We searched the country to find perfect places to live and raise kids. This year's winners offer more than affordable homes, great schools, and good neighbors -- they're also making smart moves to save the planet.
By Michael J. Weiss
Median income: $81,790
Median home price: $400,000
Households with children: 46%
Student/teacher ratio: 22:1
Residents who recycle: 45%
Most Saturday mornings Brian James, 42, a V.P. for a surveillance equipment distributor, takes daughter Emily, 15, and son Tyler, 11, not to soccer practice but to the trash dump, where they dispose of bottles, newspapers, and lawn clippings. "Of course the town picks up garbage, but we started making the kids go so they'd be more eco-conscious," says mom Kim, 42. "Now they love it. Tyler, in fact, tells us we should recycle more!" The entire town is a green pioneer: The first city in California to participate in "ClimateSmart," a state program to reduce greenhouse gases, Rocklin helps offset its carbon emissions by donating some $8,000 annually to buy up land and prevent logging in nearby forests. The schools are outstanding -- 9 of 13 have been named California Distinguished Schools -- and the streets are safe. Brian boasts about Rocklin's three B's: barbecue, ball games and, referring to the panoramic view of the Sierra Nevada mountains, beauty. "The weather's great, the people friendly," he says. "All the good things you think about in a town you'll find right here."
Going for the Green: After installing solar panels in 2006, police headquarters cut energy bills by 40 percent and CO2 emissions by 5,000 pounds yearly.