ways that the climate action teams use to help reduce carbon output.
But the funny thing is, the climate action teams are doing more than just reducing the county’s greenhouse gas emissions. They have spawned a number of other ancillary benefits. People who might never have met each other are now building relationships among disparate parts of the county structure, collaborating on projects and helping with other issues.
Alameda County’s climate action plan is working—not only to reduce the county’s carbon footprint, but it’s helping employees rethink how they deliver vital services to their communities.