for our future . . .








What will it take for our town to become a Sustainable Small City?

By Linda Buzzell-Saltzman, M.A., M.F.T.
Sustainable Small Cities Project, For the Future

To truly understand sustainability, we must expand our vision of the future. Resource constraints and climate change disruption are rapidly approaching and will profoundly impact our way of life here in Santa Barbara and around the globe.

How can we provide ourselves, our children and grandchildren with the basic ingredients for a rich and fulfilling life here in our city?

Our plan is to look at every sector of our community, evaluating our state of preparedness for the transition to sustainable living.

“Relocalize” is the magic word in every sector.  We need to take back the community’s power to assure ourselves of sustainable local sources for our most basic needs.  And we can adopt and endorse The Earth Charter as our community’s set of earth-friendly values and principles to guide us in this evolutionary process.

In each of the various sectors and sub-sectors, we’ve briefly outlined the problem, the sustainable city vision and then one or two examples of concrete actions we can take to achieve that vision.  These are only preliminary ideas, and we look forward to hearing your suggestions and incorporating them into this plan for transition into a Sustainable Santa Barbara.


1. Environment/habitat.

  • Unsustainable: Polluted habitat for people, animals, plants, fish.
  • Sustainable: Safe, pesticide-free living space and ecosystems throughout our watershed area and local ocean.
  • Example of Local Action we can take: pesticide-free parks, banning GMOs or certain toxics in our city.

2. Water

    • Unsustainable: wasting water, polluting water sources.
    • Sustainable: frugal use, water collection and non-toxic recycling of scarce water.
    • Example of Local Action we can take: watershed and creek clean-up and protection, greywater systems.

3. Air

  • Unsustainable: continued air pollution from vehicles, other sources.
  • Sustainable: high air quality standards
  • Example of Local Action we can take: more support for bicycle travel, commuter trains.


4. Food

  • Unsustainable: Factory farming, products trucked or flown in from afar. Animals treated cruelly.  Agricultural land being developed for sprawl and suburbs.
  • Sustainable: Healthy organic food from local farms, backyards or community gardens.
  • Example of Local Action we can take: support “Lawns to Food” program, start “buy local” campaign, support Farmers Markets.  Putting agricultural land trusts in place to assure local food security.

5. Shelter

  • Unsustainable: McMansions made of toxic materials trucked in. Suburban sprawl. Unaffordable housing for local workers.
  • Sustainable: Green housing and furnishings from local sources. The New Urbanism and infill.
  • Example of Local Action we can take:  change city codes to mandate green building practices in our area

6. Clothing, textiles

  • Unsustainable: fabric made from petrochemicals or toxically grown natural fibers sewn into clothing, bedding or upholstery in Third World countries under slave labor conditions, flown and trucked into Santa Barbara.
  • Sustainable: local, non-toxic fabric, clothing and textiles sewn under “fair trade” conditions.
  • Example of Local Action we can take: encourage local artisans, weavers, clothing manufacture.


7. Commerce and trade

  • Unsustainable: chain stores importing goods from around the globe.  Corporations not accountable to local requirements.  Dependence on distant sources of essential goods.
  • Sustainable: locally owned and operated businesses providing needed goods and services – mostly local but importing a small number of goods we can’t produce here.
  • Example of Local Action we can take: require corporations in our area to meet the “triple bottom line” standards – Profits, People, Planet – in order to do business locally. Instituting True Value and True Cost accounting.  Start campaign to create and support local businesses (especially green businesses), buy local, create local jobs.

8. Travel and transport

  • Unsustainable: fossil fueled cars, SUVs, trucks, planes
  • Sustainable: Energy-efficient alternative transport.  Commuter and freight trains, bikes, electric vehicles etc.
  • Example of Local Action we can take: Resist freeway widening, get passenger train routes expanded to reach our community. Minimize need for commuting by creating affordable housing options.


