Sacramento Seen in Green: City Voted 7th on Environment

Back in 2002, Sacramento earned an award from Time Magazine for being the most diverse city in the nation. It’s still a badge of honor we wear proudly, and it’s time to add another star to our uniform. Sacramento has officially been ranked the 7th “Smarter City” by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Basically, we’re mean on being green.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) didn’t pass out this honor lightly. Their mission is to “protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.” Birds, bees, trees, you, and me—the NRDC is trying to protect us all. Their “Smarter City” ranking drew upon a number of environmentally-friendly criteria, breaking down the results by city size. Sacramento was measured in the “large city” grid along with jolly green giants San Francisco, Seattle, and the like.  

The study measured criteria including the standard of living for residents, public transportation, air quality, and green space (for which our city did not even rank in the top 10), as well as water quality (we ranked 9th) and green building (we ranked 8th).

Sacramento was number one for “Environmental Standards and Participation”—which means our city includes environmental standards in its departmental policies and seeks active participation from citizens in making these decisions. Yet, also in 2009, our city’s major source of pride, the American River, was added to the list of America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers due to “outdated water and flood management,” according to the nonprofit group American Rivers.

We also fared well in the NRDC study under “Energy Production and Conservation,” because we essentially use more renewable energy (like solar or hydroelectric) in our city than we do nonrenewable sources (like coal or oil). Additionally, our city offers incentive programs for energy conservation. (Thanks, SMUD). We ranked an impressive third in this category. In a city without water meters and a city that uses nearly 100 gallons more water per capita than the state’s average, this ranking seems misplaced… Perhaps our city’s recent (if not too late) commitment to conserving water influenced this outcome.

We squeaked in at number ten when it comes to recycling.

According to the NRDC’s website, they reached their conclusions based on data from the EPA, US Census, and self-reporting through surveys sent directly to mayors’ offices. Of the 655 cities asked to participate, only 24% did. The small sample size shouldn’t deflate our happiness. After all, we were competing with environmental giants like evergreen Seattle, Portland, and San Fran.

Yet, we should hold off on cart wheeling down the streets. We’ve got plenty of room for improvement. We can still close the gap where we scored less than perfect by working to conserve water and heighten our own environmental standards. Sacramento should feel proud to celebrate its place at the green table, but view the award as a swift kick to score even better the next time around. When it comes to a healthy environment, we should only be satisfied when we’ve achieved 100 percent perfection.

This ultimately means that each one of us has a role to play. You can be better about recycling. You can help pick up trash along the river. Or, you could become a Citizen Reporter for the NRDC. They’re encouraging each of us to document and report environmental stories from our community and post them on their website. Whatever action you take, you’ll be doing your part to keep Sacramento cleaner and greener, which makes us all winners.

One thought on “Sacramento Seen in Green: City Voted 7th on Environment”

  1. Actually, it was more that the census data showed we were/are the most diverse city in the US, not that Time gave us an award or gave us that name … but still, yeah.


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