Your Guide to Sustainable Community Development: Following Tracy to the Emerald City
The city of Tracy sets a fine example of how direct action at the state level can have a noticeable impact on building sustainability, conservation, energy efficiency and a better environment in a community.
Tracy began as a small city along the Pacific Railroad Line between Stockton and Sacramento. Over the years, the rapid population growth of San Francisco and other Bay Area cities spilled over into Tracy. More than 80,000 people now call Tracy their home, and that increasingly dense population makes building a clean and green city tantamount to maintaining Tracy’s long tradition of lush, fertile landscape and productive agriculture.
That’s where California’s Emerald Cities Program comes in. Developed to provide comprehensive green support to municipalities, Emerald Cities essentially creates a road map to sustainability. Tracy has joined Riverside as one of two cities participating in the pilot phase of the program. 2008 saw the inauguration of the Citywide Sustainability Efforts movement, leading in 2009 to the start of the Emerald Tracy program.
Tracy works closely with the California government to develop a sustainable model for any city to follow. It is the only city in northern California currently participating in the Emerald Cities program and, although Riverside was the first to get full status as an Emerald City, Tracy is a symbol of how a city can start from scratch, addressing the challenges that an average community faces on its quest to go green.
Targets have been set and the city is currently working toward achieving a wide range of goals on all fronts.
Among Tracy’s existing sustainability efforts are:
- An expanded single-stream residential recycling program
- Green waste collection
- High-efficiency washing machine and low-flush toilet rebates (up to $125 per toilet)
- Free landscape and interior water audits
- A variety of waste reduction grant and education programs for homes, businesses and schools
- PG&E utility incentives for energy efficiency upgrades
- State rebates for home solar power and other renewable energy installations
Upon kicking off its sustainability efforts, Tracy started working with two consultancy firms, Town Green and Design Community & Environment (DCE), to put together a plan of action. That knowledge and support paid off when Tracy received an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant from the Department of Energy to maintain their sustainable efforts, even as grants for cities dried up during the economic recession.
The plan began by tracking greenhouse gas emissions for a year to set a baseline to work from in reducing future emissions. And while renewable energy and energy efficiency are vital parts of its continually developing action plan (to be completed in 2010), Tracy is taking a broader approach, including efforts in: transportation, water conservation, waste reduction, air quality, agriculture, public health, economic development, biological resources and GHG reduction.
While many other cities already have sustainability goals and measures in place, including its Emerald City partner, Riverside, it is important to reiterate that Tracy had nothing of the sort before 2008. While other communities often feel overwhelmed at the challenge of turning nothing into something, Tracy is leading by facing its green challenges head-on, in the process becoming an active role model for similarly inexperienced communities. Tracy’s dedication to going “Emerald” will not only inspire, but lay out the groundwork for other cities to follow on their own path toward sustainability.
Photo Credit: mel_barries