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PRESS RELEASE December 13, 2009
Contact: Tona Barkley 502-320-3275 [email protected]

32 Frankfort area households cut carbon emissions by more than 260 tons in grassroots project

To address climate change, nine Frankfort and Franklin County organizations partnered this fall on a household greenhouse gas reduction project called “Lighten Up, Frankfort!” Last Saturday evening, Dec. 12, the organizations and participants celebrated their accomplishments to date at the Kentucky Coffeetree Café in downtown Frankfort.

Sixty-one households joined the effort this fall and 32 of them had reported their carbon reduction action plans to the Frankfort Climate Action Network (FrankfortCAN) coordinators in time for the celebration. The 32 reporting households made cuts in their annual greenhouse gas emissions totaling 317,700 pounds and pledged to make further cuts of 209,600 pounds within a year of completing their plans. Actions completed and pledged amount to more 266.7 tons of greenhouse gas pollution that will not go to into the atmosphere in the coming year as a result of the changes made by the Lighten Up participants. When all of the participants finish their meetings and turn in their results, FrankfortCAN organizers are confident that the totals will exceed 300 tons.

Lighten Up, Frankfort! is organized by FrankfortCAN, an all-volunteer group in the community. Members or employees of the participating organizations formed teams of three to ten households that met four times and committed to actions that reduced each household’s greenhouse gas emissions by anywhere from 2,000 to 80,000 pounds per year. The teams used a workbook called “The Low Carbon Diet,” and the quantities used to project households cuts are based on estimates provided in the book.

In addition to FrankfortCAN, Lighten Up teams were formed at First Christian Church, Frankfort Chapter of the United Nations Association, Franklin County Cooperative Extension, Frankfort Electric & Water Plant Board, Kentucky State University, South Frankfort Neighborhood Association, South Frankfort Presbyterian Church Frankfort and the Unitarian Universalist Community of Frankfort.

Teams leaders for the fall pilot were recognized for their leadership. They are Robin Antenucci, Mike Bomford, Bruce Cassidy, Kim Cowherd, Vent Foster, Brenda Gardner, Irma Johnson, Connie Lemley, Fonda McWilliams, Paula Miller, Larry Moore, and Jackie Sue Phillips. Franklin County Extension’s Kim Cowherd received special recognition for organizing the most teams: four through her work and two at her church – First Christian. Two of these teams will begin meeting in 2010.

“We’re heartened by the success of the pilot program this fall, and we applaud the organizations that stepped up to lead the community in this effort,” said Lighten Up Coordinator Tona Barkley. “We set a goal of cutting 100 tons of CO2 through the fall pilot, and we more than doubled that. Now that we’re rolling, we expect participation to take off in 2010. In fact, we know six teams are forming for next year, and we are actively recruiting organizations and team leaders to join the effort.”

“The workbook provided advice and simple actions to take to help reduce CO2 emissions,” commented Sharmista Dutta, a water engineer at the Frankfort Electric & Water Plant Board who was on the Plant Board’s Lighten Up Team. “Both the workbook and the meetings helped show just how easy it is to cut emissions. Discussing the actions taken with other team members and realizing that others are doing the same actions helps create a sense of ‘making a difference.’”

Actions participants chose to reduce their carbon emissions ranged from installing low-flow shower heads, increasing recycling, reducing the number of clothes-dryer loads each week, and installing compact fluorescent light bulbs to planting trees, purchasing Energy Star appliances, sealing air leaks in the home, and eating vegetarian meals one or more days each week.

“The ‘Low Carbon Diet’ book and web site give a systematic way to determine your carbon footprint and show ways that are easy and practical to reduce the footprint,” said Dick Watkins, a retired Lexmark engineering manager who was on the team Frankfort Chapter of the United Nations Association USA Team. “Working in a group . . .yields new ideas and accountability.” Watkins added, “It stuns me that German families have a carbon footprint one-half of ours, and the Swedes have one-fourth of ours.”

“The kids in our group [with their parents] were excited about participating,” said Fonda McWilliams, team leader of the First Christian Church team.  “Children really care about this issue and have a vague sense of what ‘they are supposed to do,’ but they don't really know how to put it into practice in their own lives.  This program gives them specifics that empower kids to make real changes themselves.”

Working through local organizations and using an all-volunteer planning team, FrankfortCAN launched Lighten Up, Frankfort! on a budget of less than $1,000, but hopes to raise funds in 2010 to increase awareness of the project throughout Frankfort, Franklin County and surrounding counties and perhaps to hire one staffer to coordinate the project and volunteer work.

“As this project grows, it is going to require some more manpower, and we welcome anyone who would like to join our planning team,” said Jim Pierce, one of fewer than a dozen FrankfortCAN planners of the project. “That we and the organizations that joined with us were able to accomplish this with so little money indicates to us that people are hungry for ways to reduce their carbon footprints and for leadership to help them do it.”

A recent study for the city of Frankfort showed that household operations produce 56% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the city. According to the study, 13.8 tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases per resident are released into the atmosphere each year.

Americans make up 5% of world population but generate 25% of world greenhouse gas emissions. With CO2 in the atmosphere currently above the level that scientists consider safe, scientists believe emissions must begin to decrease immediately if the world is going to avoid the catastrophic consequences of unchecked climate change.

“This fall pilot is only a beginning,” said FrankfortCAN organizer Connie Lemley. “With something on the order of 18,000 households in the city and county, just imagine how many tons of greenhouse gas emission we could cut if hundreds or thousands of people join Lighten Up teams!”