Back in 2002, Sacramento earned an award from Time Magazine for being the most diverse city in the nation. Itâ€™s still a badge of honor we wear proudly, and itâ€™s time to add another star to our uniform. Sacramento has officially been ranked the 7th â€œSmarter Cityâ€ by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Basically, weâ€™re mean on being green.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) didnâ€™t pass out this honor lightly. Their mission is to â€œprotect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.â€ Birds, bees, trees, you, and meâ€”the NRDC is trying to protect us all. Their â€œSmarter Cityâ€ ranking drew upon a number of environmentally-friendly criteria, breaking down the results by city size. Sacramento was measured in the â€œlarge cityâ€ grid along with jolly green giants San Francisco, Seattle, and the like.Â Â
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 â€œEnvironmental Standards and Participationâ€â€”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 cityâ€™s major source of pride, the American River, was added to the list of Americaâ€™s 10 Most Endangered Rivers due to â€œoutdated water and flood management,â€ according to the nonprofit group American Rivers.
We also fared well in the NRDC study under â€œEnergy Production and Conservation,â€ 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 stateâ€™s average, this ranking seems misplacedâ€¦ Perhaps our cityâ€™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 NRDCâ€™s website, they reached their conclusions based on data from the EPA, US Census, and self-reporting through surveys sent directly to mayorsâ€™ offices. Of the 655 cities asked to participate, only 24% did. The small sample size shouldnâ€™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. Weâ€™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 weâ€™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. Theyâ€™re encouraging each of us to document and report environmental stories from our community and post them on their website. Whatever action you take, youâ€™ll be doing your part to keep Sacramento cleaner and greener, which makes us all winners.