Study Ranks Berkeley Second 'Greenest' City in California

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A recent study by researchers at UCLA has affirmed Berkeley's reputation as being one of the country's most environmentally conscious cities.

The report, titled "Green Market Geography," ranks Berkeley as one of California's "greenest" cities, second only to its northern neighbor, Albany.

The report, authored by UCLA economics professor Matthew Kahn and graduate student Ryan Vaughn, was based largely on political data comparing California cities' voting records on environmental issues.

Kahn and Vaughn began by comparing the number of registered Green Party voters among California cities, as well as the number of people who voted for Propositions 12 and 13 in 2000, which approved issuing bonds designated for certain environmental protection programs, Kahn said.

After identifying cities with high concentrations of green voters, they looked at the numbers of environmentally friendly cars and buildings to determine which cities went beyond voting green and actually made efforts to live in a more environmentally friendly manner, he said.

"We wanted to answer the question, 'In communities where people vote green, do they live green?'" Kahn said. "The answer is yes."

For example, Within one Berkeley zip code, hybrid vehicles made up 5.2 percent of all vehicles, Kahn said. He compared this with the state average of 0.8 percent and cited it as evidence that many Berkeley residents are environmentally conscious.

In addition to measuring a city's percentage of hybrid vehicles, the researchers also looked at its number of LEED buildings. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a classification granted by the federal government to buildings that meet certain standards of resource conservation, including efficient lighting, waste management and even having showers, which Kahn said encourages people to bike to work.

Jennifer Cogley, sustainable business coordinator for the city of Berkeley, said that Berkeley has always been a hotbed of environmental innovation.

"Berkeley finds itself on the cutting edge of policies that become national standards," Cogley said.

Berkeley was the first city in the nation to implement curb-side recycling pickup and the first to have a solar-powered theater, the Shotgun Players' Ashby Stage, she said.

In addition, she emphasized Berkeley's high concentration of buildings that are officially certified "green" by the utility companies and local government. Becoming green-certified requires buildings to satisfy certain levels of solid and toxic waste reduction, as well as energy and water conservation.

Roland Peterson, recent chairman of the board of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, said that local residents and businesses are motivated by more than just prestigious certifications.

"I think the majority of people would do it of their own conscience, but they do appreciate the recognition," he said.


Contact Nick Moore at [email protected]

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