Environmental sustainability efforts are critical to safeguarding our
natural resources and ecosystems, but also to securing fair treatment
for people of all races, cultures, and incomes in accessing safe and
livable communities. Both partner organizations and individual
residents are working to develop and sustain programs that positively
impact our region and help San Diego County residents live long
and healthy lives.
Local governments have increased their efforts to develop sustainable action plans to help reduce and stabilize the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere while preparing to adapt to the changing climate and become more resilient to climate change impacts in the community. Many jurisdictions are working with their communities and local organizations to address these issues head-on to positively impact public health over the long term.
In recent years, nearly all of the San Diego region’s 19 local governments have adopted a Climate Action Plan (CAP) or are in the process of creating one. CAPs for members of the Regional Climate Action Planning Framework agencies, including the City of Del Mar, City of Encinitas, City of Escondido, City of Solana Beach, City of La Mesa, City of Oceanside, City of Imperial Beach, City of Lemon Grove and the City of San Marcos can be found on SANDAG’s website along with a regional Climate Action Data Portal that provides climate data such as greenhouse gas inventory and climate activity data.
Both the County of San Diego and City of San Diego offer CAPs outside of the SANDAG site, Additionally, the County of San Diego has embarked on a Climate Action Plan Update, which includes a net-zero emissions goal, and is developing a Regional Decarbonization Framework to evaluate zero-carbon strategies for the whole San Diego region. Jurisdictions in the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative take action to address the factors contributing to climate change and support regional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for local climate change impacts.
The Multi-hazard Mitigation Plan is a countywide plan that identifies risks and ways to minimize damage by natural and manmade disasters that also involves multiple jurisdictions, including the County of San Diego, City of Carlsbad, City of Chula Vista, City of Coronado, City of Del Mar, City of El Cajon, City of Encinitas, City of Escondido, City of Imperial Beach, City of La Mesa, City of National City, City of Oceanside, City of San Diego, City of San Marcos, City of Santee, and the City of Solana Beach.
Community engagement activities have included the El Cajon Collaborative’s heat focus group to provide input to the Desert Research Institute as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration International Research and Applications Project, and Community Health Improvement Partners coordinating a Climate Change Resource Day for the RLA Network focused on the public health impacts of climate change, in collaboration with speakers from the University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Pala Band of Mission Indians.
Transportation and Flood Control
In San Diego County, the transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. SANDAG has continued to advocate for biking and walking safety in San Diego County through their Go By Bike Initiative, Bike Anywhere Week, and Shared Streets Pilot Program. The San Diego Bicycle Coalition provides training on pedestrian and bicycle safety and supports community projects focused on increasing active transportation.
The City of Imperial Beach has also implemented Resilient Futures, a wave and flood monitoring and forecast project to prepare for rising sea levels. One initiative within the project is the Bayshore Bikeway Resiliency Project, a multi-purpose coastal bike path that also serves as protection for low-lying neighborhoods along the San Diego Bay.
Regional agencies, including the SANDAG, City of San Diego, County of San Diego, Air Pollution Control District, and SDG&E, established the Accelerate to Zero Emissions Collaboration, the purpose of which is to develop a regional vision to accelerate investment in zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure. In July 2021, the Collaboration published the San Diego Regional Electric Vehicle Gap Analysis to identify existing efforts, barriers to adoption, and forecasted demand for EV charging stations to support future zero-emission vehicles.
The County of San Diego created a Climate and Environmental Justice Office to help reduce community exposures to health hazards such as air pollution and toxic chemicals, particularly for those communities disproportionately impacted – largely communities of color. They also incorporated a new Environmental Justice Element to their general plan to promote fair treatment for people of all races, cultures, and incomes when it comes to having access to safe and livable communities, and opportunities for civic engagement. The City of San Diego is also working on an Environmental Justice element to their general plan and released an environmental justice survey to learn about the environmental priorities within its communities, with over 1,700 respondents recommending actions to improve air quality and natural spaces with renewable energy and increased transportation options topping the list.
San Diego State University Community Climate Action Network will bring together stakeholders across the county to create equitable, vibrant, sustainable communities in San Diego by catalyzing community climate adaptation and resilience.
Local organizations are addressing issues of environmental sustainability within our communities to ensure a healthier region today and for the future.
The Solana Center offers hundreds of educational classes to help residents improve their contributions to environmental sustainability. Their efforts have led to San Diegans saving more than 40,000 gallons of rainwater from becoming runoff and diverting 300,000+ pounds of organic waste from landfills. They’ve reached over 12,000 San Diego residents and 4,000 school children through their workshops and webinars.
UrbanCorps has trained individuals to protect the environment through conservation and preservation projects, including park and wetland restoration and cleanup events. Their efforts have helped recycle 972,674 lbs of e-waste, plant 2,738 trees, restore 240 acres of habitat, and maintain 973,170 square feet of trails.
San Diego Gas & Electric released a sustainability strategy with the goal of reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, including two hydrogen projects, energy storage, and vehicle-to-grid technology. They also reported 29,930 new solar installations in the year 2020, which made San Diego County the highest in solar installations in all of California.
ProduceGood made great strides to divert 434 tons of food waste from landfills and recovered over 869,866 pounds of produce that was discarded. They also take surplus foods grown in backyards and distribute it to local agencies to feed seniors, children, and families every day of the year while simultaneously avoiding good food from entering our landfills.
Familiar has done great work in advocating for environmental justice, training 73 community
members in air quality monitoring, and planting 44 fruit trees across
San Ysidro between 2020 and 2021. They also provided input on the
creation of the Office of Environmental and Climate Justice at the
Getting the community involved in pollution prevention promotes civic engagement and awareness of the importance of sustainability and environmental protection. Partners have worked diligently over the past year to ensure community involvement and education as we build new generations of environmental advocates.
Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world; San Diego is no exception. They’ve topped annual beach cleanup counts, accounting for as many as 1 in every 4 items found. Far from benign, cigarette butts are made from plastic – which does not biodegrade in the marine environment – and contain hundreds of poisonous chemicals. Indeed, just one smoked butt in a liter of water can kill a fish.
“Add to this the hazardous waste from cartridges, batteries, and circuit boards of discarded electronic cigarettes, and it is clear that tobacco product waste significantly contributes to land, coastal, and water pollution.”
Georg Matt, a psychology professor and lead researcher on the SDSU project.
Environmental justice and sustainability efforts are critical to safeguarding our natural resources and ecosystems for everyone. Local governments have increased their efforts to develop sustainable action plans to help reduce and stabilize the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere while preparing for the climate-induced changes to come, including sea-level rise, extreme heat, drought, and wildfires. Individuals can contribute to sustainable and equitable environments through simple actions, including reducing energy and water usage, recycling, composting, volunteering at cleanup events, and learning about zero waste and alternative transportation. Organizations can continue to advocate, educate, and inspire community involvement to ensure safe, healthy environments for people of all races, cultures, and incomes.