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Green Living

Living Green in Cupertino

Cupertino Green Resident Resources

Steps To Take

In Your Home

Outside Your Home

On the Road

At the Store

Contact Us

Did you know that U.S. households produce 21% of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming? This represents a significant opportunity for each of us to make small (and large!) changes in our daily lives to reduce waste, conserve energy and ultimately fight climate change!

The City of Cupertino hopes to take the mystery out of “where to start” by providing this helpful list of simple “green your routine” actions to help each of our residents make a significant environmental difference in their own homes. Because climate change is a global issue we invite you to share these resources with your family members, neighbors, co-workers and classmates to expand our environmental reach to ensure a stable climate for future generations. 

In Your Home:



  • In 2007, An estimated 5% of U.S. electricity -- or $4 billion a year--is wasted by appliances on standby mode, and the Department of Energy says that figure could rise to 20% by 2010.
  • Visit Home Energy Saver to identify the best ways to save energy in their homes, and find the resources to make the savings happen.
  • Choosing energy-efficient products can save families about 30% ($400 a year) while reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases. Visit Cupertino City Manager’s Sustainability Pledge and commit to:
    • Turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer, especially at night and while you are away from home. Or, even better, install a programmable thermostat to do this for you! Visit to review your options.
    • Unplug electronic equipment or consider buying a “smart” power strip to prevent electronics from draining electric current when not in use.
    • Replace your current light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting. These bulbs use 30% less energy, but produce the same amount of light and last longer.
    • Refrigerators use the most electricity in your house. Adjust your fridge to the average temperature of 37 degrees F and your freezer to 0 degrees F.
    • Wash your clothes in cold water - About 90% of the energy used for washing clothes in a conventional top-load washer is for heating the water. When the time is right, upgrade to an Energy Star clothes dryer or better yet use a clothes line!
  • The following economic incentives are available to support residents and builders of new residential construction projects in implementing renewable energy projects and green building design principles:
    1. Federal Tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, with no upper limit through 2016 (for existing homes & new construction) for: Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Panels, Solar Water Heaters, Small Wind Energy Systems, Fuel Cells.
    2. Utility (PG&E) Residential New Construction Rebates are available for builders of residential dwellings that incorporate energy efficient features. Incentives are available if builders meet the Energy Star requirements – 15% more efficient than required by the 2005 Title 24 Energy Code. For those homes that do not meet the Energy Star label but still include energy conserving features, PG&E offers prescriptive rebates to builders.
    3. Cupertino offers up to $1000 for new residences to reimburse a portion of the cost of having a GreenPoint Rater or LEED Accredited Professional certify your new home. The city also expedites its Plan Check for all green projects.
  •  In addition, existing residential homes implementing energy efficiency measures can qualify for the following tax credits and rebates:
    1. Federal Tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, up to $1,500, in 2009 & 2010 (for existing homes only) for: Windows and Doors, Insulation, Roofs (Metal and Asphalt), HVAC, Water Heaters (non-solar), Biomass Stoves.
    2. PG&E offers rebates through the Standard Energy Efficiency Rebate Program, including lighting improvements, heating and cooling improvements, remodeling projects and pool improvements. More information and applications for rebates are available at the program website and customers can apply for the rebates online through the e-Rebate system.
  • Join Cupertino’s partner to reduce this number by volunteering to become a home energy auditor or registering your home for a FREE audit. Trained volunteers meet with residents in their homes to install simple energy-and-water-saving devices and create home energy conservations plans. Sign-up today by contacting the program’s coordinator, Liz Muir at lizm* or 650.962.9876 x350.
  • Team-up with your classmates or congregation and pledge to change at least one energy use practice per month through Acterra Green. Your team can track it’s progress through an Acterra-created website for FREE! To find out more contact the program’s manager, Ellen Wikinson at ellenw* or 650.962.9876 x353.
  •  Visit PG&E’s For My Home website, with dedicated resources to show you how to manage your home energy use.


