Wildfires are one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the state of California. As a matter of fact, wildfires in 2018 released the rough equivalent of about 68 million tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide – about the same amount of carbon emissions as are produced in a year to provide electricity to the state. This staggering statistic highlights the troubling nature of fires – families, communities and our environment are all detrimentally impacted by these now normal events.
As a result of this stark reality, we have worked hard over the past decade to implement proactive and preventive measures to address the threat of wildfires and reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the region. One such measure we have deployed, wildfire fuels management, has recently gone one step further to not only achieve our environmental and safety goals, but to provide an additional benefit to the communities and organizations we serve: nutrient-rich mulch.
Turning wildfire fuel into nutrient-rich mulch
Over the past six months, SDG&E’s Environmental Services and Vegetation Management have been carefully thinning vegetation around structures in high risk wildfire areas and turning the native plants they remove into nutrient-rich mulch that can be reused to enrich other organic landscapes and gardens. The organic material is either donated or given to local businesses and philanthropic organizations to assist in important environmental programming or to simply enhance their outdoor landscaping. By repurposing this organic material that would have otherwise gone to a landfill, we are able to reduce carbon emissions and our use of landfill space.
New approach benefits the entire region
The effort has helped us achieve the proverbial trifecta: reduced wildfire risk, diminished carbon emissions and additional community benefit. Since the beginning of the fuels management effort, Environmental Services has donated approximately 2,000 cubic yards of mulch to organizations throughout our service territory. That donation amount is enough to fill an entire football field with one foot of mulch. In just the past four months, more than half of the repurposed mulch was given to local schools, like Southwestern and Cuyamaca Community Colleges, farms, parks and non-profit organizations, like Children’s Nature Retreat Foundation.
This innovative and environmentally-friendly approach to waste has been paramount in helping create a winning scenario for everyone in our region. We are committed to wildfire safety and environmental sustainability, and look forward achieving even greater milestones that benefit the entire region. To learn more about our commitment to wildfire safety, please visit our wildfire safety webpage.