10X13 Episode 5: The City of San Francisco’s “Secret Sauce”

What makes San Francisco so successful at advancing its world-leading sustainability initiatives?

Cleantech Group recently had a chance to ask the woman in charge during our 10X13 Episode 5 interview. Melanie Nutter, who directs the San Francisco Department of the Environment, sat down with Duncan Cheung to discuss the lessons and winning strategies learned from advancing the city’s range of sustainability programs.

San Francisco, Melanie noted for starters, is fortunate to have a citizenry that expects and cares to participate in sustainability programs. Additionally, consistent political support from San Francisco’s last several mayors and reliable funding for her department have enabled progress to be continuous and certain.

However, the challenge of working on issues that involve private citizens, businesses, and often multiple government agencies requires a lot of dialogue. Early sustainability efforts, she mentioned, typically saw cities hand down information. and then expect behaviors to change accordingly. Melanie’s experience with SF’s Integrated Pest Management program, which cut pesticide use in public spaces by 83% since its inception, showed her that listening to and collaborating with other groups before finalizing plans greatly increased the effectiveness and adoption of those eventual programs. The same token holds true for energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling programs, and more.