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We’re No. 9! We’re No. 9!

Sustainability-wise, we’re worse than San Francisco and a lot better than Fresno.

OK, so corporate-generated city rankings are not going to get anybody too proud or riled up at this point. However, the rankings we shall discuss here this month refer specifically to sustainability, which is what this editorial space is all about.

In April, the grass-advocating LawnStarter company published “2023’s Most Sustainable Cities,” by writer Sav Maive, and Sacramento ranked No. 9. The methodology was described thus: “To come up with our ranking, we compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities based on five sustainability categories. We looked at the number of zero-energy buildings, alternative fuel stations, and greenhouse-gas emissions, among 26 total metrics.”

Among California cities, the capital does not fully reign. It is judged sustainably superior to Los Angeles (ranked 10th), Sunnyvale (yes, Sunnyvale makes an appearance, at 22nd), and Fresno (not intuitively a formidable competitor in any best-cities list, 128th). The Bay Area bests us, however, with San Jose (sixth), Oakland (perhaps last in the American League, but fourth here) and—a city not known for its front yards, LawnStarter—San Francisco (first). San Diego squeezes in at fifth, with Boston (second), New York (third), Seattle (seventh) and Baltimore (eighth) completing the Top 10.

Here’s where the grass company placed Sacramento among some of the rankings’ other metrics:

  • Number of incentives and policies supporting renewables and energy efficiency: 47th

  • Thrift shopper-friendliness: 16th

  • Biking-friendliness: 20th

  • Number of green restaurants: 27th

Our fair city especially excelled in state waste management performance, collecting the silver medal by coming in second place. Take that, Bay Area!

The LawnStarter story fertilized our curiosity about other online lists that attempt to compare cities’ sustainability credentials. AllTransit, which claims to be “the largest source of transit connectivity, access, and frequency data in America,” currently deems we have the nation’s 34th best public-transportation system among U.S. towns with at least 250,000 residents. We are placed between Aurora, Colorado (32nd) and Phoenix (34th). At No. 1, king of the hill, top of the list New York.

Sacramento scores much higher in a less-flattering study by the American Lung Association: its Most Polluted Cities list. Paired with Roseville, the capital city is judged seventh in ozone (Los Angeles-Long Beach, at No. 1, is the worst), sixth in year-round particle pollution (Bakersfield) and eighth in short-term particle pollution (sorry, Bakersfield, but you are No. 1 here, too).

Being dinged for our air quality is depressing, but take a deep breath because here comes a refreshing splash of retribution: Tapsafe ranks our water quality as the best in the nation, topping 405 other cities that contain at least 100,000 residents.

We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!


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