The City of Santa Monica, California in 1994 implemented a progressive new course of action regarding the city’s local responsibilities, with environmental concerns becoming a prominent issue in local decision making. Working under the sustainable development framework, the City reworked eleven major citywide policies with regard to both urgent environmental concerns as well as cost effectiveness of each improvement plan. The idea was to create an example for other communities of the feasibility and success of a city structured around long-term environmental sustainability. Santa Monica exhibits just what specific policies are required to achieve sustainability, moving from the ideological level to the implementation stage

This case study describes the techniques that the City of Santa Monica is using to implement the overall goal of sustainability. There are eleven larger issues that the City has identified as environmentally damaging and has targeted these as places to change city policy. The eleven are – community and economic development, construction and development, education, energy, hazardous materials, housing, purchasing, solid waste, storm water and wastewater, transportation and water. For each of these a goal is determined in accordance with the sustainability principal and then projects are implemented to achieve that goal. I will look at two policies, energy and education – showing which specific projects are used to solve the overall goal.

Energy is a very tricky issue involving sustainability goals. Fossil fuels are a finite resource whose emissions create environmental problems; nuclear and hydroelectric have major drawbacks as well. Santa Monica’s long-term solution is a complete switch to renewable resources. However, at the present technology level this switch is unfeasible, so the next-best alternative is maximizing energy efficiency. Working with the local energy companies Southern California Edison and The Gas Company the city has come up with a plan to reduce energy consumption by 16% by 2000.

There are three projects the City has adopted to accomplish the task. The first is ENVEST, (Energy Efficient Retrofits of City Facilities) which is a joint venture with Southern California Edison. The goal is to reduce energy consumption with the installation of energy efficient equipment (primarily lighting, heating and cooling system upgrades, and energy control systems for buildings) in City facilities. The initial cost of the equipment will be paid from the accrued savings over a twelve year span. While the equipment has a life span greater then twelve years the city will realize all benefits from decreased energy consumption after that debt has been paid off. The second is International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). This is a worldwide campaign aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the local level. By joining, the City is committed to conducting citywide greenhouse gas emissions analysis, establishing a greenhouse gas reduction goal, and developing and implementing a plan to achieve that goal. The emissions reduction plan will include energy efficiency programs aimed at transportation, buildings, resource management, and land use. The third is the EPA’s Green Lights Program; this is aimed at receiving the benefits from installation of energy efficient lighting. The goal was to replace enough lights to cover 90% of the square footage of City facilities with the requirement that the benefits outweigh the costs.

With education the City realizes that the success of the policies implemented now depends on the level of commitment and dedication of the next generation. In curriculum planning, sustainable development has become an underling theme. In total seven programs have been introduced, each introducing students and teachers to resource friendly behaviors. The first is a school gardening program. This program funds student maintained gardens. What this accomplishes is an understanding of plant life and responsible water use with drip irrigation as a water-sensitive means of irrigating the gardens. Another program is targeted at reduced consumption of water and energy. Students are compare and contrast their current uses of energy and H2O with more efficient uses, education students with the practical benefits in both reduced consumption and savings. Hazardous Wastes are covered in another program. Topics are looked at in the creation, transport and storage of the byproducts. Ideas are summarized in a Gentle Earth Expo. put on by the students to share ideas. Teacher workshops are held to educate the teachers on a number of environmental issues. Certification has also been required for many of the teachers. The fifth is a grant program toward ‘green’ projects. Sponsored by the City, $2,390 was distributed in 1995, directly benefiting more innovative ways of environmental education. The final one is a recycling program in schools was introduced to reuse the wastepaper generated by the classroom, helping students get into the habit at an early age.

What Santa Monica has done is a big step towards sustainability but its success should be viewed with some caution. What the City did was outstanding, to take the initiative and implement these policies. However, Santa Monica is located in a very wealthy area of this country and can afford to be concerned with environmental issues. With wealth comes an increased concern with the environmental, but sustainability is not limited to a handful of wealthy communities.