work in progress

Washington Makes Climate Moves

The nation’s capital is taking climate change seriously – in the mayor’s office, if not on Capitol Hill. In a letter to her constituents today, Mayor Muriel Bowser reviewed the District’s commitments to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases while announcing that she was on her way to Mexico City to attend a conference of mayors and leaders from major cities around the world. According to Bowser, the District has cut its emissions by 23% since 2006 and plans to achieve a 50% reduction by 2032 and 80% by 2050. At the conference, the Mayor will be discussing the District’s new climate change action plan, Climate Ready DC, which was announced by the city’s Department of Energy and Environment last month.

Also today, the Washington Post reported on a technology that the District is experimenting with that might help it achieve those emission reduction goals. A small section of sidewalk less than a mile from the White House has been replaced with tiles that capture the energy expended by people who walk on them. Designed by Pavegen, a UK-based company, the 240 square feet of kinetic-capture sidewalk was also launched in mid-November where an estimated 10,000 people will walk on it each day. All those footsteps are enough to power the LED lights on nearby benches for up to six hours. The technology is still new and the cost of installation too high for consideration on any large scale. The DC government went ahead with the project after the city’s Department of Transportation secured a $200,000 grant. District manager Leif Dormsjo explained in the Post article that he plans to analyze the data from this experimental installation to determine whether it might be applicable elsewhere in the city. Pavegen is developing software that will help capture and analyze the data for clients like Dormsjo.

Pavegen’s founder, Lawrence Kemball-Cook, is particularly excited by the software’s ability to track the people who walk on the company’s tiles. He foresees a new “digital currency” for people who opt in with their smartphones to track their steps and accumulate credits that can be used like points in a credit card rewards program to purchase products. Currently, this particular feature has not yet rolled out.