The updated climate report recommended both residents and government buildings should compost when possible to reduce emissions and lighten the load on the Bath Landfill. (Photo courtesy of Mari Eosco)

BATH — Last week the Bath City Council accepted a revised climate action report, which revealed the city reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 27% over the past ten years, but Bath can still do more to slow global warming, the report states.

The original climate action report, written in 2007, set the goal of reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over the next decade. As a result of its success, the city now aims to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, are released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels like coal and oil are burned. The gases trap heat from the sun, causing the earth to warm and, consequently, contributing to warming oceans and sea level rise.

Seas are now rising at one-seventh of an inch per year, 2.5 times faster than the rate from 1900 to 1990, according to a 2019 report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report predicted sea level will rise three feet by the end of the century if steps aren’t taken to reduce emissions and slow warming trends.

The Bath emissions report, which used data from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, found the city’s industrial sector had the highest greenhouse gas emissions, 99 percent of which can be attributed to Bath Iron Works, which employs nearly 6,000 workers. The city’s industrial emissions were equivalent to the emissions from about 3,700 houses over one year.

To reduce its environmental impact, the shipyard partnered with Efficiency Maine and is in the midst of a multi-year program to replace BIW’s lighting with more efficient LEDs, or light emitting diodes, which use less than half the energy.

BIW declined to comment.

While the industrial sector had the highest emissions, Bath residents consumed the most energy. In 2018, Bath’s 8,329 residents, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau, were responsible for 36 percent of the city’s total energy consumption.

The report recommends residents replace ordinary light bulbs with LEDs, use alternative forms of energy like solar power if possible, and compost organic materials like fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells and coffee grounds, according to Erika Helgerson, assistant to the city manager and director of human resources.

Composting organic materials keeps a portion of the city’s waste out of the Bath landfill, which is the largest emitter within the government sector, accounting for 51 percent of the municipal emissions and 16 percent of municipal energy use. In 2018 the landfill emitted the same amount of greenhouse gases as 458 cars driven for a year.

“Diverting the compostable items in our waste stream would reduce what goes into our landfill,” said Helgerson. “The small steps people take individually can make a big difference.”

The city has two public compost drop-off sites where residents can drop off their compost for free. The two sites collected 17,500 pounds of compost in 2018 and 18,750 pounds from January through September of this year, according to Lee Leiner, Bath’s public works director.

Currently, 160 households utilize Garbage to Garden, a Portland-based composting service. If that number were to double to 320 over the next 10 years, Bath would divert 3,600 tons of organic waste from entering the Bath landfill.

“This is a mind shift,” said Mari Eosco, chairwoman of the Bath City Council. “The city cannot control what people do individually, so the city needs to be leading by example with a lot of our practices.”

Dylan Vorhees, climate and clean energy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said taking action against climate change comes down to the choices people make every day, whether that’s the decision to walk or bike somewhere rather than drive, or composing when possible.

“When that piece of land of species of animal disappears forever, a group of people had to make a decision for that to happen,” said Vorhees.

While city officials haven’t made any firm plans as a result of this report, the document listed several recommendations including converting all streetlights to LEDs and converting all municipal buildings to solar power.

Earlier this month, Bath voted to allow an amendment to a charter that limits the length of contracts the city can enter into, opening the door for the city council to explore environmentally friendly options for powering city facilities through solar power, which requires a 25-year contract.

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