By Barbara Zaragoza
Want to know which city conserves the most water? What about children’s asthma hospitalization rates by zip code? An interactive website allows anyone to find hard data about how San Diego county matches up when it comes to air quality, climate change, transportation and more.
It’s known as the Equinox Project, which began its work nine years ago. At the time, San Diegans didn’t have a “go-to” report that explained where the region was improving and where it fell short. The Equinox Project stepped in and initially created an annual printed booklet to hand out to local elected officials. If air quality decreased or housing affordability went down, lawmakers could become aware of the problem through real data and year-to-year trends.
Then two years ago the Equinox Project became part of the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), a nonprofit organization that works on clean energy programs. Thanks to the merger, in 2017 the Equinox Project rolled out an online Quality of Life Dashboard. The dashboard broadened the audience beyond elected officials, making it available to citizens, advocacy groups and businesses as a one-stop location where anyone could find information about how cities in San Diego County rank on numerous issues.
Noting the importance of this online resource, Lawrence Goldenhersh, President of CSE, said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
The Equinox Project unveiled its latest Quality of Life Dashboard in April. Out of the 15 environmental and economic indicators that the report tracked, eight indicators improved, five regressed and two stayed the same.
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Check out the Quality of Life Dashboard!
Hanna Grene, Director of Policy, described some of the results. For improvements she said that new electric vehicles continued to increase in 2017. The number of green jobs increased as well. Residential electricity usage decreased, while energy storage projects, often tied to solar generation, skyrocketed.
Grene also described some of the problems San Diego faced: the combined number of unhealthy air days increased by 48 percent. Traffic got slightly worse. Some 40 percent of San Diego County homeowners and 57 percent of renters spent more than 30 percent of their total income on rent—higher than the overall California average.
Mikaela Bolling, Project Manager at CSE, says the dashboard has proven to be a catalyst because citizens now have hard data that they can use to pressure elected officials into making policy changes. The dashboard also provides ideas for change, for example, by sharing information about the 2018 statewide Proposition 68 that, if passed, will provide funds to increase access to nature and open space.
The dashboard then adds bright spots, such as rebates and savings opportunities for individuals and businesses. One such offering is SDG&E’s Champions for Clean Air Electric Vehicle Rebate, where teachers and first responders who are SDG&E customers can receive a $1,000 point-of-sale rebate on the purchase or lease of an EV or plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Bolling explains, “We have been able to highlight what organizations, nonprofits and businesses are doing in the region to move the needle.”
The Equinox Project also tracks which cities have implemented climate action plans, pressuring others throughout the county to do better. “When citizens and advocacy groups understand the issues that we’re struggling with in San Diego—using real data, tracking the metrics—they can push to elect people who can begin to mitigate the problems,” Bolling says.
Most importantly, the Quality of Life dashboard is a tool for determining how we can excel towards a better future. Bolling says, “Measuring our quality of life, we’re ensuring that it’s going to be protected for future generations. Like our body weight or our bank account, if we don’t track and measure how we’re doing, we’ll wake up in twenty years and wonder ‘how did we get here?’”
You can learn more about the Quality of Life Dashboard and the efforts of the Equinox Project by attending their Quality of Life Dashboard Release Party on June 6.