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These Are The Greenest Cities in California
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These Are The Greenest Cities in California

Curious to check out the greenest cities? Make sure to stock up on organic snacks before you head on your eco-friendly road trip.


5 min read

April 01, 2021

Thanks to lush green forests, white-capped peaks, and glimmering ocean waters, the Golden State is prime real estate. But, that’s not all. California thrives on nourishing its people, as well as its environment. Lush green cities are plenty on the West, ahem, best coast. 

Several of the greenest cities in the world are found in California. This benefits the community in a plethora of ways—clever urban planning, recyclable waste, and renewable energy sources allow for a sustainable long-term living solution. Curious to check out the greenest cities? Make sure to stock up on organic snacks before you head on your eco-friendly road trip.

The Greenest Cities in California

Irvine ranks fourth in the United States in the use of sustainable practices that improve the environment and public health.


With countless preserves and bike paths, Irvine reps the “go green or go home” attitude. Home to the majority of open spaces in Orange County, this city is all about greenery. The last two decades have earned Irvine a coveted spot among the most eco-friendly cities.

Irvine is all about conservation. The Irvine Company has constructed the Irvine and the Newport Coast using cutting-edge innovation and ensuring it’s sustainable by design. The company’s constructed LEED-certified buildings. The company also is ranked number one nationwide for the construction of energy-efficient office buildings. 

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The best part? The Irvine Company set aside 57,500 acres of open space to create the largest green space network in the U.S. When it comes to being one of the greenest cities in California, Irvine is certainly in the lead.

While touring about this lovely, eco-friendly city, head to the Irvine Regional Park, shaded by lush sycamore leaves. Cross the charming footbridges and walk to the serene Santiago Creek for guaranteed tranquility and a clean environment.

San Francisco

In 2007, San Francisco banned all plastic bag usage in stores, sparking the beginning of an eco-friendly revolution. Since then, the city has consistently maintained its stellar conservation acts. S.F. actively reduces its carbon footprint and fights against climate change. You’ll find a plethora of eco-friendly buildings and proper waste disposal. When it comes to understanding that going green is the answer, San Francisco is killin’ it.

Here are several things S.F. does right:

  • The city boasts a record-breaking 77 percent of recycled waste.
  • More than 1,000 S.F. hotels are ranked as eco-friendly.
  • The city has diverted more than 1.6 million tons of waste out of its landfills annually—that’s more than double the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Citywide events do not allow the sales of plastic water bottles.
  • Creating the Green Taxi Law allowed San Francisco to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • More than 60 percent of S.F. taxis use alternative fuel.

Eco-Friendly Cities in Southern California 

Leading a sustainable lifestyle is a serious business in California, and San Diego is a testament to that.

San Diego

After jogging the pristine beaches of San Diego, spend your afternoon strolling the green. Home to more farms per capita than any other county in the nation, San Diego stands proud as one of the greenest cities in California.

Thanks to generating 37 megawatts from rooftop installations, San Diego is ranked at the top of the solar industry. 

San Diego’s innovative policies give way to commendable achievements. Here are a few:

  • Aerators installed in North Park’s Lafayette Hotel have been a great tool in cutting down on water usage.
  • Legoland uses eco-friendly practices. 800 plastic milk jugs were reused to make benches for the theme park.
  • 75 percent of trash at The Lodge in Torrey Pines has been diverted into recycling or compost.
  • The city is home to the world-renowned Balboa Park—it’s the largest park in the country, not to mention one of the most beautiful.

Santa Barbara's reducing the carbon footprint, managing energy and material use, and transitioning to renewable energy sources.

Santa Barbara

The first-ever Earth Day was celebrated in Santa Barbara. The city works hard at reducing its carbon footprint every day. The eco-friendly haven is fueled by renewable energy. With innovative policies dedicated to sustainable living, Santa Barbara shines as one of the greenest cities in the world.

Championing open-space recreational areas, Santa Barbara’s Douglas Family Preserve is an oak-woodland perfection. Multiple trails encircle the rugged preserve; trails end upon reaching the coast. Home to several natural habitats—coastal bluff scrub, riparian and endless grassland—the park filters the air from unnecessary pollutants.

Environmentally Friendly Cities in Northern California 

Oakland is one of the most sustainable cities in the nation. The city's efforts rely on a collaborative approach of continuous improvement.


Recognized as one of the most sustainable cities nationwide, Oakland succeeds in green living on a daily basis. With a long-standing commitment to green building, Oakland constantly redefines traditional building structures. Commercial and residential buildings are constructed with sustainable methods. The projects are recognized as green during the design, construction, and demolition phases. 

Here are some of Oakland’s green project objectives:

  • When selecting a building location, natural habitat proximities are taken into account.
  • Passive heating and cooling methods aren’t overlooked.
  • Reusing or remodeling existing buildings is preferred instead of demolishing them.
  • When it comes to natural resource preservation, the usage of recycled or sustainable products is a must. 

Fremont adopted its first Climate Action Plan in 2012. The city is now working to update the plan to align with its 2045 carbon neutrality goal.


When it comes to sustainable building, Fremont proves that going green is very much in fashion. Majestic skylines are dotted with tall constructions—most of them carry a sustainable twist. 

Even train stations are rethinking their design. Most places are incorporating biofilters, solar power arrays, and electric charging stations. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) opened up a new station in Fermont, the most sustainable station to date.

The city companies are also green conscious.  , based in Fremont, innovates hygiene with an eco-friendly twist. The company produces bamboo toothbrushes consisting of only plant-based materials and composted packaging—the bamboo toothbrushes biodegrade naturally and are completely plastic-free.

Supporting the environment for a greener world isn't just a small step for Palo Alto, it's a lifestyle.

Palo Alto

Living green takes an entire community and joint passion for sustainability. Thankfully, Palo Alto is all about it. The eco-friendly city earned its title thanks to its community, who united to create their own energy-efficient programs. Palo Alto residents created organizations that operate in an eco-friendly fashion. From investing in natural resources to starting neighborhood carpooling networks, these teams are truly on their A-game.

City officials have also put their best foot forward to make green living long-term. For example, the Palo Alto city management reduced paper usage by 15 percent by just printing two-sided copies instead of one-sided. Armed with a plethora of eco-friendly ideas, Palo Alto proves that in order to go green, you have to start out small.  

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