Ukiah California: A Sustainable Living Community

Learn about Ukiah California, a sustainable living community. This town of 15,580 enjoys a mild climate, proximity to more than 20 organic wineries and a reputation for maximizing use of renewable energy sources.

Vineyards and renewable energy are two things you’ll find in Ukiah.

Vineyards and renewable energy are two things you’ll find in Ukiah.

Photo by Tom Liden

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A great place to live you've never heard of is Ukiah California, a sustainable living community. Ukiah's organic wineries and renewable energy sources make this city a great choice to live in.

Ukiah California: A Sustainable Living Community

Endowed with ecological wealth in the form of a mild climate, fertile soil, and surrounding forests of oak and some remaining redwood, Ukiah and Mendocino County are a mecca for all things sustainable. Ukiah is the home of the first certified organic brewpub, Ukiah Brewing Co., and the area also boasts more than 20 organic wineries, including Frey and Fetzer. Mendocino was the first county in the United States to host a community supported agriculture farm, and the first county to ban the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture. John Schaeffer, founder of Gaiam Real Goods, a major vendor of renewable energy technology, sold the first retail solar photovoltaic panel in the United States from the Real Goods store near Ukiah.

The county also is active in the re-localization movement. The mission statement for GULP (Greater Ukiah Localization Project) is “to engage all residents of the Upper Russian River Watershed to ensure local sources of food, water, energy, and the basic physical and spiritual needs of our communities by co-creating vibrant, self-reliant, local economies.”

Ukiah’s community culture is about being local, not just buying local. Dave Smith, owner of Mulligan books and retired partner of Smith and Hawken, is a cultural and political fixture in Ukiah. To stimulate more rooftop solar energy installations, Smith circulated a petition titled “Let’s Solarize Our Village.” Many residents (mostly in the surrounding hills) already have installed solar, and with attractive state and utility rebates and federal tax credits, Smith thinks many more will follow. Currently, the Ukiah Municipal Utility acquires more than half of its electricity from renewable sources such as geothermal, hydroelectric, wind and biomass.

Do you live in Ukiah? Have you visited? Please post your comments below.

Ukiah, California

Population: 15,580
Climate: Mild in general; warm summer afternoons buffered by coastal breezes. January average temperature: 45 degrees. July average: 73 degrees.
Median House Value: $330,000
Natural Assets: Elevation: 615 feet. Within an hour of the Pacific coast, and near the virgin redwoods of Montgomery Woods State Reserve, “one of the few remaining redwood groves you can’t drive through.”
Sustainable Initiatives: Local activism, renewable energy, drafting of a new comprehensive plan for Ukiah.

Check out the other towns on our 2007 list of Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of.

David Wann writes and produces documentaries about sustainable lifestyles. His most recent book, Simple Prosperity, is a sequel to the bestseller Affluenza that he co-authored.

12/24/2007 2:24:43 AM

I too, happened on Ukiah, and fell in love with the town. As a nutritionist from the East Coast with a company whose mission is to use the power of live theater to turn kids on to healthy habits, Ukiah was a wonderful surprize - with so many people, stores and restaurants concerned with a sustainable food supply and organic food. As luck would have it, I found a parking space right in front of what looked like a fairly ordinary used bookstore. But, it was far from ordinary- it was Mulligan Stew, the bookstore quoted in the above article. I knew there was magic in the air, as customers passionately discussed politics, sustainability and of course, their favorite books. I had some time to chill after a very hectic work schedule, and had that rare opportunity to spend a few days, sinking into a good book. But which of the thousands should I choose? I had a heartwarming discussion with the bookstore's owner, who after much prodding to answer the question - which book has meant the most to you, he shyly took a book off from behind the counter, 'well I guess it would be this one' - The title: To Be Of Use; the author, Dave Grizzle. It was the perfect read for me, and I encourage anyone out that way to visit Dave and his wonderful bookstore, and if you can't meet Dave in person, at least meet him through his enlightening book!

9/4/2007 12:55:07 PM

I am from the Ukiah area. A few years ago I ventured out of California and into Oregon. Within two years I was right back here in Ukiah. I missed the diverse culture, arts, local community participation, and the general friendliness of businesses. Where else can you enjoy the quietness of a smaller city and yet drive less than an hour in any direction and experience the coast and larger cities, and sites? There are many RV parks, and campgrounds around Ukiah. There are hiking trails, bike trails, a beautiful lake open for swimming and boating, plays and theater, symphony, unique shops, the Russian River, and so much more. Needless to mention the wonderful array of restaurants and lodging facilities. I recommend Ukiah as a place to visit and moreso, a place to live. As a response to the previous comment about trailer parks. Yes, there are some trailer parks. For more information I strongly recommend you contacting the Greater Ukiah Chamber of Commerce in Ukiah, Ca.

8/15/2007 8:14:17 PM

No mention was made of any campgrounds nearby. We live in an RV and this sounds like an ideal place to be. Someone please let me know of any campgrounds or or or trailer parks that would accept a motorhome on a permanent basis. Thanks for any help.

8/15/2007 8:08:40 PM

I was born and raised in Ukiah California. I currently live in Victoria British Columbia but I miss Ukiah. It is a beautiful valley and a great community. I have several friends that grew up in Ukiah with me who moved away from the valley out of school but have returned to raise their children. I also worked for Real Goods for 8 years and learned quite a bit about business, solar energy and all things green. It was great to see Ukiah get the recognition it so well deserves. Thank you for the article and photos. -Naomi McBroom