Sacramento is making progress toward Mayor Kevin Johnson’s goal of becoming the green capitol of the nation, green leaders said Tuesday at the final Greenwise Intitative meeting.
Alice Waters, chef, activist and co-owner of Chez Panisse, Mayor Sam Adams of Portland and honorary co-chair of Greenwise Initiative Chancellor Linda P.B. Ketehi gathered at the California Museum to discuss Sacramento's resources and collaborative efforts.
“After the last 24 months, in terms of the triple bottom line sustainability – environmental, social and economic sustainability – your city has gone from kind of good work – but middle of the pack – to a real bullet, and people are really watching what you’re doing,” Adams said.
Portland is currently the most sustainable city in the nation according to Adams, yet Sacramento has amazing advantages over Portland when it comes to environmental sustainability.
These advantages include more sun and wind, less rain, flatter land and electricity that is three times as expensive. All of these, collectively, he said, equal a “much better green dividend.”
He referenced Portland’s Climate Action Plan, which was created with the city’s natural strengths in mind, and said that there is no difference between Portland and Sacramento in terms of what’s possible.
“You have – in the industry of clean technology and sustainability, with UC Davis and our own work – some amazing strengths to build off of as well,” Adams said.
Chancellor Ketehi reviewed some of the ways the University of California, Davis contributes to green initiatives such as Greenwise.
“Institutions like UC Davis bring something very valuable to this partnership, and that is the intellectual wealth that has been generated by many over the years,” Ketehi said. “We see ourselves as creating a platform that can connect many activities around the state with very specific emphasis in the region.”
She also announced the university’s recent movement to build an “innovation hub” that will act as an incubator for information and ideas to be put into practice across the region.
Dr. Judy A. Kjelstrom from UC Davis is on the clean and green technology subcommittee and said she has been to every Greenwise meeting since it began in May.
“It’s nice to see the culmination of all the partnerships that are developing out of the May meeting,” Kjelstrom said. “Again with our Chancellor coming today and to really have a partnership with our University and Sacramento.”
She said she believes these partnerships promote the very important message that we’re in it together.
Johnson also commended the work of UC Davis, as well as Sacramento’s public policies, resources, weather and ability to work well together as contributing success factors.
He likened the discovery of green to the discovery of gold and posed the question, “Why can’t we transform Sacramento into the Emerald Valley? Why can’t we be the greenest region in the country and a hub for clean technology?
“There’s no reason why we can’t,” Johnson said. “We just need to stay committed and work together.”
He reminded everyone that over the last 13 years, the region has experienced an 87 percent green job growth, which is No. 1 in the state.
Johnson also shared that Sacramento is No. 1 when it comes to any other metropolitan area in the country in terms of solar installation per capita.
Chef Waters concluded the meeting with her own green stimulus plan grounded in the practice of “Edible Education,” which has affiliates across the country.
“We need to reinvest in public education, but this time by coming through the lunchroom door,” Waters said.
Her plan, called the Edible Schoolyard Program, provides breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack to every child for free. Waters shared the four main points of this program.
“By setting a criteria for the buying of food in schools, school lunch could stimulate a local economy of sustainability, by paying the real price to the farmers and produces for food,” Waters said. “The money would go directly to the local organic community.
“By removing the financial burden of parents having to provide for their children’s lunch, not only do you save them the expense, but you also reassure those parents that their children are going to be nourished.
“By investing in the educational infrastructure, you’re hiring the people who breathe life into the program and rebuild the schools.
“The final point: it would stimulate our students to learn in a way that isn’t new but has been forgotten.”
She asserted that this plan could transform the school system overnight.
She said she was not surprised when The UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health released an evaluation report on the Edible Schoolyard Program, after studying it for three years, which pointed to a dramatic shift in the children’s attitude and behaviors towards healthy food.
A member of the audience, Noreen James, who works in the Economic Development Department for the City of Sacramento, and said she would like to see Waters’ program in Sacramento.
“We have this huge problem in this country with our youth and nutrition and I liked that Waters has a programs that she has put in place to help children become aware of what they’re eating, becoming aware of healthy choices and become healthier people, because they are our future and I hope that the city of Sacramento invests in her program,” James said.
Photos courtesy of Phil Kampel Photography.