About SSMC

About SSMC

Sustainable San Mateo County (SSMC) was established in 1992 by a group of San Mateo County citizens who sought to create a broader awareness of the sustainability concept. Our core programs are the Indicators Report which has been produced annually since 1997 and the Awards Event which has been held annually since 1999. In addition to coordinating these core programs, SSMC engages regularly with a broad range of stakeholders to advance a variety of projects, programs and other efforts that are consistent with SSMC’s Vision, Mission and Values.

Sustainable San Mateo County is dedicated to the long-term health of our county’s economy, environment and social equity.

To stimulate community action on economic, environmental and social issues by providing accurate, timely and empowering information.

Fact-based Objectivity
Integrity and Transparency
Intentional Collaboration
Local and Regional Impact-focused

Strategic Plan

The Sustainable San Mateo County Board of Directors developed a new Strategic Plan with facilitated guidance from independent consultant Regina Neu. Beginning with a Board Retreat on November 16, 2013 and ending with the Plan’s approval on June 18, 2014, the Board worked to identify five Priority Areas and corresponding Goal Statements that will help advance Sustainable San Mateo County’s mission. Click here to see the plan.


1992: Marcia Pagels, inspired by the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, brings together like-minded friends to form the Peninsula Sustainability Project, which would later become Sustainable San Mateo County. It was the local response to the summit’s call of “Think Globally, Act Locally” and the suggestion that citizens monitor their own communities and regions.

1995: After over two years of community research, two public review workshops were held in the Fall of 1995 get input on indicators and data sources for our first report.

1996: The community group is taken under the wing of The Tides Center, a non-profit fiscal sponsor.

1997: The first Indicators for a Sustainable San Mateo County Report is issued in March, having received a significant start-up grant from the Peninsula Community Foundation.

1999: Our first Sustainability Awards are presented to honor local community members, businesses and organizations. A luncheon event is held in the fall to honor the winners.

2000: SSMC held a number of events on high-profile issues. The Business Task Force held “Higher Profits in Y2K through Sustainable Business Practices” in March, and “Saving Green, Building Green” in May. In July, “Where has All the Power Gone?” was presented by SSMC aligned with The League of Women Voters and the Bay Area Council in response to the California Energy Crisis at Pen TV Studio; panelists included S. David Freeman, Chief Energy Advisor to Governor Gray Davis. In September, a forum on the proposed airport extension was held.

2001: SSMC’s Education Task Force holds a “Sustainability Institute” with Notre Dame de Namur University; the workshop, for public and private school teachers and administrators in grades K-12 who wanted to include concepts of sustainability in their classrooms, included curricula and lesson plans that related the interdisciplinary issues of sustainability to established standards.

2002: Under the direction of Chair Ruth Peterson, Sustainable San Mateo County earns 501c3 status as an independent non-profit public benefit organization dedicated to the long-term vitality of our region. A Town Hall event for the release of our 6th Annual Indicators Report includes a panel discussion on the Perspectives on the Good Life:  Balance, Simplicity, Sustainability moderated by Michael Krasny.

2003: SSMC’s Green Building Task Force, in collaboration with RecycleWorks and the San Mateo County Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, creates a special section at the Peninsula Home and Garden Show featuring green building products and resources. This partnership also awards the first Green Building Awards at our fourth awards event held in February.

2004-2006: The Green Dollhouse Project, a competition to help show kids and adults how we can all take action to make our homes healthier and more environmentally sustainable, was a collaborative effort in which SSMC played a major role, along with Coyote Point Museum, Eco Design Resources and RecycleWorks. It won the 2006 EPA Environmental Achievement Award and was part of the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award that was awarded to RecycleWorks. The exhibit toured Sacramento and New York before closing at the Coyote Point Museum in 2006.

2007: In November, SSMC and PG&E hosted the San Mateo County Green Fair. Over 150 people converged on the Green Building Exchange in Redwood City for an interactive morning featuring over 20 speakers dealing with climate change, energy efficiency, sustainable programs, green technology and more.

2008: In March, our ninth annual Sustainability and Green Building Awards drew a whopping 450 people at the South San Francisco Conference Center for what was the biggest evening in Sustainable San Mateo County history so far. In June, we were honored as the “Green Community Champion” at the San Francisco Business Times’ first annual Green Business Awards.

2009: On Earth Day, SSMC launched the Sustainability Hub, an online resource toolkit tailored for San Mateo County providing the community with an easy way to share and gather trusted solutions and local resources, as well as the first Bay Area Green Jobs Board.

2010: SSMC began the Energy Ambassador Program to educate homeowners on home energy efficiency. The program trained volunteers to conduct one-on-one home visits about steps homeowners could take to save energy and money and make their home more comfortable, including available rebates through the Energy Upgrade CA program. In the 2 years of the program, over 60 families participated and in addition, 10 “Energy Ambassador Parties” were held in upgraded homes to share their successful conversions with friends and neighbors.

2011: SSMC and the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, founded the Healthy Communities series to bring a diverse array of stakeholders together and explore how the various facets of the health of our cities intersect. Through 2013, a total of 17 forums were held across San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties by a wide range of more than 30 organizing and sponsoring organizations and elected officials. One of the most successful, organized by SSMC in August 2011, focused on “Green Business & Resilient Economies” with a screening of the film “So Right, So Smart”, an inspiring case study of a business that embraced sustainability kicking and screaming and ended up revolutionizing their business model.

2012: After the loss of Redevelopment Agencies, SSMC participated in an “Affordable Housing Coalition” lead by the San Mateo County Housing Leadership Council to urge that funds returning to general fund coffers through the dissolution of RDAs be re-dedicated to affordable housing. After many months of work over $17 million of these funds were put back to affordable housing by the County of San Mateo and the cities of Foster City, San Mateo, and Redwood City.

2013: SSMC and research partner Ecologic Institute publish “Senior Health in San Mateo County — Current Status and Future Trends,” an in-depth 109-page report detailing opportunities and challenges facing our aging community; report findings were presented at a Healthy Communities Forum in late January. In May, the seventeenth annual Indicators Report was published, for the first time, in a searchable, mobile-friendly format on our website and completed by a printed Executive Summary, saving valuable resources.

2014: The fifteenth annual Sustainability Awards event is hosted for the first time at the College of San Mateo on April 3, with international leader in sustainability and former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr. Brundtland, delivering a keynote address to a lively crowd of 300. Putting greater emphasis on timely and actionable data, the Indicators is delivered in tri-annual online updates with the first two launch events focused on the Key Indicator: Transportation drawing crowds of over 80 attendees.


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From the 2017 Indicators Report

The cost of living in the Bay Area has grown over the past 20 years and is now over twice the national average. It has risen by nearly 50% in the past 10 years.

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‟We have not inherited the world from our forefathers - we have borrowed it from our children.”—Kashmiri proverb