  • Homeowners are able to participate in the Cool Cities Cupertino partnership with REC Solar and take advantage the community discounts that are available for a limited time.
  • Solar electricity is good for the environment, reduces energy bills, and lowers homeowners cost of power forever. There will be a series of educational seminars about the solar community program and Cool Cities Cupertino discounts with REC Solar and Sun Run. 
  • For more info go to or call REC Solar at 888.OK.SOLAR (888.657.6527).
  • For a checklist on obtaining a PV permit from the Cupertino building department, go to, click on Forms & Guides, then choose Solar Panel/Photovoltaic Submittal Checklist.


  • Between the use of faucets, showers, toilets and washers an average individual in the United States uses 69.3 gallons of water per day! Yikes!
  • Conserve water by installing water-efficient devices such as high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators.
  • Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth, take shorter showers and minimize/eliminate lawn sprinkler use.
  • Repair all leaks (a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons a day). 
  • Request a FREE Water Wise House Call through the Santa Clara Valley Water District

 Outside Your Home and In Your Garden

  • Outdoor water use in the United States averages 32 gallons per person per day.
  • Use the water wise plant list to select species to help conserve water
  • Everyone can include native plants in their landscaping; from those with acres of land (e.g. corporations, universities) to those with small urban lots. Native plants are hardy because they have adapted to the local conditions. Once established, native plants do not need pesticides, fertilizers, or watering. Not only is this good for the environment, it saves time and money.
  • Learn more about where your water comes from.
  • If you do use a sprinkler system:
    • Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only – not the street or sidewalk. 
    •  Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning).
    • Water plants according to what they need. Your local nursery can advise you.
  • Making – or purchasing – one or more rain barrels will help you conserve water and prevent at least some run-off from your home’s roof into the storm water system.
  • Create a rain garden 12 feet from your home’s foundation in a low spot in your yard to capture water that would otherwise run off into the storm sewer system to collect local oils and pollutants. 
  • Reduce stormwater runoff by minimizing paving or consider a pervious paving system that would allow rainwater to infiltrate into the ground.

On the Road

  • Did you know that transportation sector alone accounts for 40 percent of the state's total greenhouse gas emissions? That’s reason enough to walk, bike or take public transportation to work or around town. Plus, walking and biking are great ways to shed pounds AND help the planet!
  • Start a work or event rideshare program.
  • Be a smart trip planner to reduce vehicle miles traveled and fuel use. This may ultimate save you money on your auto insurance through a program proposed in the state called Pay-As-You-Drive.
  • California generates more than 41 million waste tires annually. Although 75 percent of them are recycled, the remaining waste tires constitute a yearly 10-million-tire stockpile in need of meaningful places to go. To expand the life of your tires get “Tire Wise” by following these simple steps:
    • Check the air pressure in your tire at least once a month.
    •  Regularly check the tread depth of your tires.
    •  Rotate your tires every 6,000 miles as a rule of thumb.
    • Practice good driving habits. Observe speed limits, steer clear of potholes and debris on the road.
    • Finally, be alert to changes in vehicle handling, and look for uneven wear on your tires. 

At the Store

  • Be a smart informed shopper – support businesses that are local stewards of our environment.
  • BYOB – Bring your own bag! Say no to “plastic or paper” by bringing a snappy reusable bag with you to the store. And if you must use plastic, please recycle these at the store.
  • Pre-Cycle before you recycle by making smart consumer choices such as:
    • Buying in bulk to avoid individually wrapped items.
    • Enjoy a mid-day treat by brining your own lunch, cloth napkin and utensils to work to avoid disposable items.
  • Purchase fair trade and recyclable products whenever possible.
  • Buy recyclable and recycled products to save virgin natural resources from the supply chain. For example, if every household in the United States replaced just one package of virgin fiber napkins (250 count) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 1 million trees.
  • Head to our local flea market, consignment shops or thrift stores to bring new life to vintage or used items.
  • Visit our local farmers market or join a local Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) to buy locally grown food when available.

For more ideas visit EPA’s Protect the Environment: At Home and In the Garden.

Last updated: 9/15/2015 12:56:45 PM