Close Subscribe

Get the Weekly Recap!!

Get recaps, exclusive offers, stories and discounts. We’ll never share your email address and you can opt out at any time, we promise.
Where do Philly’s Carbon emissions come from?
Energy

Where do Philly’s Carbon emissions come from?

In a big city like Philly there are many culprits. But these 3 take the cake.

Philly’s Office of Sustainability has set aggressive sustainability goals leading to the year 2050 like cutting carbon pollution 25 percent (from 2006 levels) by 2025, reduce pollution by 80 percent by 2050, and achieve a 100 percent carbon-free electricity grid by 2050.

This will no doubt be a massive feat for climate mitigation, but it requires planning and effort by the city and its contractors.

Wait, back up. What are Carbon Emissions again?

Carbon emissions (CO2) make up the majority of heat trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Essentially, burning fossil fuels (like coal, natural gas and oil) are the biggest culprits, according to the EPA.

To cut greenhouse gas emissions, essential city services will have to be replaced, modified, or eliminated. But what exactly is contributing the most to our carbon footprint?

What sources do Philly’s carbon footprint come from?

Ranking in at number one biggest source of emissions in the city we have….

1. Buildings = 79% of our total CO2 Emissions

Philly’s most significant source of pollution is the built environment, i.e., buildings, accounting for a whopping 79 percent of our total emissions, and 28 percent of emissions globally. In a city with over 600,000 buildings, sustainably powering them will have to be addressed systemically.

Why is this a big deal?

Most of what you see around you when walking in downtown Philly is grey infrastructure; it’s how most cities look. It’s efficient spatially but is self-defeating by being very energy-intensive. This is mostly due to electricity, heating, cooling, and insulation inefficiencies.

Among the city’s goals is a reduction of carbon pollution from city-owned buildings and streetlights 50 percent by 2030.

The most intuitive step is to increase energy-efficient design. However, “the most sustainable building is the building that’s already there,” which is why retrofitting becomes an extremely valuable practice. Installing more energy-efficient windows and insulation is one primary step in the right direction. These adaptations can also cut the buildings’ energy consumption overall, reduce the reliance on the grid, and lower energy costs for the building.

What you can do:

In your own home, you can incorporate similar retrofitting practices. Insulating your windows, opting for fans instead of air conditioning, changing a leaky faucet, etc. are all simple measures to mitigate resource reliance.

2. Transit = 19%

Right after buildings, there are transportation emissions from cars, trucks, and busses, accounting for 19 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Why is this a big deal?

We all know the dirty story of modern transportation. Philly’s cars, buses, and trucks dominate the nitrogen oxide output for the city. Fossil fuels used to power vehicles create greenhouse gases.

Every day in Philly, at least pre-COVID-19 times, around 400,000 people drive to work – and not efficiently. 341,670 of these commuters are alone, with a slim 55,071 carpooling. This is just one example of transportation-based emissions in the city, not to mention public and industrial contributions.

What you can do:

Despite what you may have heard about the pandemic reducing our travel emissions, it was a mixed effect on the city of Philadelphia. We all have more work to do!

Check out Cleaner Commute by the Clean Air Council with resources on how to make your commute more sustainable.

Another way to reduce transit emissions: support local, sustainable food. Choosing locally-grown strawberries (over a national brand) reduces the miles racked up before they got to your fridge.

3. Waste

Trash has become another climate crisis in itself. It poses threats to our ecosystem, humans and contributes a considerable 3% to total emissions, coming in as the third most polluting sector in the city.

Why is this a big deal?

The processing of trash produces a considerable amount of greenhouse gas. Whether it’s taken to an incinerator or left to decay in a landfill, current means of handling non-recyclable waste means the creation of harmful emissions.

Contrary to popular belief, trash is NOT meant to decompose in a landfill. But even with preventative measures, waste in landfills releases carbon dioxide and methane gas. When the trash is incinerated, a slew of compounds such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and ammonia is generated. All have terrible implications for air quality and emissions.

What you can do:

Buy less. Reuse or repurpose what you can. Compost your veggie scraps. THEN Recycle. Throw stuff away as a last resort.

Doing your Part

While these are issues that need to be addressed by the government and the industries they stem from, there are ways you can help on an individual level.

Check back in with us soon for some tips on reducing your carbon footprint in your own home.

Featured photo by Elevated Angles

Become a Supporter!

If you love what we do you can support our mission with a one-time or monthly contribution.
array(3) {
  [0]=>
  object(WP_Term)#4448 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(2488)
    ["name"]=>
    string(16) "carbon emissions"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(16) "carbon-emissions"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(2500)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(4)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
  [1]=>
  object(WP_Term)#4462 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(325)
    ["name"]=>
    string(15) "green buildings"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(15) "green-buildings"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(326)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(9)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
  [2]=>
  object(WP_Term)#4463 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(3665)
    ["name"]=>
    string(6) "Philly"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(6) "philly"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(3673)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(5)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
}
Jada Ackley
Jada is a senior Environmental Studies major at Temple University with a minor in City and Regional Planning. Currently Jada is an Editorial Intern at Green Philly. Her Interests includes enjoying nature and advocating for sustainability! View all posts by Jada Ackley

2 thoughts on “Where do Philly’s Carbon emissions come from?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Green Philly

Featured
In These
Great Spots: