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Sustainability Plan / Economy and Economic Development / Introduction

 A sustainable economy is a fundamental requirement for a sustainable San Francisco. A sustainable economy will provide a good quality of life for all San Francisco residents without undermining the biological and physical processes of the environment upon which people depend. Its four main characteristics are:
  1. The predominant use of renewable energy;

  2. Energy and resource efficiency, including complete recycling of minimized resources;

  3. Minimum use of toxic material and no release into the environment; and

  4. The use of full-cost pricing (an analysis of the costs involved in the full cycle of a product’s existence, from the pollution caused in production to the cost of disposal) in policy, production, and consumer decision-making.

The transition to an ecologically sustainable economy involves changing from a linear to a circular flow of resources. A linear flow transforms raw materials into products and pollution whose ultimate destination is a landfill, the air or the water. In a circular flow, resources are continually used, broken down, and recombined -- waste is eliminated as discards become the resources of reuse or of other production processes. A sustainable economy follows the principles of industrial ecology: the complete interaction of production, services, resource and energy use through the complete recycling of by-products, elimination of waste, and reduction of use of toxins or products harmful to local ecosystems and communities.

Creating the foundation for sustainable economic prosperity involves identifying the needs of an ecologically sustainable economy and seizing the market opportunities involved in meeting them. The City’s challenge will be to create the goods and services (processes, tools, machines, management, and labor) needed by enterprises and households so that production and consumption ultimately have no adverse effect on the environment. This change in the way San Franciscans do business will foster the transformation of existing industries and spawn entirely new industries, products and services.

The transition to an environmentally sustainable economy must include the integration of community values and purposes with those of commerce and the environment. Crucial to this integration will be City government’s leadership role in both the public and private sectors of the economy.

As the global headquarters for the information age, San Francisco can exploit many of its competitive advantages, including “clean” output and a highly educated and trained workforce.

However, there are many residents of the City who lack the education or skills to take advantage of these new, knowledge-based industries.
Industrial society has not only undervalued the natural resources it makes into disposable products, it has also disregarded the value to society of providing meaningful employment and a high quality of life to people of all skill levels. The conservation and reuse of resources is notable for its production of useful work for people of limited education and training, from sorting collected recyclables, to tending neighborhood gardens, to installing weather-stripping on doors and windows. Moving toward a sustainable economy provides opportunities for the economic betterment of all San Francisco residents.

The strategy section describes a path toward a sustainable economy. Terms that appear in quotes are defined in the definitions section.