California Greening

Everyone has a strong opinion of California. Too much traffic, too wide economic disparity, too rich real estate, too high on itself, and “too perfect” are some of the divergent opinions on the Golden State. A recent announcement by Toyota gave this Canadian one more reason to be jealous and reverent of California at the same time. 

Toyota is re-introducing the RAV4 EV, an all-electric SUV. Now you can cast judgmental glares at hybrid drivers as you pull into the gas station for your green tea. “Gasoline is so 2011.” 

This über-smug opportunity will be reserved initially only for Californians, though. Only 2,600 vehicles will be available, initially to the San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco markets. 

How fair is that? Didn’t the Californians get spas and yoga and wine before the rest of us? Now they get first rights to a vehicle that can climb mountains without gasoline? To add personal insult to injury, the vehicle is manufactured a few miles from where I was born, in the Woodstock, Ont., assembly plant. Canada! Which, by the way, is all perfectly Karmic (Californians invented that too, incidentally). This is Canada’s divine punishment for exploiting the tar sands, and California’s reward for being the world leader in zero emission vehicles (ZEVs).

Last month I wrote about a historic turning point in environmental protection in the Sunshine State, with the founding of Everglades National Park in reaction to an impending jetport. All kidding aside, as much as we love to beat up on California, it’s only appropriate to give credit where credit is due, and offer props to another state with some green history. 

California remains a leader in environmental protection law. The ZEV mandate was implemented in 1990, by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). It originally required that 2% of the in-state new light duty vehicle sales of major automakers had no emissions of criteria pollutants. 

CARB itself has become a leader in the U.S. for creating the strictest emissions standards in the U.S. Several jurisdictions (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, as well as the District of Columbia) have voluntarily adopted these standards, in order to minimize air pollution. 

Very recently, Gov. Jerry Brown declared that California government will “lead by example” in adopting very strict energy-efficiency policy measures to its state buildings. 

Brown appeals to both sides of the political spectrum with the executive order delivered in April: “Greening the state’s buildings will shrink our environmental footprint and save taxpayers millions of dollars.” 

The order sets a target of zero net energy consumption for 50% of the square footage of existing state-owned buildings by 2025 and zero net energy consumption from all new or renovated state buildings beginning design after 2025. 

And, California itself leads by example. California is home to more LEED-certified buildings than any other state, with twice as many as the next state, Texas. 

California gets it right on the hedonistic side of the coin as well. The Lodi wine region, located in San Joaquin County, has adopted its own strict social and environmental standards known as “Lodi Rules,” promoting biodiversity, soil and water health, as well as community and employee well-being, all while minimizing opportunity or resource loss for future generations. (Aren’t they just TOO perfect???)

These over-achieving, sustainable, zero-emissions, making surfing look easy, visionary, Californians might make your Zinfandel taste like sour grapes. When this happens though, just take a deep yogic breath, and remember the plea of yet another California hero: "…can we all get along?" –Rodney King

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