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Ultimate Guide to Green San Francisco

November 26th, 2009 · No Comments · Green, san francisco

Windmill San Francisco

Windmill San Francisco

San Francisco is a city that is pretty well known for its eco-friendly efforts. There are a lot of green things going on here. There is more than just a general mindset here that you should try to be kind to the earth. San Francisco is truly cutting edge in its adoption of being green. The city has banned plastic bags from being used at grocery stores, supports farmers’ markets like almost no other city in the world, has implemented a citywide composting program and offers a recycled art program at its local dump. Like everything else in the city, San Franciscans do green with style and fun. This guide will let you in on all of the great fun things that there are to do in the city which are designed to be green and how to enjoy them in an eco-friendly manner.

San Francisco’s Most Fun Green Buildings

There are buildings in San Francisco that go above and beyond in their green quotient. These aren’t just buildings that meet LEED standards. These are buildings that you want to go to specifically because what they offer is cool greenness. Some of the most fun green buildings in San Francisco are:

  • EcoCenter. If you’re really interested in green stuff then you’ll be interested in the eco-education provided at this new building that is being constructed in the Hunter’s Point neighborhood. This interesting neighborhood has a bad reputation but it’s actually a neat place for cutting-edge art and city projects. The EcoCenter, which is in its final stages of development, is the city’s first 100% off grid building. It features solar energy, a living roof, native plant landscaping and many other aspects of green building. Events here tend to be of the artsy variety and are usually fun for all ages.
  • Crissy Field Center. If you’re looking for something that’s specifically geared towards children then you’ll want to check out the educational earth-friendly events that are happening at this great place. The building itself is a historic building that’s been sustainably renovated. The activities here are all designed to educate kids about eco-stuff in a fun way. And the center is located a national park near Golden Gate Bridge so the setting is idyllic.
  • Adobe. If nerdy fun is more your style then head over to the Adobe Systems offices located South of Market and take a class or workshop in Adobe programs. The building that you will take your class in is a high-ranking LEED certified building that implements a variety of different green building techniques into its design.
  • Golden Gate Park Windmills. Technically these aren’t buildings but they’re definitely big green structures in San Francisco that are fun to go take a look at. There is a movement to restore these windmills to working order so that they can actually provide wind energy for the city.  For now they’re a neat thing to take a look at when you’re in the park and a good place to snap some pictures at during your trip to San Francisco.
  • Parque Ninos Unidos. Golden Gate Park is the most interesting park in the city but it’s not the only one. There is a small park in the Mission which has a great little community center for kids. The community center is located inside of a green building which uses natural lighting and recycled content in its design.
  • EpiCenter Med Spa. There are a lot of salons and med spas located throughout the world that pride themselves on using healthy, organic materials in their spa treatments. However, not many of them can say that their buildings are also green. This one can. It was built using recycled fabrics, eco-friendly paints and a highly energy-efficient design plan.
  • Orchard Hotel. If you’re just visiting San Francisco then you might want to stay at a green hotel. The best green boutique hotel in the city is the Orchard Hotel. This is a luxury hotel that is totally green from floor to ceiling.

San Francisco’s Most Fun Green Programs and Events

San Francisco doesn’t just have buildings that are green. It also has a lot of green events and programs. Some of the best eco-friendly events and community programs include:

  • The Green Festival. You can’t get any greener than an entire festival devoted to green stuff. This annual event hosts green educators, green vendors and green artists.
  • Pedal-Powered Music Festival. This is a musical event that is entirely powered by the energy of peddling bicycles. It I the largest bike-powered music festival in the world and one of the most interesting annual events in San Francisco. And it’s free to attend.
  • Artist-in-Residence Program at the Local Dump. There is not a whole lot of waste in San Francisco. The city has a terrific recycling program and has recently started offering composting as well. However there is inevitably some waste that comes to the landfill. And some of it goes right back out again because the landfill has an artist-in-residence program which encourages the recycling of this junk into art. There are art shows and events throughout the year to honor the program and the artists it supports.

