City of Santa Barbara Releases Sustainability Progress Report

City of Santa Barbara Releases Sustainability Progress Report title=
City of Santa Barbara Releases Sustainability Progress Report
Reads 2426

Photos: City of Santa Barbara

By edhat staff

The City of Santa Barbara recently published its 2019 Sustainability Progress Report highlighting projects and initiatives for water supply, renewable energy, and more.

The report defines sustainability as "living within our resources" while conserving and protecting the community's natural, physical, historic, and cultural resources.

The Progress Report shows an inventory of Key Sustainability Indicators, the current performance of goals, and examples taken by the City and community since 2015 with a focus on climate change, transportation, energy, waste management, water, and habitat restoration & natural environment.

Below is a summary of the report:

Climate Change

The Santa Barbara City Council adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2012 to help the City reduce its GHG emissions and to plan to adapt to climate change effects, joining the worldwide Global Covenant of Mayors to combat climate change, and, joining with the “Climate Mayors” in 2017 to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement.

The City is reducing greenhouse gas emissions by providing sustainable modes of transportation, conserving energy and increasing renewable energy sources, and by capturing recyclables and diverting carbon-emitting organics from landfill disposal.

Communitywide greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 28% from 743,644 (MTCO2e) in 1990 to 535,055 in 2015. City-specific greenhouse gas emissions are below the 12,224 target at 9,868 CO2 emissions in metric tons.


Sustainable modes of transportation include walking, bicycling, alternative fuel vehicles, carpooling, and public transit, which emit fewer greenhouse gases than single-occupant fossil-fuel-powered vehicles.

The City's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans and other Shared Mobility Programs are attempting to make alternative modes of transportation easier. The City Council also adopted Vision Zero, aimed at ending severe or fatal transportation-related injuries in Santa Barbara by 2030. 

Currently, 6.5% of residents commute by bicycle while the city hopes to have 15% by 2030. Additionally, public transportation now includes hybrid, electric, and renewable diesel. 71% of the City's fleet vehicles use alternative fuels.


In June 2017, the City Council adopted a 100 percent renewable electricity goal for both City infrastructure and the community at large by 2030. Reducing the amount of used energy and replacing them with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can dramatically reduce the City's carbon footprint.

Currently, City operations are using 42% of energy from renewable sources and 35% community-wide, and 19% of renewable energy generated at City facilities. All have a goal to reach 100% in 11 years. The City saves $650,000 and 4,244,082 kiloWatt hours annually. 


The City is developing a One Water strategy, which plans to "integrate various sources of water and will view them holistically, taking into consideration the economic, environmental, and social impacts of the City’s diverse sources of water."

Communitywide, residents use 84 gallons of water or less per day. The report also states community water use has decreased to the same level it was in the 1950s despite population growth doubling since that time. The reactivation of the Desalination Plant, water recycling, water wise landscaping rebates, and El Estero Water Ressource Center are credited for maintaining the water supply.

Waste Management

Recycling and composting has a much lower environmental impact than landfilling and recycling certain waste materials can have a lower environmental impact than manufacturing them from raw materials.

Reducing landfill disposal is the City's primary waste management goal. Outreach, education, and ordinances banning certain single-use plastics help achieve this goal.

To achieve the goal of 75% waste diversion across City facilities, the City is working with each facility to assess its trash services, provide waste reduction education, and increase participation in diversion programs. This is currently at 32.5% with a 100% goal by 2020. Communitywide, curbside waste diverted from landfill disposal was at 41% in 2017 with a goal of 75%.

Habitat Restoration and Natural Environment

Healthy creeks and watersheds, native vegetation, and urban forests play an important role in fighting climate change. The City’s Creeks Division aims to improve creek and ocean water quality through stormwater and urban runoff pollution reduction, creek restoration, and community education programs. The Parks Division plants and maintains City street, park, and public facility trees for the benefit of residents, and to ensure a safe and healthy community forest.

The City maintains an urban forest of 34,300 trees on City streets and property and plants 225 trees annually. The City also manages and maintains 348 acres of developed parkland and 1,227 acres of open space, following an Integrated Pest Management Strategy, which aims to reduce the amount and toxicity of pesticides used.  2017, the City Council became a member of Bee City USA.

The full report is available to view here.

Login to add Comments


Show Comments
RHS Aug 30, 2019 10:25 AM
City of Santa Barbara Releases Sustainability Progress Report

Since water use has allegedly been reduced to that of the 1950s population why is the city spending about $100M on the desalination boondoggle (with the promised new outfall line and with the Montecito giveaway pipeline)? Where is the water going? Too much tourism? This stuff is so obtuse and the people who produce it are so untrustworthy that these sort of "reports" just increase cynicism. Is anyone on the council challenging this stuff?

Please Login or Register to comment on this.