California: the Golden State of Environmental Change

Say what you want about California. They do have a ton of people, (population 38 million and climbing), so they have been contributing a lot to US emissions and other environmental problems in the past. However, this is changing, and California is leading by example.

Recent studies suggest that the STATE OF CALIFORNIA is well on it’s way to meet it’s carbon reduction/climate goals. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, known as the “Berkeley Lab,” completed a study last December 2013 that shows California is on track with decreasing their carbon emissions by the goal of 2020. The golden state has done this through vehicle standards, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, an increase in renewable energy, the Zero-Emission Vehicle Program, and a few other similar programs.

The report also found that rigorous adhesion to current plans paired with an expansion of some current programs, California can exceed their state-wide emissions goal by 2050.

This is a rare feat – a lot of cities around the US make these types of carbon goals but don’t reach them by the target goal year or don’t make rigorous enough plans to do so.

States with bag bans/taxes – click through for interactive map.

California citizens are also working well on small scales in certain cities to combat other environmental issues besides climate change. California cities were among the first to tax the use of plastic bags, which do not belong in landfills as they do not decompose. Here is a list of some of the actions some areas are taking to help the environment!

Fresno recycles – a lot.

FRESNO: The residents of Fresno, a small city north of Los Angeles, recycle a whopping 73 percent of their waste. Most cities in the US recycle 30-50 percent of theirs, for comparison. In Fresno, recyclables are aplenty. This type of landfill reduction means that they utilize sorting machines and with the help of some “innovative recycling companies,” repurpose their recyclables into renewable paper, cans and gasoline (yes, gasoline). They are also able to compost large amounts to use for their booming agricultural industry in this area. Read more at National Geographic.

Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES: The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, responsible for commercial and residential electricity and water, started offering solar energy incentives for businesses and residents last year. This tariff incentive program reimburses those who use solar energy. Read more on Solar Reviews.

Sunrise at Moscone North Conference Center  in downtown San Francisco (my photo)
Sunrise at Moscone North Conference Center in downtown San Francisco (my photo)

SAN FRANCISCO: Not only did San Francisco create a plastic bag tax, which I experienced first-hand, but has also recently banned sale of plastic water bottles on city property (under 21oz, so 2 liter soda bottles are exempt). Sporting events are excused from the ruling, and food trucks have until 2018 to comply. Everyone else isn’t so lucky. Companies have until October 2014 to stop selling plastic bottles or they will be subject to fines. Taking water bottles out of commission in San Francisco will stop the non-degradable plastic from entering landfills, where it stays a bottle for pretty much forever. Read more at MSNBC.

So, this shows that a state with a large population like California has the power and determination to make a change. More states should follow (and have already started to!).

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