City’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory showing 22-percent reduction over the past 12 years

Decrease is the equivalent to removing 40,000 cars from the road for one year, EPA says

Image courtesy City of Sarasota
Image courtesy City of Sarasota

“The combination of cleaner energy and more efficient energy usage” has led to a 22-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the Sarasota city limits since 2003, according to a recent inventory conducted by the City of Sarasota, the city has announced.

“[That achievement] highlights our community’s interest and commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and becoming a more sustainable city,” said Stevie Freeman-Montes, the city’s sustainability manager, in a news release. “The Environmental Protection Agency equates that 22-percent reduction to removing 40,000 cars from the road for one year or taking 20,000 houses off the electrical grid,” she continued in the release. “That’s good news for Sarasota and our environment, including Sarasota Bay, because cleaner air translates into cleaner and healthier waterways.”

The Sarasota community decreased emissions in several key categories, the release continues: electrical use in residential, commercial and industrial sectors; water and wastewater processes; and stationery fuel combustion and solid waste.

Freeman-Montes also pointed out in the release, “There are two key reasons for the decline”: first, the energy that the public and [Florida Power & Light] are using is cleaner. “Second, a new solid waste program implemented last year at the Sarasota County landfill is having excellent success converting methane gas to electricity.” Because of the latter, she continued, the city’s share of solid waste emissions from the landfill alone has dropped 87 percent over the past 12 years. “Considering these large system changes in our energy and solid waste sectors, I’m hopeful that in the future we can see similar positive strides with energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation,” she said in the release.

Carbon dioxide emissions were down across the board in the city limits with one exception, she pointed out in the release: vehicle emissions. Although vehicles are considered more energy-efficient today, 10 percent more miles were driven in Sarasota in 2015 than in 2003, leading to 2.5 percent more emissions, she noted in the release.

“The Sarasota community cares about being a good steward of our planet,” said City Manager Tom Barwin in the release. “This substantive report underscores the need for our continuing focus on sustainability and education, particularly with transportation. We need to continue to evaluate viable multi-modal alternatives and concentrate on moving people rather than just vehicles,” Barwin added in the release. “Staff members in engineering, planning, sustainability and the Urban Design Studio are all working toward that singular goal. Whether it’s a solar-powered shuttle service, bicycle paths, bus rapid transit or wider sidewalks to encourage pedestrian travel, we need to continue to explore all viable options that will simultaneously lower our carbon footprint and ease traffic congestion,” Barwin said in the release.

Stevie Freeman-Montes. Image from LinkedIn
Stevie Freeman-Montes. Image from LinkedIn

To better understand climate impact, the City of Sarasota conducted its first greenhouse gas inventory in 2003, and then followed up on that in 2007, the release notes. The results were used as baselines for the 2015 study. A national standardized methodology known as the U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions was used to perform the inventories, the release explains.

The recent inventory was conducted by Jeff Vrendenburg, a City of Sarasota intern and recent college graduate with a master’s degree in sustainability science, the release adds.

“The national protocol used for the 2015 greenhouse gas inventory report emphasized data-driven methodology and scientific rigor in calculating the chemistry and physics behind Sarasota’s emissions,” said Vrendenburg in the release. “The report provides great insight and shows that at such a large scale, small changes can really add up to large difference at a city-level.”

To read the 2015 Greenhouse Gas Inventory executive summary, click here.

For more information about the City of Sarasota’s green initiatives, visit