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Sustainable Hillsborough

This section of the website highlights some of the green programs and policies that the Town has implemented and identifies actions that residents can take to help create a more sustainable community.

What the Town is doing and how you can contribute:Hillsborough Seal

Hillsborough Climate Action Plan 2010
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory
Green Building Program
Community Solar Program

Construction & Demolition Debris Recycling

Residential Recycling

Compost Giveaways

Water Conservation

Energy Efficiency

Town Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy

Public Works Excellence in Sustainable Programs

Open Space Management


The Town of Hillsborough has been a leader in sustainability in the Bay Area, including being the first jurisdiction in the Bay Area to approve a Construction and Demolition Recycling program. Since then, the City Council recognized the need to develop a comprehensive plan that will provide a solid roadmap to prioritize new sustainable programs and policies.

Climate Action Plan

In December 2007, the City Council approved a resolution to expand Hillsborough’s efforts to be a more sustainable community by authGHG Phenomenonorizing a Sustainable Hillsborough Task Force to be established. The Task Force, comprised of members of the public, Committee members, Building Professionals, two Council members and staff worked to identify, prioritize and recommend sustainable policies and programs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), energy consumption energy costs, water consumption, other natural resource consumption and also expand renewable energy, and provide a healthier community. This effort resulted in the development of the Town’s 2010 Climate Action Plan.

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Hillsborough’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report

Recently elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have a de-stabilizing, warming effect on the global climate. According to NASA scientists, the 1990s were the warmest decade of the century, and the first decade of the 21st century is well on track to be another record-breaker. The rising levels of greenhouse gases increase the severity and rate of storms and drought, decrease snow pack, and disrupt ecosystems, agricultural systems and water supplies. Increased sea levels cause significant environmental and ecosystem disturbances and can cause major population displacement and economic upheaval.1

Pie Chart GHG Inventory
The Town joined the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives’ (ICLEI) “Cities for Climate Protection” to work collaboratively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through this collaboration, the Town completed a greenhouse gas inventory which provides an analysis of the transportation, residential, municipal, and solid waste sectors and their GHG emissions. Armed with this information, the Sustainable Hillsborough Task Force identified and prioritized GHG emissions-reducing programs and policies and formalized them in theTown’s Climate Action Plan.

Calculate your greenhouse gas emissions and learn what you can do to reduce your “Carbon Footprint.”

1Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report: "Climate Change- The Scientific Basis."

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Green Building Program

solar panels on roofThe Town of Hillsborough’s City Council approved a Green Building Ordinance (Ordinance #686) in April 2009 to require a minimum number of green building techniques in new construction and remodeling projects. The Green Building Ordinance became effective July 1, 2009 and requires completion of Build It Green’s Single Family GreenPoint Rated Checklist and approval by Building Department staff. The ordinance requires that the applicant comply with the provisions of the approved GreenPoint Checklist and meet the requirements as outlined in the Ordinance's Standards for Compliance. The goal of the ordinance is to provide energy and water efficient, sustainable and healthy homes for the residents of Hillsborough.

The Town developed the Green Building Ordinance in a collaborative manner and received a significant amount of feedback from the residents and building professionals in the development process. For additional information, check out the Town’s green building pages.

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Community Solar Program

As part of its ongoing sustainability initiatives, The Town launched a Community Solar Program that enabled individual residents to use group purchasing power to achieve significant reductions relative to the normal cost of solar power for their homes. Learn more >>

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Construction & Demolition (C&D) Debris Recycling Program

House deconstruction

House Deconstruction

An important aspect of Green Building is waste reduction. Hillsborough was one of the first jurisdictions to approve a C&D policy and hire staff to monitor and enforce a
Construction and Demolition Debris Recycling Program. The ordinance requires approved Waste Reduction Plans for building and demolition projects prior to permit issuance. Since 2002, the C&D Recycling program has diverted as much as 80% of C&D materials generate annually from construction projects. The program places a strong emphasis on “deconstruction” and salvage in an effort to find the highest-and-best uses for materials removed from Hillsborough building sites.

