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Sadhu Johnston

The new Deputy City Manager on turning Chicago green and sustainable, his middle name, and worms in the basement
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Chicago's Sadhu Johnston is Vancouver's new Deputy City Manager Tom Maday

The new Deputy City Manager on turning Chicago green and sustainable, his middle name, and worms in the basement

Chicago is the third-biggest city in the States. Why quit as environment czar there to come to Vancouver?
In Vancouver everyone asks me why I want to move here. In Chicago everyone says, “You’re. so lucky. What an incredible opportunity. What a beautiful city.” Vancouver has done so much, building a green, livable, sustainable city, yet it hasn’t gotten the credit it deserves. So there’s an opportunity there. But I also feel like the city is poised to really push this agenda. I want to be part of that.

There’s been criticism that Chicago talks a good green game but hasn’t necessarily made a lot of progress with basic things like recycling. What we’ve done for recycling in Chicago is to fundamentally change it. We rolled out a new program, the largest in the country, with an innovative recycle-bank approach, where people are actually given financial incentives to recycle; we set up GPS technology, to track how much people are recycling.

What’s your own background?
I was born in England. My parents were interested in alternative spirituality and I was taken to India when I was one, to live in spiritual communities outside Mumbai. I lived there for almost eight years, then Germany for a year, England for a year, then came to the States. My parents split up when I was pretty young, and I’d visit my dad in Vancouver. My wife and I got married at Hollyhock on Cortes.

You and your wife have the same middle name. How come?
My mother’s side of the family is Jewish from South Africa. Her mother escaped Nazi Germany. The rest of her family was killed in the concentration camps, so her mother’s last name, Aufochs, disappeared when she died. So we adopted it.

People don’t think of Chicago as having a big eco-conscious community. Did you feel out of place?
No, but keeping worms in the basement to eat our organic waste, we certainly weren’t the norm.

Do you expect you’ll find more like-minded people here?
Somebody from Vancouver was telling me about his neighbourhood. I asked how far it was from his work and he said, “A 20-minute bike ride.” I thought it was neat that what rolled off the tongue was how long it took to bike, not drive. My impression is that many of the things that we do in our daily lives, like compost or re-use Ziploc bags, will seem a little more normal in Vancouver and Canada generally.

Recent Comments


Same with the plan Crist wanted to do.I can see precisely why Charlie Crist would have stepped up and committed to an SB6 veto - because he's smart. SB6 would have incentivized test scores, and if anything has been proven over the last 8 years or so, is that standardized testing - guess just what - doesn't work! How absurd that a Republican would actually think that a few taxpayer funded payday advances into a flawed idea wouldn't be a good idea. (Actually…that kind of works both ways.) He sided with the arguments of, you'll never guess it, the teachers. How foolish to side with the experts.

by NorieP on Apr 16 2010 at 2:49 AM

Chicago is a green city! I love it here... We even have green markets, check this out: Chicago’s only year-round farmers’ market promoting local, sustainable farmers, producers and chefs by connecting them to the public through educational programming and special events. You have great ms points tho, vancouver is a great city, at least so i heard from people.

by xboxps3wow on Apr 13 2010 at 10:19 PM

Good luck Sadhu, I've heard great things about Vancouver. One of your residents even encouraged me to write an article on my website Cities for People about Vancouver.

I hope you can build on Vancouver's reputation as the World's Most Liveable City and Canada's Most Sustainable city.

Michael O'Hare

by Michael OHare on Mar 5 2010 at 9:00 AM