Major Emissions Sources
What activities are contributing the most to our regional carbon footprint?
Buildings and energy. When we turn on the lights, turn up the heat, or power up an appliance, we are consuming some source of energy, including electricity and natural gas.
Transportation and land use. Moving people and goods efficiently is a key function of a thriving community, however, all that driving, and sitting in traffic generates significant emissions. Most transportation emissions are from the burning of fuels like gasoline and diesel.
Waste and wastewater. Collection, transportation, and processing of waste and wastewater requires energy, which is often derived from the combustion of fossil fuels. Additionally, wastewater treatment and the decomposition of waste can produce methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.
WHAT ABOUT CONSUMPTION-BASED EMISSIONS?
This iteration of Thurston’s greenhouse gas inventory only tracks emissions from activities that occur within Thurston County.
A consumption-based inventory is based on the emissions generated by the production, shipping, use, and disposal of products and services consumed in the Thurston area, regardless of where the GHG emissions were released.
Although the inventory did not measure consumption-based emissions, the project partners recognize the large role consumption-based emissions have in our region’s carbon footprint and may be incorporated into future plan updates.
Agriculture and forests. Farmland and forests can contribute to climate change in a variety of ways, deforestation, excessive fertilizer use, manure, and livestock all produce a variety of greenhouse gases; while planting trees, amending soils, and creating natural drainage systems can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in plant matter and soils.
Other sources. In addition to the above sources, emissions can be produced from a variety of activities and behaviors, including refrigerant leakage from air conditioning, lighting our roads, and clearing land for development.
Thurston County's Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Currently, the majority of our region’s measured contribution to climate change comes from powering, heating, and cooling our buildings and driving vehicles. The built environment and transportation account for 89% of Thurston County’s total emissions.
Emissions related to solid waste disposal, wastewater treatment, agriculture and land use, and refrigerant leakage also contribute to the county’s total emissions (see pie chart to the right).
The carbon footprint for the Thurston County area in 2018 was 3,207,846 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e)—that amount is equivalent to the emissions from nearly 700,000 passenger vehicles in a year. Overall emissions have been increasing over time— 7% since 2015 (see trends below).
On a per-capita basis, each person emitted an average of 11.4 MTCO2e in 2018. Even though the population of Thurston County increased 5% since the 2015 baseline, per-capita emissions remained relatively constant.