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Sustainability

The City of Sunnyvale is dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability and fostering a healthy and livable community. The Climate Action Plan (CAP) is the City's road map for reducing community greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The CAP is designed to achieve the State’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by the year 2020, as legislated in Assembly Bill 32. For Sunnyvale, a 15 percent reduction from 2008 levels is equivalent to 1990 levels. Our community’s greenhouse gas emissions come from several key areas: community energy use (54 percent), transportation (37 percent), landfilled waste (5 percent), and water use (1 percent). The remaining emissions come from various other sources, such as off-road equipment and Caltrain.

The CAP contains more than 130 distinct actions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money, and contribute to healthier lifestyles. Key strategies are summarized below.

Energy

Commercial, industrial, and residential energy use is the largest contributor to Sunnyvale’s emissions. When fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are burned to produce energy, they also release pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The City’s strategies to reduce emissions from this sector focus on switching to more renewable energy sources and energy conservation. Based on our 2014 greenhouse gas inventory, energy-related emissions decreased by 28 percent and 25 percent, respectively, compared to 2008 levels in the residential and commercial energy sectors (for both electricity and natural gas).

Strategy Actions Progress
Increase the amount of renewable energy delivered to the community and produced locally. In 2014, Sunnyvale joined with the County of Santa Clara and other cities to develop a community choice energy program that would provide clean energy to residents businesses. Silicon Valley Clean Energy now offers greenhouse gas-free and 100% renewable electricity to local utility customers.
Encourage renewable energy use in residential and commercial sectors through incentives and green building programs. Streamline the permitting process and adopt building codes that encourage residential and commercial solar installations. As of 2015, solar installations in Sunnyvale supply a total of 10.8 megawatts back to the grid, enough to power almost 3,000 homes.
Increase energy efficiency in community and City operations. Champion energy efficiency through public education and promote grants and rebates for home energy efficiency upgrades.
Encourage commercial energy efficiency through building codes and Green Building incentive program.
Convert all street lights to use energy-efficient LEDs.
Compared to 2008, Sunnyvale’s 2015 residential electricity use has decreased by 8% and natural gas use has decreased by 20%.
2.6 million square feet of commercial space has been built to the City’s green building standards.
The City has converted more than 1,800 streetlights to LED and is currently converting the remaining 7,600 streetlights.
Transportation

Vehicle travel is the second largest contributor to city-wide greenhouse gas emissions. When vehicle fuels like gasoline and diesel are burned, greenhouse gases are released. The City plans to increase options for residents to bike, walk and take public transit. Through infrastructure improvements and land-use planning, the City will create central areas for the community to more easily access public transit and visit local stores and services. Emissions from on-road transportation increased by 2 percent from 2008 to 2014.

Strategy Actions Progress
Make biking, walking, and use of public transit viable, everyday options for more Sunnyvale residents. Expand bike lanes in Sunnyvale and promote use of bike lanes as an easy way to get around the city. Percentage of commute trips taken by bike have doubled (from 0.7% in 2008 to 1.4% in 2014) and Caltrain ridership has increased by 45% since 2008.
Create urban centers with access to public transit and local stores. Adopt a Land Use and Transportation Element that identifies key areas and specific plans to increase public transportation options at employment centers. These areas include Lawrence Station, Peery Park, and the El Camino Real Corridor. Last-mile solutions such as shuttle services (between public transport and employment centers) are being explored. The City recently developed Peery Park Rides Pilot, a grant-funded 2-year pilot program to shuttle employees from major transportation hubs to Peery Park area, a commercial area proposed for redevelopment.
Promote the use of cleaner fuel cars and car shares, and improve the flow of traffic to reduce vehicle idling.

Adopt policies and building codes that support clean fuel adoption, such as EV charging station pre-wiring and preferred parking stalls for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Utilize an Intelligent Transportation Management System to improve traffic flow.

As of 2014, there were more than 470 electric vehicle chargers in Sunnyvale and more than 1,500 alternative fuel vehicles registered to Sunnyvale owners.

The City has installed smart traffic lights in key corridors in North Sunnyvale to help keep traffic moving.

Waste

When waste decomposes in a landfill, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Many of the items that are regularly sent to the landfill can be reduced, reused, or recycled or composted. The City’s Zero Waste Strategic Plan sets a goal of keeping 75 percent of Sunnyvale’s waste out of the landfill by 2020. The City is exploring multiple strategies to divert as much waste as possible in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Based on 2014 Greenhouse Gas Inventory, emissions reduced by 15 percent in this sector from 2008 to 2014.

Strategy Actions Progress
Promote reusable items instead of single-use products.

The City banned single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam food containers in 2014, and is planning to ban the distribution and sale of single-use plastic water bottles at City permitted events.

Outreach promotes reusable items and the reduction of waste through behavior change.

Solid waste generated by the community decreased by 4.5% from 2008 to 2014, despite an increase in population of 10%.
Divert waste from landfills to compost or recycling

Sunnyvale’s residential food scraps program will expand citywide in fall 2017. Food scraps will be collected separately from garbage and made into animal feed.

Multi-family complexes have been participating in the City’s Multi-Family Recycling Program since 2014, which diverts about 160 tons of waste monthly, a significant portion of the 750 tons of recycling generated by all Sunnyvale residents monthly.

The increase in implementation of compost and recycling programs resulted in a 64% diversion rate in 2014.
Water

Pumping, treating, and heating water contributes to the City’s emissions because these processes require energy. Cutting back water consumption and recycling water allows us to reduce this energy consumption and keep our water sources from running low during droughts. Emissions in this area increased slightly due to changes in the calculation method.

Strategy Actions Progress
Reduce indoor and outdoor potable water use in residences, businesses, and industry. Through partnerships, the City offers rebates for low-flow fixtures, drought-tolerant landscaping and lawn replacement. Sunnyvale has decreased its water use per person by 25%, surpassing the State's 20% goal set in 2014.
Increase the use of recycled water for irrigation and outdoor purposes. Sunnyvale is expanding its recycled water program to build a new pipeline along Wolfe Road. Sunnyvale currently recycles 15% of its water and has 18 miles of recycled water pipelines.
Last Updated: Aug 9, 2017
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