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Residential Recycling

The Town provides a state-of-the-art three cart system for collection of residential trash, recyclables and organics (e.g., foodwaste and yardwaste). Recyclables such as bottles, cans, paper and newspaper can be commingled in the same container. Visit the Refuse and Recycling Program page for additional information and check out local resources RecycleWorks of San Mateo County and RethinkWaste for a wealth of information about how to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Battery and Electronics Recycling Programs

Did you know that California law prohibits landfill disposal of electronics, batteries and cell phones? In response to this ban and to facilitate proper recycling, the Town has held a number of successful electronic waste recycling drop-off events. Furthermore, the Town, in partnership with the South Bayside Waste Management Authority (SBWMA) offers its residents curbside collection recycling service for household batteries and phones. Here’s how to use this service:

  1. Collect your household rechargeable and disposable alkaline batteries (NO automotive). Battery
  2. Place tape around lithium button batteries with duct or electrical tape for safety reasons.
  3. For cell phones, wrap with any type of paper to protect them.
  4. Place all items in a clear plastic bag and seal bag.
  5. Place the sealed bag on top of your mixed paper recycling bin.
  6. Set recyclables out on your collection day.

For additional information about the Hillsborough battery and cell phone curbside collection service, check out the Refuse and Recycling Program page or RethinkWaste.

Drop Off for Prescription Medications

PharmaceuticalsSmall concentrations of prescription drugs (including hormones, antidepressants, and antibiotics) and over-the-counter drugs like pain relievers, antiseptics, and cold and flu remedies are being found in various waterways nationwide. If you flush your expired or unwanted medication down the toilet or pour them down the drain, they may end up in our own San Francisco Bay where they could harm the Bay's marine life and ecosystems. The medications that end up in our waters don't necessarily kill aquatic organisms, but they may interfere with growth and reproduction.

The Town participates in the campaign to prevent the dumping of medications into the local water system. Unwanted or expired medications can be placed into the disposal box located at the Town of Hillsborough’s Police Department Lobby at 1600 Floribunda Avenue -- no questions asked.

Document Shredding and Recycling

These community shredding events give residents the opportunity to have their confidential documents destroyed on site, free of charge. Mobile shredding trucks arrive at the designated location and residents bring their important documents for destruction using cutting-edge paper shredding technology that crosscuts and reduces materials to fine pieces of confetti. Paper sorting or separation is not necessary -- paper can be recycled with staples, paper clips and binder clips.

Events are sponsored by the SBWMA-RethinkWaste and the Town. Sign-up for email notifications or visit the News Update page for event postings.

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Compost Giveaways

CompostTypically in the Spring and Fall, the Town of Hillsborough has hosted “Free Compost Giveaway” events. The compost is made from yard trimmings and foodwaste collected from communities participating in curbside organics collection program. The compost is ideally mixed with soil as an amendment to enrich soil for lawns, gardens, ornamental plants, trees, and potted plants. By untilizing this non-chemical alternative to fertilizer, residents put organic resources back into the soil, thereby "closing the loop" and keeping these materials out of the landfill. Residents can typically take up to one cubic yard of compost at the giveaway events. Events are sponsored by RethinkWaste, Recology and the Town. Sign-up for email notifications or visit the News Update page for postings of giveaway events.

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Water Conservation

The Town of Hillsborough recognizes the importance of water conservation and offers or has offered the following water conservation resources and programs:

  • Free Water Wise Gardening Web Resource. Get some great tips for conserving water around your property today by visiting the Water-Wise Gardening in the Bay Area" website.
  • The Town Water Conservation Garden. The Town maintains a Water Conservation Garden that demonstrates low water landscaping concepts. FaucetVisit the garden at Town Hall to learn how you can incorporate these water conservation concepts in your landscaping project.
  • Be a Water Saving Hero. The Town participates in the regional conservation campaign to remind residents to conserve water resources. You can also check out our water conservation tips and cash rebate information and learn how to be a water saving hero!
  • Water Wise Education Program. The Town funded Water Wise Education kits for all Hillsborough City School District 5th graders in School Year 2007/08. This program combined educational classroom activities with hands-on home projects aimed to reduce water consumption.
  • Water and Energy Efficiency Rebates. Hillsborough has participated in a washer rebate program that has helped fund hundreds of high efficiency washers since January 2002, resulting in millions of gallons of water conserved. Learn about other rebate programs and money saving tips through PG&E.

