Continuing his commitment to address the deepening climate crisis locally, Mayor Todd Gloria was joined today by City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera to announce the latest update on the City of San Diego’s climate action initiative, known as “Our Climate, Our Future,” which consists of the City’s newest efforts to recycle organic waste and reduce the amount of food scraps and yard waste disposed of in landfills.
“In order for San Diego to be a global leader on climate action, we must look at all possible ways to combat the climate crisis,” Mayor Todd Gloria said. “This includes keeping organic waste out of our landfills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in alignment with State Senate Bill 1383. It’s a crucial part of meeting our updated climate goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2035.”
In total, about 39% of San Diegans’ trash is organic waste; 15% of which is food waste. The City is making major investments to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to the landfill, where it rots and gives off methane. Instead, organic waste will be recycled into mulch and compost to improve soil quality. The recycling program will ensure the City meets new state requirements under California State Senate Bill 1383 as well as the City’s zero waste and climate action goals.
“The urgency of the climate crisis requires we leave no stone unturned when it comes to climate action. Zero Waste goals are often an overlooked component of the City’s Climate Action Plan, but waste diversion is crucial to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Council President Sean Elo-Rivera, representative for District 9. “Implementing organic waste recycling is an important step toward achieving those reductions, and I look forward to the City engaging San Diego residents on how they can help combat climate change through this new service.”
SB 1383 requires the reduction of organic waste disposed of in landfills. Organic waste is food scraps, food-soiled paper from kitchens and food operations, and yard waste such as garden and landscape waste, organic textiles, carpets and wood waste.
“Organic waste recycling is a game-changer, it is one of fastest ways to curb climate change,” said the City’s Environmental Services Department Director, Renee Robertson. “It requires food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings to be diverted from the landfill. California is also working toward a 2025 goal to redirect and donate 20% of edible food that is currently wasted to those in need.”
Components of the City’s organic waste recycling efforts include:
- Outreach and education campaigns;
- Edible food recovery programs; and,
- New organic waste containers and collection services.
As these services and investments come online, the City will engage and partner with residents and businesses to assist in waste-reduction efforts. Learn more at sandiego.gov/organic-waste-recycling.
“Since its inception, Kitchens for Good has reclaimed food destined for the landfill and used it in apprentice instruction and hunger-relief meal production,” said Ryan Rizzuto, Executive Chef at Kitchens for Good. “When COVID-19 hit, we had to ramp up our meal production significantly and revisit our approach. Historically, we rescued about 50,000 pounds of produce each year. We decided to change our focus to inspiring our apprentices, restaurant and hospitality partners – and our communities’ consumers – to reduce their food waste by 5%. This way, by reaching just 5,000 people, we could help keep approximately 500,000 pounds of food out of the landfill each year.”
The core of the Mayor’s “Our Climate, Our Future” initiative is the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) update, which sets an ambitious new 2035 net zero emissions target. San Diegans are encouraged to engage with the draft CAP update and provide feedback before the plan goes to the City Council this spring. So far, more than 350 people have participated in the public release and provided feedback on the CAP. Additionally, 20 presentations on the plan have been given to stakeholder groups, City committees and boards.
City staff continue to analyze feedback from the community to ensure the draft CAP’s goals and strategies are consistent with the needs of San Diegans. Adoption of the CAP update will be followed by extensive implementation and accountability steps, including the development of a more detailed implementation plan and department-level work plans to ensure each part of the City is coordinated and resourced to carry out the plan’s identified strategies. Work on the implementation plan is already underway and will ramp up as the CAP itself is adopted.
The Climate Resilient SD plan – another facet of “Our Climate, Our Future” – was adopted by the City Council in December 2021. This year, the City will work on a Coastal Resilience Master Plan to identify specific resilience and conservation needs along the San Diego coastline and develop a portfolio of nature-based climate change solutions. The City has been awarded $250,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help fund this effort. As called for in the Parks Master Plan, the City will also begin working on a Citywide Trails Master Plan, which will account for climate change impacts like increased erosion due to precipitation or sea level rise.
Additionally, the City will be releasing the results of the September 2021 Urban Heat Mapping event, where 57 volunteers helped collect 92,849 temperature and humidity data points to measure areas of the city that are most vulnerable to adverse effects from extreme heat. The results from this mapping event will help the City focus on prioritizing the delivery of shaded public spaces and urban greening in areas most vulnerable to extreme heat events – those with the greatest exposure to heat and fewest resources available to adapt.
Climate Equity is an overarching priority of “Our Climate, Our Future.” This year, the City will update its Climate Equity Index (CEI) to incorporate new data from the recent census and an update to CalEnviroScreen 4.0. The CEI is a tool that helps identify communities that are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change impacts and have limited access to opportunity. The CEI informs investments from the City’s Climate Equity Fund, which will continue to support climate-related projects in historically underserved communities.
The City is currently finalizing drafts of its Municipal Energy Strategy and new Zero Emissions Building Policy, which are also under the “Our Climate, Our Future” umbrella. These will be taken forward shortly after the adoption of the CAP and represent a major step forward for immediate implementation.
To learn how the components of “Our Climate, Our Future” work together to everyone’s benefit, visit sandiego.gov/climatefuture. This website provides a central hub of information about the City’s climate initiatives and opportunities for San Diegans to provide feedback and get involved in the future of our climate.