View of Albany coastline
View of Albany, California, from Albany Bulb. (Photo credit: LPS.1 / Wikimedia)

Albany, California, is not very large – less than two square miles. But its residents set some big goals for reducing their carbon emissions.

Day: “We thought, how hard can it be to make a change in a small city like ours?”

Jessica Day is co-founder of the Albany Climate Action Coalition. Her group helped push the city council to automatically enroll all of Albany’s residents and businesses in a carbon-free electricity plan.

Day: “We found out that that decreased Albany’s carbon footprint by over 4,200 metric tons, all in one fell swoop – in one vote – so that’s amazing.”

That reduction is like driving ten million fewer miles in passenger cars each year.

The new default electricity plan relies mainly on large hydropower sources, and does not cost customers any more money. Those who are willing to pay a bit more can opt into a plan that uses only solar and wind.

Day says citizen involvement was key to making the change.

Day: “Everybody thinks that you need to have an audience like Justin Bieber to make an impact, but the real thing is that you have a lot of currency with your immediate audience – those are your neighbors or your friends – and it’s really about finding ways to empower them to take action.”

Reporting credit: Ariel Hansen/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Samantha Harrington, director of audience experience for Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. Sam is especially interested...