Something remarkable happened on the march towards SB 375, the California Sustainable Communities Planning Act of 2008, otherwise known as California’s greenhouse reduction initiative. In March 2012, Beverly Hills received the distinction of being the first city in Los Angeles County to emerge as green leader in environmentally-friendly transportation. All it took was installing some public charging stations for electric vehicles in city parking garages and switching to compressed natural gas for maintenance vehicles. And credit card parking meters powered by solar panels.
Around the same time, Travel and Leisure Magazine named San Diego as the eighth greenest city in America. Electric cars were once again meritoriously cited, along with San Diego’s user-friendly public transportation and solar energy. A re-energized discussion on a high-speed railway from Northern to Southern California became chic again and Anaheim emerged as a possible station candidate. SCAG promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions nine percent by 2020 and 16 percent by 2035.
Ambitious aims, to be sure. When it comes down to making our tiny corner of the planet more habitable, every little bit counts. Motor vehicles generate the greatest amount of air pollution, spitting out 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 30 percent of nitrous oxide. Yet, long commutes and poor urban planning discourage the ditching of our cars. Sure, it’s easy to say bike it, walk it, carpool, but it’s mostly myth and people don’t actually do it.
One of the ways cities have endorsed environmental sustainability is by implementing local measures that promote public transportation. Cities are rethinking public transportation infrastructures to enhance accessibility. High speed rail systems have returned to the bargaining table and cities have become best friends with electricity-powered engines. Beverly Hills and San Diego got their citizens to buy in to alternative technologies, but it probably took major infusions of limited funds to fuel their rise to the top.
How can we help on the road to SB 375? Downsizing vehicles, optimizing trips (running all your errands in the geographical location in one fell swoop) and carpooling are some of the hyped ways. Major companies can do their share too by kicking in subsidies to those employees who choose an environmentally-sustainable alternative to their SUVs.
Not every municipality will win prestigious awards and make national news like Beverly Hills and San Diego did with their efforts, but when we all do our share, we inch a little closer to becoming a national leader and voice on environmental sustainability, our biggest claim to fame.