M-A student Giselle Martinez managed to surprise a roomful of environmentally-conscious people last week at Facebook when she performed a beautiful song about greenhouse gas emissions that she had written. As one Menlo Spark board member said after her performance, it is not common to hear a song that includes the words “emissions” and “dot-org.”
But perhaps even more impressive than Giselle’s song is what inspired the lyrics: Menlo Spark’s goal of carbon neutrality in Menlo Park and the Menlo Green Challenge.
The event last week was Menlo Spark’s launch of the pilot version of the Menlo Green Challenge. Several speakers stressed the benefits of reaching carbon neutrality in Menlo Park – a city that represents a broad range of economic backgrounds as well as both industrial and residential areas.
Diane Bailey, executive director of Menlo Spark, followed by explaining how the company’s partnership with Facebook has already saved about 100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions through the installation of solar panels for low-income families in the Belle Haven neighborhood.
The Menlo Green Challenge involves two phases. First, the user inputs data in order to calculate their carbon footprint. Then, they are able to sort “action items” – like cost, or amount of effort – in order to see which methods of reduction are ideal for their circumstances. Each “action item” is worth a certain number of points, with each point equivalent to 1 pound of carbon dioxide emissions.
This point system allows users to form groups and compete with one another, possibly earning rewards from local business sponsors. The city of Fremont already uses the Green Challenge site, and several local schools do as well. Soon, Palo Alto will be the next city to join the challenge, allowing the three participating cities to compete among themselves for the lowest carbon footprint.
Diane provided this post event update: “We have 30 households signed up so far with a goal to sign up 150 households and reduce 2000 tons of CO2 by the end of the year. We’ll be sending tips each month on how to save money while reducing your carbon footprint. ”
Photo by Kate Flanagan