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11 Eco-Friendly California Destinations

11 Eco-Friendly California Destinations

Trying to plan a sustainable trip to the Golden State? These deserving destinations are all worthy choices

If you’re looking to support destinations that are doing their part for the planet, look no further than the Golden State. It should come as no surprise that California is a pioneer in green initiatives and sustainability programs: Thirteen of the top 20 most sustainable large U.S. cities are located in California. Here are 11 destinations that are doing their part to help with game-changing policies and programs, listed north to south. 

1. Eureka

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: Eureka has 14 parks, including the 67-acre Sequoia Park Zoo and its Redwood Sky Walk, a series of bridges and platforms 100 feet above the forest floor • The Eureka Waterfront Trail offers six miles of wildlife education and recreation along Humboldt Bay • An active port, Eureka’s restaurants serve locally harvested seafood including oysters, salmon, and crab

2. Truckee and Lake Tahoe

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: Take Care Tahoe ambassadors roam the lake’s trails and Truckee’s historic downtown to promote responsible recreation • Truckee has more than 50 electric-vehicle charging stations and 93 miles of bike paths, street lanes, and routes • TART Connect is North Lake Tahoe’s free shuttle service, which allows people to leave their cars behind and ride to dining and attractions • South Lake Tahoe is adding paved paths to connect existing trails, including the new South Tahoe Greenway • The Keep Truckee Green program places solar-powered compacting trash bins throughout Truckee’s historic district

3. Sonoma County

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: Sonoma County Winegrowers is the world’s most sustainable wine-growing region, with 99 percent of the county’s vineyards certified as sustainable • Benziger Winery was the first in Sonoma County to become certified biodynamic • Silver Oak Winery’s Alexander Valley and Oakville production facilities are LEED Platinum certified • The Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport is 100 percent solar powered 

4. Sacramento

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: As America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, Sacramento has more than 25 regional farmers’ markets, including the state’s largest certified farmers’ market The Golden 1 Center’s farm-to-fork food program sources meat and produce locally • Many of Sacramento’s more than 50 breweries send their used mash to livestock farms for animal feed • The city has the country’s greenest city-vehicle fleet, with more than half of its 2,300 vehicles running on green, low-carbon energy • The SAFE Credit Union Convention Center is LEED Silver certified

5. San Francisco

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MUNI) operates the largest fleet of zero-emissions electric trolley buses of any U.S. transit system • Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains are 100 percent electric • The city is ranked as the No. 2 best large U.S. city for biking • In 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban single-use plastic grocery bags • The city’s composting program collects more than 500 tons of food scraps per day and turns them into fertilizer

6. Monterey

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has educated diners about sustainable seafood choices since 1999 • Monterey County hosts 13 weekly farmers’ markets • Salinas Valley’s Scheid Family Wines uses wind turbines to power its operation and 120 surrounding homes • Ventana Wildlife Society works to protect the California condor, a bird that was nearly extinct but now can be seen soaring over Big Sur and Pinnacles National Park • More than 90 businesses are part of Monterey County’s Green Business Program 

7. Big Bear

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: The Southern California Mountains Foundation Program connects people to public lands through education, stewardship and environmental citizenship • The Care for Big Bear campaign inspires residents and visitors to care for the natural environment • Volunteers keep Big Bear Lake’s shoreline and beaches clean through the Adopt-a-Shoreline program • The Adopt-a-Trail program maintains clean trails in national forest lands

8. Los Angeles

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: L.A. has more electric vehicles and more Energy Star-certified buildings than any other U.S. city • The Los Angeles Convention Center, The Broad art museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures are all LEED certified • L.A.'s LEED-certified hotels include the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles, Kimpton La Peer, W Hollywood, and Shore Hotel • L.A. has ranked as America’s No. 1 solar city for six of the past seven years • By 2028, L.A. will plant 90,000 trees citywide • It is the first city to repurpose plastic bottles to repave its streets L.A. uses the nation’s first hybrid-electric street sweepers

9. Greater Palm Springs

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: Greater Palm Springs’ wind farm in San Gorgonio Pass contains more than 4,000 windmills and provides enough electricity to power the entire region • The Coachella Valley Water District recycles more than 2 billion gallons of wastewater annually • Sunline Transit Agency fuels its buses by low-emission compressed natural gas or no-emission hydrogen and electric

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens composts all human and animal food waste on site • Two Bunch Palms is North America’s first carbon-neutral spa resort

10. Irvine

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: The master-planned city of Irvine has 300-plus miles of on-road bike lanes, 50-plus miles of off-road trails, and 16,500 acres of parks and dedicated open space • It’s home to the historic Irvine Ranch, a National Natural Landmark featuring 50,000 acres of protected land laced with hiking and equestrian trails Irvine has one of the highest percentages of solar-powered homes among U.S. cities • In 2021, it became the third California city to pledge carbon neutrality by 2035

11. San Diego

Why it’s an eco-friendly destination: San Diego International Airport has the world’s first LEED Platinum-certified commercial airport terminal • In 2021, the San Diego Trolley opened its expanded UC San Diego Blue Line with nine added stations • More than 5,000 farms are spread throughout the county, with dozens of farmers’ markets held each week • San Diego Zoo Global is one of the world’s largest animal conservation organizations • San Diego County has more than 120 hiking trails throughout its parks, coastlines, and forests

For even more tips on sustainable travel in California, order or download a free 2022 California Road Trips guide here.