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Report: Phoenix reduces greenhouse emissions by 7 percent from 2005

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PHOENIX – A new methane-capture system in a Buckeye landfill used by America’s sixth-largest city helped reduce annual carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 40,880 metric tons from 2005 levels.

Putting LEDs in streetlights and adding solar panels like the ones on Phoenix’s garages conserved 8,513 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. Using biodiesel fuel in city vehicles has saved 6,068 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from entering the air.

A series of small steps has helped the city of Phoenix reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about 7 percent, according to a report by Arizona State University.

“It’s a global problem, and locally we can fix it,” said Philip McNeely, the city’s environmental programs manager. “Our goals are to save money and be more efficient.”

After exceeding its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent from 2005 levels, the city is now aiming to reduce emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2015, McNeely said.

One of the biggest savers: LED lights.

Streetlights, traffic lights and city building lights have been changed to LEDs, which use 50 percent less energy and last longer than incandescent bulbs, McNeely said.

Phoenix operates and maintains about 90,000 light fixtures, said Matthew Heil, spokesman for Phoenix’s Street Transportation Department. After five years of testing eco-friendly streetlights, the city officially adopted LEDs as the standard.

About 350 street lights have been converted at a cost of about $425 per fixture, Heil said in an email.

“We’re saving money by using LED lights,” McNeely said. “We’re saving money in our buildings.”

The biggest municipal sources of greenhouse gases are operating facilities, fleets and landfills, said Rajesh Bush, practice lead for Sustainability Solutions Services, part of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. The city has made progress in these areas, he said.

People are migrating to cities and consuming resources, making cities responsible for building a sustainable future, he said.

Greenhouse gas emissions make cities hotter, increasing energy demand, and decrease air quality, Bush said.

It all ends up affecting community well-being, he added.

McNeely said there’s plenty of room to build on the city’s success date.

“We wanted to be ahead of the ball,” he said. “A lot of the stuff we’re reducing is through programs we are already doing.”