San Francisco’s Most Fun Green Activities

In addition to visiting the city’s greenest buildings and attending its most popular green events, there are some other green activities that can be enjoyed in San Francisco. The best of those activities include:

  • Slow Food Events and Farmers’ Markets. The Slow Food movement is all about enjoying food that is clean, healthy, eco-friendly and fair to the people who grow it. There are quite a few Slow Food events in San Francisco throughout the year. On a related note, San Francisco hosts multiple farmers’ markets throughout each week where you can get healthy, earth-friendly, locally-grown food direct from the farmers who grow it. The most popular of these farmers’ markets is held at The Ferry Building which was honored last year as a winner of a prestigious green building award.
  • Ride the Ducks. The ducks are a combination land/sea tour through the city of San Francisco. Riding them teaches you some of the history of the city and gives you a great view of the skyline from the bay. It’s one of the best tours of the city that there is. And since the vehicles for this tour recently switched to bio-diesel it’s a green activity for you to enjoy.
  • Aquarium of the Bay. The best aquarium in San Francisco is probably the one that’s located at the California Academy of Sciences but you shouldn’t neglect this other aquarium. It’s a fun place in a great location (Pier 39) and it provides visitors with a great education about the ecology of the area.
  • Cocktails at Elixir. There is a new movement called the Green Cocktail movement which encourages people who enjoy their alcohol to drink earth-friendly organic cocktails. Elixir is the best place in San Francisco to try these green drinks although many bars in the city do have the fresh ingredients that go into these cocktails.
  • Walking Tours. What’s greener than just getting out and walking around powered by your own energy? San Francisco offers a large number of walking tours. There is even one group, City Guides, that offers over 300 different walking tours which are all free (by donation).

You can also check the Bay Area EcoCalendar for upcoming green activities.

Getting to San Francisco’s Green Events

It’s easy to get around San Francisco in an eco-friendly way. The best thing to do for yourself and the earth is, of course, to walk. But if you’re looking for other green transportation options then you’ll find those here as well:

  • San Francisco’s eco-friendly public transportation. San Francisco is a city where it is fairly easy to get around by public transportation. This is green in and of itself but the city has gone out of its way to invest in the greenest public transportation possible. The city is even going so far as to install green solar-powered bus stops!
  • Green Ferry. People frequently take ferries to get around the San Francisco Bay. Hornblower has a boat that is totally green; it’s powered by wind power, solar panels and hybrid batteries. This one goes to Alcatraz so if you’re planning on doing that popular tourist attraction then do it as green as you can.
  • San Francisco’s green cabs. San Francisco is one of the only cities in the world to have a set of taxi cabs that are specifically designed to be green. There are only a few of these cabs located around the city right now but they’re easy to spot because they’re green. They cost the same as any other taxi so flag one down if you see one while looking for a ride. If you’re more of a limo kind of person then you’ll be happy to know that eco-limo drivers also operate in San Francisco.
  • Zipcar in San Francisco. San Francisco is one of the cities that participates in the Zipcar car sharing program. (There is also a City Car Share program that is similar). Car sharing is a great way to have a car in the city without being too un-green.
  • San Francisco’s bike community. A lot of people hesitate to bicycle in San Francisco because the city’s steep hills intimidate them. However there are a lot of other people who love to bicycle here. There’s a big bike community that you can choose to be a part of if that strikes your fancy. In addition to the annual bike-pedal powered music festival mentioned above, there are ongoing bicycle-related events like the monthly Critical Mass ride. There is also a bike repair co-op in the city where you can fix your bike for cheap as needed.

There are Even Green Coupons in San Francisco

San Francisco might be one of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of rent prices but it balances itself out by offering a lot of free and cheap things to do. Since being green is so popular here you’ll find a lot of offers for discounts if you take green actions. For example, you can get into some performance events for free or cheap by bringing donated goods to recycle. And there is actually an entire coupon book, called the Green Zebra, which gives you discounts to local green businesses. This coupon book is similar to the oh-so-familiar Entertainment book except that all of the coupons are for San Francisco based small businesses that qualify as green in some manner. You can use it to find green things to do and to do them at a bargain.

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