San Francisco is a city of iconic bridges, impossibly steep hills and a famous nightlife scene. It is not, at least since legislation passed last year, a city of plastic bags. San Fran was the first metropolis in the nation to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies.
The bag law sets the tone for the rest of the city. Admittedly, San Francisco has always been a left-leaning place. Environmental consciousness has little problem fitting into the city’s day-to-day operations. But even notoriously non-eco-friendly businesses, like hotels, are taking steps in the green direction.
The Bay Area also boasts one of the country’s most extensive public transit systems as well as a strong bicycle culture.
Already green enough? Don’t forget the organic food scene and farmers’ markets. And at the center of it all is the newly completed California Academy of Sciences, one of the best examples of green design and architecture in the world (and one of the finest natural history museums as well).
The building itself, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is as impressive as any of the exhibits. Its sustainable design, including a “living roof” with grass and soil, earned it a platinum ranking (54 points) using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED ) rating system. Even more impressive was the fact that 90 percent of the new building was built using material that was recycled when the old academy complex, which consisted of 12 buildings, was demolished.
Elsewhere, San Francisco is full of sushi. Minako Organic Japanese (2154 Mission St.) gives the fad an organic twist, catering to vegan customers as well as traditional sushi-lovers in search of something out of the ordinary. Alive! (1972 Lombard St.) features raw fare made with locally grown organic ingredients. Seating options here include a heated Zen garden.
And the old tourist standbys are still there, too: Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, Castro, Telegraph Hill and Fisherman's Wharf. It's just that now, the city that's always been a great place to visit is growing greener by the day.