6 Ways California is Going Green

on May 29, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Schwarzenegger Holds Press Conference On Passing Of California Budget

California is at the vanguard of the green movement and eco-friendly policy among US states. It sets the standard for environmental legislation and regulations that promote sustainability and good stewardship of natural resources. Here are six innovative ways California is going green.

Clean Car Regulations


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California got in front of the harmful emissions from cars as a response to its smog problem in the 70s. The California Air Resources board, a powerful regulatory agency, has been developing environmentally-friendly clean car regulations that influence vehicles under design by automakers. Most recently, it released an ambitious set of rules that require 15 percent of all new cars to be zero emission by 2025. Over 10 percent of all new cars are sold in California, and 13 other states automatically follow California’s lead; this regulation could lead an electric car revolution.

CALGreen Eco-Friendly Housing Legislation


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In 2011, California launched first-of-its-kind green housing legislation that requires new construction to use renewable building materials and limit water and energy consumption. Nonprofit sustainability organization Build It Green works in partnership with builders to design environmentally friendly stand-alone and apartment home complexes, like Apex apartments. California incentivizes green construction by offering $2,000 in rebates on homes that meet green standards in water and energy use and air quality. Los Angeles is ranked number one in eco-friendly homes by the EPA.

Green Farming Initiatives


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Dairy is California’s number one agricultural product, producing more milk than any other state. This means the state has to dispose of tons of harmful nitrate-rich waste from its 1.4 million cows. The state reached out to Elite Energy Systems in Nevada to build a renewable energy project that “digests” animal waste, converting it into usable liquid compost, and harnessing the natural methane gas into a usable energy source. The pilot project at a 640-acre ranch in Dos Palos will produce about 18,000 gallons of organic compost and 225 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day. The heat generated by the digester is captured and used to sterilize milk. 

Green Ribbon Schools


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California is committed to promoting sustainability and environmental stewardship in its public schools. Local school boards promote an eco-literacy curriculum, and five California public schools were showcased in the federal Department of Education Facilities Best Practices tour. Individual schools participate in innovative programs like Trash-Free Tuesdays and Walk-to-School Wednesdays that promote a behavioral shift toward more sustainable communities. In 2013, Californians approved Proposition 39, which funneled $106 million to public schools to support renewable energy and green projects at the local level. California’s colleges and universities also lead the way in environmental studies: There are 78 different graduate-level degree programs in environmental science.

Carbon Negative Projects


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Stanford University is taking greenhouse gas emissions one step further and is pursuing research into net-negative technologies that actually remove harmful CO2 from the atmosphere. One technology is Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage, or BECCS. BECCS converts wood, grass, and vegetation into energy and ethanol while capturing carbon emissions, resulting in a net-negative reduction. Ongoing research into biochar, produced from lumber waste, also shows promise as a reliable energy source that reduces carbon emissions. Net negative farming techniques that convert agricultural residue into ethanol, recouping carbon emissions, are being studied with state research grants.

Green Chemistry Law


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On October 1, 2013, California flexed its muscles as the largest consumer market in the US, and issued regulations covering 1,200 chemical substances present in common products that are potentially harmful to humans and the environment. The Department of Toxic Substances is tasked with formulating a priority list of product categories that they will require manufacturers to produce a green alternative to. The first three categories under investigation are toxic nail polishes, carpet glue, and mercury in light bulbs. Since California is such a huge market, its new focus on green chemistry has the potential to influence global markets in the uptake of environmentally-friendly products.

Look to California to continue to advocate and promote ground-breaking green policies and legislation. Its progressive approach to preserving the environment is a model for other states looking to adopt earth-friendly practices. 

Hailey is a recent graduate with a degree in Journalism. Now that she isn’t face first in books she is trying to travel as much as she can. She writes in her free time between fixing up her new house and teaching people how to live a longer, healthier life.