Last time, we highlighted the Pacific Northwest cities of Portland, Seattle and Eugene. Today, we'll travel a little farther south to explore the greenest cities on the California coast before heading over to the great state of Texas.

Berkeley, CA

The city of Berkeley boasts a variety of organic and vegetarian restaurants to satisfy the eco-conscious foodie, but the city's sustainability plan goes far beyond culinary innovation. As part of Berkeley's Climate Action Plan, the city is upgrading street lamps from high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights to light-emitting diode (LED) lights. The city also encourages business and commercial real estate owners to install plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging stations in their parking lots with a program that fast-tracks the city permitting process associated with non-residential PEV charging station projects. Berkeley also offers programs to help low-income, senior and disabled homeowners upgrade their homes to make them more energy efficient. To encourage renewable energy use in public buildings, the city of Berkeley participates in the Regional Renewable Energy Procurement Project, which helps government agencies purchase and finance clean energy systems.

Oakland, CA

Oakland produces 1 megawatt (MW) of electricity from solar panels installed on the downtown ice rink and the Municipal Service Center. To increase energy-efficiency, Oakland retrofitted 129 of its 141 largest facilities. Housing developments are going green to offer low-impact and affordable housing to Oakland residents. The city is making "transit-oriented development," or TOD, a neighborhood-improving priority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in general. The city also set a goal to be a zero waste community by 2020 and has already reduced its landfill disposal by 31% between 2000 and 2010.

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco is known for its progressive attitude. It should come as no surprise then that the city is taking a progressive approach to tackling the biggest environmental issues. From programs that encourage the upcycling of items into art pieces to being the first city to ban the use of plastic checkout bags, San Francisco is thinking of novel and creative ways to solve big problems. The city is currently working toward the goal of achieving a 100% renewable-energy-based electricity supply from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass. San Francisco also encourages urban agriculture, urban orchards, urban forestry and preserving natural ecosystems through a variety of permitting, education and support programs.

Austin, TX

From music festivals to the celebration of Eeyore's birthday, Austin knows how to throw a party. But did you know that Austin also has a Sustainability Action Agenda that's as packed as its party schedule? Austin has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2020, which is no small feat. However, as home to the leading seller of renewable energy among utility-sponsored programs, the city of Austin is well on its way. Green tourism development, designated green space throughout the city, a LEED Gold Certified animal shelter, urban farming programs, EV charging station plans and the development of more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly roads and trails are just a few of the measures that make up Austin's plan for sustainability.

Join us next time as the tour continues through the Midwest and up the East Coast!

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