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Energy Efficiency

CFL bulbEnergy efficiency is the most important tool for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction in the energy and gas sectors, and meeting our AB 32 (Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) goals will require, under any scenario, unprecedented levels of energy efficiency investment—according to The California Energy Commission. The Town of Hillsborough encourages its residents to become energy efficient, and a great place to start is in your home.

Two Big Steps You Can Take to Conserve Energy and Increase Your Hillsborough Home’s Energy Efficiency

STEP 1: Make some simple changes that you can do yourself.

  • Change your furnace air filter regularly. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months. If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter wastes energy by slowing down air flow and making the system work harder to keep you warm. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system which can lead to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.
  • Monitor your heating and cooling. Set the furnace thermostat to 68 degrees or lower.
  • Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lamps (bulbs). Start with the porch light. It is one of the highest used light fixtures in a home, and is the perfect place to install ENERGY STAR qualified lighting products. Many compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) will fit easily into existing porch lights. Or install a new ENERGY STAR qualified outdoor fixture that saves energy through advanced CFL technology, a motion sensor and/or a photocell that turns the light on only when someone is present or on at night and off in the morning.
  • Be aware of the increasingly larger role that consumer electronics play in your home's energy consumption--accounting for 15 percent of household electricity use. And, in the average home, 25% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.
    • Unplug any battery chargers (like your cell phone charger) or AC power adapters when not in use or after equipment is full charged. As many as 1.5 billion chargers are in use in the U.S. --that's about five for every person. The transformer in the AC adapter draws power continuously, even when your device is not plugged into the adapter. Unplugging the adapter, or plugging it into a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut power to the adapter will stop this energy loss.
    • Buy devices with Energy Star qualified power adapters. The total electricity flowing through all types of power supplies is about 300 billion kWh/year, and 11% of the national electric bill! Consumers are now able to purchase a growing variety of products that are packaged with ENERGY STAR qualified power adapters.
    • Turn off all office and computer peripherals (printer, fax, scanner, etc.) when not in use. Using a power strip as a central “off” switch is an easy way to do this.
    • Choose electronics equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR. These devices (TVs, DVD players, etc.) save energy when off, while maintaining “stand by” features like clock displays, channel settings, and remote-control functions.
    • Enable power management features on your home computer and monitor. Most home office equipment is left on 24 hours a day. Office equipment that is set automatically to switch to sleep mode not only uses less energy, it runs cooler and helps the equipment last longer. In addition, avoid using a screensaver when your computer monitor is not active (let it switch to sleep mode or turn the monitor off instead).
    • Use multi-function devices. Save energy and space with an ENERGY STAR qualified multi-function device that combines several capabilities (print, fax, copy, scan). Make sure power management features are enabled for additional savings.
  • Install low flow shower heads and faucet aerators. A new showerhead can save up to $145 a year on a utility bill by reducing the amount of hot water used.
  • Close the flue damper tightly when not in use. Otherwise, warm or air-conditioned air can easily escape from the house. A chimney is designed to remove by-products from a fire by creating a draft. The draft also pulls air from your home up the chimney-air that you've paid to cool or heat. Even without a fire in the fireplace, there still will be a draft in the chimney as long as there's a temperature difference between indoors and out. Closing the damper will keep air conditioned (or warmed) air in the living space where it belongs.
  • Lower your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees or “normal”.
  • Wash only full loads in the dishwasher.
  • Wash laundry only when you have a full load and wash loads in cold water.
  • Don't over dry your clothes. If your dryer has a moisture sensor that will automatically turn the machine off when clothes are done, use it to avoid over drying. Dry full loads, or reduce drying time for partial loads. It's easy to over dry your clothes, if one setting is used for various fabric types. Try to dry loads made up of similar fabrics, so the entire load dries just as the cycle ends.
  • Clean the dryer lint trap. One of the easiest things you can do to increase drying efficiency is to clean the lint trap before each and every load. Dryers work by moving heated air through wet clothes, evaporating and then venting water vapor outside. If the dryer cannot provide enough heat, or move air sufficiently through the clothes, they will take longer to dry, and may not dry at all.
  • Use the light switch. It sounds easy enough, but is often overlooked--remember to always turn off your lights when leaving a room.

