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Green for a Day, but Then Comes Tomorrow

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But still, the bay is not much better.

So why doesn't better participation equal bigger results?

"That's the ultimate question, isn't it?" said Elizabeth Buckman, a foundation spokeswoman. She said that part of the problem is that the task of cleaning the bay -- which would involve digging up septic tanks, cleaning farm runoff and altering storm water systems -- turned out to be harder than anyone expected.

"I hope nobody's given up," she said, "because we haven't."

Similar frustrations dog those trying to reduce the region's contributions to global warming. One group called Cool Capital Challenge has asked area residents, businesses and governments to pledge to reduce their contributions to climate change. By its deadline today, the group expects to have recorded pledges worth 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide.

But challenge leader Steve Coleman said he thinks only about 20 percent of the people who made pledges are on track to keep them. They have stumbled, he said, on the daily challenges of a smaller carbon footprint, such as less driving and a colder house in wintertime.

"It's really hard for people to think of dressing differently," wearing a sweater indoors, for instance, he said. "They say, 'Oh, no, I can't do that.' We are soft. We really are just used to being mollycoddled."

Still, though, activists say they see evidence of an encouraging change in attitudes, here and everywhere. They say it's possible that, at least on the subject of climate change, some people will begin making the drastic changes that scientists say are needed to avert catastrophic warming.

In Kensington, government employee Tim Willard has gone further than most. As in: two hybrid Toyota Priuses, a house full of compact-fluorescent bulbs and, in the back yard, the beginnings of a garden so he can avoid buying food that's been trucked long distances. "The hundred-foot diet," he calls it.

"We're going to have to make changes" as climate change becomes a bigger issue, said Willard, 56, who works at the National Archives. "And I want to get started."

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