9. Science/technology

  • Unsustainable: Develop and use technologies before they are proven to be safe. E.g. GMOs, nuclear, even wireless and cellular in some cases.
  • Sustainable: The Precautionary Principle for all new technology: must be proven “innocent” before use in Santa Barbara.
  • Example of Local action we can take: pass City Resolution supporting the Precautionary Principle. Community discussions of the use of wireless (radio and electro-magnetic frequency issues) in public buildings and community gathering places.

10. Energy

  • Unsustainable: Fossil fuels, including natural gas
  • Sustainable: wind, solar, etc.
  • Example of Local action we can take:  start by converting all government facilities and services to sustainable energy, then give preferential treatment to private companies that do so as well. Encouraging local alternative energy companies.


11. Law, politics

    • Unsustainable: Retributive law vs. restorative law. Corporations treated as “legal persons” with minimal obligations to the common good.  Disproportionate advantages to the wealthy in political process.
    • Sustainable: The Earth Charter as a set of guiding principles for global and community life.
    • Example of Local action we can take:  Our City Council could endorse the Earth Charter principles and use them to examine local laws. Publicly funded elections.

12. Security

  • Unsustainable: global economic and military domination of other countries to obtain scarce resources from distant lands.
  • Sustainable: maintaining peace and order locally with positive external alliances for mutual benefit. Finding and creating local sources of needed resources before they run out. Good local preparedness for possible emergencies due to fire, drought, earthquakes, climate change, food and fuel shortages.
  • Example of Local action we can take: work with local Red Cross, food bank, fire and police to prepare for emergency situations before they happen.


13. Family/community

  • Unsustainable: isolated nuclear families and singles disconnected from extended family and community at large. Poor community connections of all kinds. Life so complex and time-stressed there is little time for loved ones and community. Separation between various ethnic and religious groups.
  • Sustainable: building and maintaining strong local connections with everyone in our community.
  • Examples of Local action we can take: Regular Town Hall meetings. Celebrate “Take Back Your Time” day.  Encourage co-housing options.

14.Health care

  • Unsustainable: modernist, high-tech medicine but no universal health care to cover its costs.
  • Sustainable: integrative and wellness medicine using the best of traditional and modern practices, provided to all in the community who need it. Emphasis on preventive care and health maintenance not just “repair.”
  • Example of Local Action we can take:  support integrative medicine and investigate how to provide health care to all residents of our community.

15. Dependent care - children, the elderly, companion animals

  • Unsustainable: segregating the community artificially
  • Sustainable: integrating children, the aged, the ill, the animals back into daily community life.
  • Example of Local action we can take: encourage cooperative living arrangements, child care by elders, affordable pet care and services for the financially disadvantaged.


16, Education

  • Unsustainable: Factory-model “industrial” schools where learners in lock-step formation must meet arbitrary national standards.
  • Sustainable: Customized learning environments where the best in each individual is nurtured for the benefit of the whole community.
  • Examples of Local Action we can take: encourage local standards and control for education, resisting conformity to rigid national standards.  Supporting place-based education, a new movement that emphasizes children’s connection with the land where they live.


17. Arts, entertainment and communication

  • Unsustainable: Local citizens as passive spectators for distant sources of news or consumer-oriented “entertainment” usually absorbed via TV.
  • Sustainable: Local participation in the arts, live entertainment, news gathering. Parades and events of local interest. Global news from reliable mainstream and alternative (internet, alternative TV/radio) sources.  Global networking without airplane travel, using the internet.
  • Examples of Local Action we can take: Support “days without television,” locally unique events like Fiesta, Solstice. Expand local media.


18. Spirit, psyche, culture

  • Unsustainable: consumerism and materialism, the “worship of Mammon.”  A hyper-individualistic attitude which doesn’t take into account the impact of our actions on other people and life forms.
  • Sustainable: Mutually respectful, diverse ways of connecting with our highest selves and universal spirit.  The Earth Charter’s “Declaration of Interdependence.”
  • Examples of Local Action we can take: Community “compassionate listening”/ non-violent communication events and inter-faith dialogues.