The challenge

Jeff vonKaenel

Our elected officials would like to make Sacramento a more
sustainable city. They’ve set goals for us. They want to reduce
water use by 20 percent, decrease energy use faster than the population
grows and reduce the amount of waste we create.

And then there are the rest of us. We’re the ones who
don’t have to worry about campaign donations or long meetings
that go on forever. And we are the ones who use the water, drive on the
roads, create the waste and use the energy. In the Sacramento region,
there are 2 million of us.

Now, this small group of elected officials has to decide how to move
Sacramento to a more sustainable future. So far, they have focused on
technological solutions and infrastructure expenditures. While
they’ve made some good choices, I believe that we can get the
biggest bang for our buck by getting our 2 million residents to change
some key behaviors. That’s right, I think it’s up to

Water experts say that 60 percent of our urban water use is for
landscaping, and half of it is wasted. We could reduce our water use by
30 percent simply by not being stupid. Yet there is no effective
outreach telling us, “It is winter, please turn off your damn
sprinklers!” I believe that if people knew how much damage they
were doing by overwatering, many of them would stop. Not everyone, but
when you are talking about 2 million people, a small percentage can add
up to big results.

The 2 million of us create a whole bunch of waste. It takes hundreds
of millions of dollars to collect it and dump it. Could we reduce this
waste by 5, 10 or 20 percent? Would our reduced waste not only help
save the planet but also save tens of millions of dollars? Would we
rather have our tax dollars spent on things more important than
collecting our waste? I believe the answer to these questions is an
emphatic “Yes!” Yet there is no effective outreach campaign
telling us the most important changes we need to make to reduce our
individual waste production.

Eating locally grown food is an easy fix with a gigantic payoff. If
each of us purchased $2 per week of locally grown food, $2 dollars
times 2 million times 52 weeks is $208 million dollars per year. That
money stays in the local economy, increasing local business activity
and creating new jobs. Not only would we get better, fresher food, we
would dramatically help our community.

This year, I challenge our elected officials to ask us to do our
part. Educate us on the specific changes you need us to make that will
help make a dent in our environmental problems. We, the 2 million
residents of Sacramento, are a key part of the problem. It’s time
to ask us to become part of the solution.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.