By Shelly Meron
Albany and Berkeley rank as the two "greenest" cities in the state based on residents' membership in the Green Party and support for environmental initiatives, according to researchers at UCLA.
The researchers, who released their findings in the spring, also looked at whether residents in cities that are considered politically "green" follow through in their lifestyle choices by studying the concentration of registrations of Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles and LEED building certifications.
"My students have a lot of interest in 'green' products — solar panels, LEED buildings, fuel-efficient cars — and who actually buys these things," Matthew Kahn, a professor at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and co-author of the study with graduate student Ryan Vaughn, said Friday. "We wanted to know, Do communities who vote green live a green life in terms of buying these products? The answer is yes."
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a "green building" rating system that encourages sustainable building practices. It is led by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The study looked at 349 California cities. It found that 5.2 percent of registered vehicles in Berkeley's 94707 ZIP code are hybrids, with 3.8 percent being Priuses. In Albany, the hybrid share is 2.48 percent, while the Prius share is 1.7 percent. El Cerrito came in at 2.3 percent for hybrids and 1.4 percent for Priuses. Meanwhile, the state average is much lower: 0.76 percent for hybrids and 0.42 percent for Priuses.
Albany Mayor Robert Lieber said he is proud that Albany's efforts are being recognized, and he hopes to see other cities follow suit.
"Albany's been working toward being a 'green' city and sharing part of the responsibility for a long time," Lieber said. "What that study looked at was ... a willingness to put into practice being greener and making choices that help the environment and changing your lifestyle. It also showed that a lot of people in California and in the country aren't doing that. They aren't understanding that there really needs to be a change in behavior."
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates also is pleased.
"We have a high concentration of homes going solar, and more than 100 'green-certified' businesses," Bates said. " We've tried really hard to 'green' our city as much as possible, and we think our efforts are showing results, which is very gratifying. We think this is a wonderful thing. It means that we're not only talking the talk, but we're walking the walk."
Behind Albany and Berkeley in the top 10 were Fairfax, Belvedere, Piedmont, Mill Valley, Larkspur, Portola Valley, Sausalito and Palo Alto.
Staff writer Shelly Meron covers Albany, El Cerrito and Kensington. Reach her at 510-243-3578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.