Shifting public policy to achieve a sustainable economy, a healthy environment and a just society.
Meet Our Experts
Press Releases
Ecological Footprint Quiz
Office Footprint Quiz
Footprint Quiz for Kids
Footprint of Nations
Learn about Climate Justice


DATE: February 6, 2004
CONTACT: Melissa Haynes (510-444-3041)

Local Governments can play key role in solving problem

San Francisco—A new analysis of regional economic activity by Redefining Progress, done in conjunction with the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Communities, shows that the Bay Area has lost more than $104 billion in economic opportunity.

The principal losses have occurred in the areas of environmental degradation, jobs and housing imbalance and under-employment. The result is economic activity whose value is 45% lower than the Gross Regional Product, a measure of total economic transactions.

This is the first time a region has commissioned a Genuine Progress Indicator study. "The Bay Area Alliance has shown a lot of vision," said Redefining Progress's Executive Director, Michel Gelobter. "Not every region is willing to take an honest look at their economy, warts and all. This report raises a lot of thorny issues about economic development, but it's also a bold move towards a truly strong economy."

The Genuine Progress Indicator includes more than twenty aspects of our economic lives. The GPI adds factors not included in GDP, like the value of volunteer work and positive non-cash activities. It also makes deductions for the depletion of natural resources and negative expenditures. When summed up, it provides a robust and quantitative and useful measure of economic activity from a strong sustainability perspective.

The Bay Area lost over $2,260 per capita in commuting and transportation costs; $663 per capita due to underemployment; and $324 from crime. However, we gained $10,085 per capita in the area of housework; $3,941 in volunteer work; and $1,190 in net capital investment. The Bay Area had a net total loss was $104 billion or $ $15,460 per person.

"Hemorrhaging $104 billion from the Bay Area is completely unacceptable," said Oakland Mayor, Jerry Brown. The City of Oakland has taken immediate steps to reverse this trend and has issued a challenge to cities in other Bay Area counties to begin similar efforts. "Oakland will do its part by initiating the Solar Oakland Plan starting with 5 megawatts this year and planning to produce 100% of our electricity renewably in less than 25 years. That is one of the best ways to trap local capital, cut down people's utility bills, cut down on children's asthma, and improve the lives of all of our citizens."

"Unless we begin to take genuine action our genuine progress in the Bay area will never improve. We cannot continue to count all economic activity as positive. We cannot continue to fail to account for degrading the environment, increasing social ills and vast inequities between rich and poor," said Randy Hayes, Oakland's newly appointed Director of Sustainability and Member of San Francisco's Commission on the Environment.

"This inequity affects everyone's well being," said Juliet Ellis, Executive Director of Urban Habitat. "We all remember the $7,000 shower curtain that became a symbol of self-important indulgence during the Enron scandal. $7,000 is enough to take a homeless person off the street and make a down payment on a subsidized condo of their own."

These results are a sobering reminder that we must count more than the gross flow of money through our economy. Real progress means accounting for the environmental costs of our activities. Real progress means stable employment at a living wage and in a place that doesn't mortgage your family life to your daily commute. Real progress means we count the well-being of the least well off as much as that of the privileged.

The GPI gives us a tool to count better. It helps us tie our economy to our relationships with nature and other people. By making us aware of the real economy, it gives businesses, communities, policymakers and individuals a tool for making better decisions.

The study was funded by the Ford and San Francisco Foundations and was released at the conclusion of the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Communities', quarterly meeting in San Francisco. More information can be found at

-- 30 --