STEP 2: Get a home energy audit by a qualified home performance professional. An energy audit will help you understand how your home functions as a holistic system and provides a diagnosis and prescription for fixing problems that are detected. The following are some common, high-impact prescriptions resulting from energy audits.

  • Seal air leaks and add insulation. Many air leaks in homes are fairly obvious, such as around windows, doors, and electrical outlets. But others, like those in attics, around chimneys, and through recessed lighting fixtures, are often the more significant sources of energy loss in a home. Sealing air leaks is critical to improving the overall efficiency of your home and will make your heating and cooling system perform better. Along with air sealing, an energy audit often identifies a need for the addition of insulation. Many older homes are not well-insulated, and some have no insulation at all. In addition to saving energy, properly installed insulation in walls, floors, and attics provides for more even temperatures throughout the house and results in a more comfortable living environment that is easier to heat and cool.
  • Seal and insulate ductwork. Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating them can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more. In addition to wasting energy, leaky ductwork results in poor air flow, and stuffy and uncomfortable rooms regardless of the thermostat setting. An energy audit may suggest the of sealing of your home’s heating and cooling ducts with mastic, metal tape or spray-on sealant, and balancing the duct system to optimize air flow to all rooms. Focus should first be on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. And, then insulating ductwork in attics, crawlspaces, and some basements will help keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter.
  • Replace your furnace. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, it might be time to replace it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency units can save up to 20 percent on heating costs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats are ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $150 every year in energy costs.
  • Upgrade major appliances. Energy used for lighting and appliances can account for half of your home's total utility bill. As a result, a home energy performance contractor may recommend ENERGY STAR qualified products, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, electronic equipment, light fixtures, and hot water heating system.
  • Upgrade to efficient lighting systems and install motion sensors and dimmer switches. Note that dimmers can be used with incandescent lights, including low-voltage systems, but only with new-screw-based dimmable fluorescent bulbs.

The following are links to additional energy saving guides and tips:

The Energy Upgrade California Home Upgrade program helps you make home improvements that can save energy and make your home more comfortable. Home Upgrade rebates and incentives reward you for addressing your home energy efficiency needs as a system instead of piece by piece.

The U.S. EPA offers information on what you can do to combat climate change.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has a useful checklist and consumer guide to home energy savings.

The Alliance to Save Energy offers a web-based Energy Checkup & Audit.

Visit the Energy Star website to find specific products that carry the Energy Star label. These products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy.

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Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy

The Town passed a resolution adopting an Environmental Purchasing Policy that requires the purchase of recycled and environmentally preferred products in order to conserve natural resources, reduce waste, improve worker safety and health, and to support the markets for recycled goods and other environmentally preferable products and services.

Use this search tool from RecycleWorks to learn where you can purchase environmentally preferable products and services near you. If you will be remodeling or building a new home, consider the green building options available through Build It Green's directories and resources.

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Public Works Excellence in Sustainable Programs

  • Department of Public Works Water Quality Flushing Conservation: The Town’s Water Division combined its fire flushing and unidirectional flushing activities to significantly reduce the amount of water necessary to flush in order to test and maintain the Town’s water system.
  • Automated Flushing Units: The Town’s Water Division designed and had manufactured an automated waster flushing unit. This unit will allow periodic, regular flushing of lines during non-peak use hours, reducing the overall amount of water necessary to maintain water quality in dead-end lines.
  • The Town’s vehicle fleet was converted to Biofuel in 2006.
  • The Town conducted an energy audit with the California Energy Commission to provide recommendations on cost effective energy savings ideas.
  • The Town's SCADA system is a new pump system designed to provide better pump performance and scheduling, resulting in energy savings with an emphasis on non-peak energy usage.

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The Town of Hillsborough makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or reliability of the materials at this site or at other sites to which this website links. Links or references to other information or organizations do not constitute an endorsement.


The Town of Hillsborough 1600 Floribunda Avenue, Hillsborough, CA 94010 (650) 375-7400
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