TAMPA — We're about to find out the size of our carbon footprint.
City officials made their choice this week from a pool of 13 companies vying to complete a greenhouse gas inventory analysis of Tampa.
They plan to recommend Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan to the City Council as early as Aug. 12.
The analysis, funded with $70,000 set aside from a federal energy grant, will break down emissions into two separate inventories — those produced by Tampa as a whole and those produced from city government operations.
The city will use the inventories to track trends, develop a sustainability action plan and reduce emissions.
When presented with polar bears and rainforests, people often get emotional about environmental issues, said Thomas Snelling, the city's green officer and manager of administration for the department of growth management and development services.
But this study will be a useful tool.
"It takes the emotion and the anecdote out of it and gives a better basis on science," he said. "It's going to say what our greenhouse emissions are. What we do with that information is up to us."
The detailed inventory was part of a pledge made by Mayor Pam Iorio. In 2007, she signed the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, which commits the city to meeting environmental benchmarks.
The agreement pledges to reduce global warming by, among other things, recycling, planting trees and promoting mass transit.
Since taking office, Iorio has expanded the city's recycling program, advocated for light rail, and assembled a green team.
She gave up her city-issued Lincoln Town Car for a Toyota Camry Hybrid in 2007.
But she also has taken heat for not moving faster.
"This is long overdue and I am glad that it may actually happen," said council member Mary Mulhern in an e-mail to City Times.
Mulhern said she has been asking for the inventory for 3 1/2 years and that it could have been completed with no cost to the city by graduate students or by financing through future energy savings.
Snelling cites progress in the city's daily operations with simple things such as double-sided copies and electronic messages. Other cost savings include changing out bulbs at 360 intersections to LED lights. Some new city buildings have cool roofs, hands-free faucets and light sensors. A planned fire station will meet LEED silver standards.
In 2009, the Florida Green Building Coalition awarded Tampa a gold certificate as a Florida Green Local Government for commitment to the environment. It was one of two awarded statewide.
Funding for the inventories comes from a $3.7 million federal energy conservation grant awarded in October through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Snelling said.
He expects the analysis to be completed in six to eight months.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at (813) 226-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.