The California Green Communities challenge promotes action by cities to create a truly sustainable future. Cities will address 10 areas that touch every aspect of community life and have the potential to significantly reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

California Green Communities provides best practices guidelines based on the Institute for Local Government’s climate change and sustainability best practices framework, offering suggestions for local action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in each area. Specific best practice suggestions can be used to undertake standalone programs or can be part of a broad-based climate action plan. Taken together, the best practices point to new ways for cities to revitalize their communities.


Goal: Increase energy conservation and efficiency among residents and businesses as well as in buildings, equipment traffic signals and street lighting systems.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Audit major agency buildings and facilities to quantify energy use and identify opportunities for savings.
  • Establish energy efficiency protocols for building custodial and cleaning services.
  • Establish energy efficiency policy that provides employees with guidelines.
  • Replace incandescent traffic, crosswalk and parking lot lights with energy-efficient (LEDs) and/or energy efficient alternatives.


Goal: Reduce energy use in water, irrigation and wastewater systems in agency operations and the community.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Work with agency or company that provides water and wastewater service to implement an audit, cycling, and equipment replacement program for water and wastewater pumps and motors.
  • Use recycled water for agency facilities and operations, including parks and medians.
  • Use compost and mulch in agency and private landscaping as a water conservation measure.
  • Assess, maintain, and repair existing plumbing fixtures, pipes, and irrigation systems in all agency buildings and facilities to minimize water use.
  • Adopt retrofit program to encourage or require installation of water conservation measures in existing businesses and homes.


Goal: Establish and implement minimum levels of energy efficiency and green building standards for buildings and facilities as well as commercial and residential buildings.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Require buildings have a performance equivalent to an Energy Star rating of at least 60-75 (as described in the LEED-E3 reference guide), where feasible. Require new residential and commercial construction to exceed Title 24 energy efficiency standards to extent permitted by law.
  • Adopt and implement a local green building ordinance or program setting minimum standards of LEED Silver certification for new or renovated buildings.
  • Provide technical and financial assistance and other incentives to private development projects that meet or exceed specified standards under programs such as Build It Green, California Green Builder, LEED, or similar program.


Goal: Enhance existing waste reduction and recycling activities in buildings and in the community. Implement source reduction, recycling and resource recovery programs for construction and demolition material as well as waste organic material.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Adopt a partnership with public agency offices and local schools for waste reduction and recycling. Increase opportunities for e-waste and hazardous waste recycling by residents and businesses.
  • Identify opportunities to increase material recovery and beneficial use of organic material by establishing an organic material recovery program for green waste from agency parks and facility landscaping.
  • Require all agency demolition projects to incorporate de-construction and construction and demolition waste recycling or recovery practices.
  • Work with solid waste and recycling collection providers to calculate and reduce carbon footprint of collection system.


Goal: Commit to purchasing specific products, goods and services that are climate-friendly. Provide community education about climate-friendly procurement.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Adopt and implement a procurement policy that establishes standards for climate-friendly products and requires purchases to meet such standards such as new equipment meets Energy Star or comparable energy standards, office paper, carpeting, furnishings and plastics must contain a minimum specified percentage of post consumer recycled content.
  • Provide incentives for the use of alternative fuel vehicles for contracts for services involving vehicles (buses, waste hauling and recycling, construction, etc.).
  • Work with the business community to create awareness of climate- friendly procurement opportunities.


Goal: Promote the use of fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Promote methane recovery programs, and the use of renewable sources of energy.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Convert vehicles owned, leased, or operated by the agency to run on alternative or non-fossil fuels that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Allow public use of facilities that support alternate fuel vehicles, such as CNG facilities and electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Recover and use the maximum amount of recoverable methane gas from landfills to produce electricity, fuel co-generation facilities, and/or produce CNG for use in alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Install photovoltaic systems or other renewable energy sources in facilities, or enter into power purchasing agreements to meet at least 10-25 percent facilities electrical energy requirements.


Goal: Implement transportation planning processes that reduce automobile dependency and improve Transportation Systems Management (TSM). Promote alternatives to single-occupant auto commuting.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Reduce vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) a high-priority criterion in evaluation of policy, program, and project alternatives.
  • Implement Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) for surveillance and traffic control, such as synchronized signals, transit and emergency signal priority, and other traffic flow management techniques, to improve traffic flow and reduce vehicle idling.
  • Encourage alternatives to single-occupant auto commuting, such as parking cash-out, flexible schedules, transit incentives, bicycle facilities, ridesharing services and subsidies, and telecommuting.
  • Encourage and facilitate car-sharing and other services that reduce the need to use a personal motor vehicle. Provide parking preferences to residents who rideshare or use low-carbon fuel vehicles.


Goal: Create communities and neighborhoods that are attractive, safe, and convenient for walkers and bicyclists and then to capitalize on transit system investments and services.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Develop a community-wide pedestrian and bicycle plan and capital program that maximizes the potential for residents to walk or bicycle within and between neighborhoods.
  • Establish policies that support multimodal transportation systems and connection of modes to each other. Zone for concentrated activity centers around transit service.
  • Include a greenhouse gas reduction plan in the General Plan.
  • Develop and adopt a preferred “climate-friendly” land use and transportation scenario for future development to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through software tools such as the PLACE3S system developed by the California Energy Commission.


Goal: Preserve and enhance forests, parks, street trees, open space, and other natural systems that act as carbon “sinks”. Promote local sustainable agriculture to reduce carbon emissions associated with food production, processing and transport and offsetting carbon emissions through credits and allowances.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Manage parks, open space, recreational facilities, and other natural areas to ensure the long-term health and viability of trees and other vegetation.
  • Steer new development away from open space and agricultural lands that provide natural carbon storage. Protect natural lands in and adjacent to the community through acquisition, conservation easements, or other long-term mechanisms.
  • Promote the purchase of local and organic produce through farmers markets and other measures.


Goal: Promote individual actions, cooperation among agencies and communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve natural systems that store carbon.

Sample Best Practices:

  • Develop and implement a community climate change education program that provides community members with basic information about climate change.
  • Develop information and positive messages about activities individuals can take to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, such as reducing energy and water use, recycling, and using transit.
  • Develop a community climate change outreach program that enlists participation from schools, museums, service groups, business organizations and other community partners.
  • Include representatives of diverse communities of interest (such as renters, business owners, neighborhood leaders, immigrants, low income residents and youth) when developing climate change policies and programs.