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Goucher researchers scrutinize city 'greening' plans

Description: Baltimore has a per-person "ecological footprint" that is 13 percent higher than that of the average American, according to a study of local consumption habits led by a researcher at Goucher College. The measure takes into account how large of an area would be needed to accommodate the city's waste and to secure the resources needed to do so. For all of Baltimore, the area is the combined size of West Virginia, Delaware and Rhode Island, the study found. The largest impacts come from traffic and electricity use, according to the research.

Researchers: German Mora, director of the college's environmental studies program, was the lead author of the study. Ten other researchers contributed.

Stage of research: The study has been submitted to the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, a Goucher spokeswoman said. The office oversees a 21-member city sustainability commission that launched in 2008 and produced a city sustainability plan. The study explores what various aspects of the plan could mean for Baltimore's ecological footprint.

Implications: The most significant improvements to Baltimore's ecological footprint could come from initiatives aimed at getting cars off city streets and reducing electricity use, the study concluded. To limit vehicle emissions, the study suggests increasing density of development, improving convenience and availability of public transit, and offering incentives to reduce automobile use. Proposals in the sustainability plan, such as one to increase the tree canopy, could help modestly, but others that aim to improve home weatherization or institute a citywide "Meatless Monday" would have more significant effects.

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