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The Greener Side of San Francisco Seen In its Hotels,
Restaurants and Attractions

Greening the Meetings Industry in San Francisco

Nov. 16, 2009 – The “green” movement in San Francisco is hardly a 21st Century phenomena that’s new or trendy. Nor is it a “fringe” trend sprung from the Haight-Ashbury “hippy” legacy of the 1960s. One has to stretch back to the 19th Century to pinpoint roots of San Francisco’s green activism in conservation, sustainable food, recycling and more that forms a green foundation ingrained in the Golden Gate’s past, present and future.


John Muir, America's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist for whom the famous Muir Woods in Marin County are named, founded the Sierra Club in 1892 in San Francisco. The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States.  Muir’s activism influenced President Theodore Roosevelt to establish Yosemite as a national park. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US. ( 

Conservationism and sustainability drew main-stream attention to San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s. John McConnell, a San Francisco resident and peace activist, founded the United Nations Earth Day in 1969. It is celebrated each year on the March equinox, which is often March 20. In 1970, San Francisco embraced the U.S. Earth Day celebrations on April 22 to promote conservationism, awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. (

The World Environment Day “Green Cities” put San Francisco on the green map as a leader when the city hosted the first and only World Environment Day in the United States June 1-5, 2005. World Environment Day is a project of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Since its inception in 1972, it has given a human face to environmental issues and promoted an understanding that communities are essential to changing attitudes about the environment.

The Culinary Slow Lane

Preserving the environment includes supporting local farms and using seasonal, and if possible, organic produce. As early as the 1970s, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse promoted using locally grown food and fresh ingredients on her menus.  She stated that international shipment of mass-produced food is both harmful to the environment and produces an inferior product on the table. 

Many San Francisco chefs have taken their cues from Waters, and with the ample fresh ingredients available in the Bay Area, is has been natural for them to commit to the concept of “Slow Food.”  Slow Food is a grassroots movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. The dedication to sustainability also includes fair trade practices – that people producing food are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labor.

In the late 1980s, San Francisco started its own Slow Food chapter ( after Lorenzo Scarpone, a native Italian and San Francisco resident, first met Carlo Petrini, founder of the international Slow Food movement. A consortium of nearly 20 members met at local restaurants that promoted Slow Food values. Under the guidance of Scarpone and other members, Slow Food San Francisco evolved to include more than 800 members, culminating with San Francisco hosting 85,000 attendees who congregated for the first conference of America’s Slow Food Nation in 2008.

Greening the Meetings Industry in San Francisco

Moscone Center
San Francisco has the largest City-owned solar installation in the country, a 60,000 solar array atop Moscone Center, the city's principal convention facility. The solar electricity production on the roof, combined with energy savings from a major energy efficient lighting renovation under the roof, over the project's lifetime (assumes 15 year lifetime for energy efficiency project, 30 year lifetime for solar project) will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 34,000 tons, or the equivalent of removing 7,000 cars from Bay Area roads for one year. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pacific Southwest Region 9 awarded SMG and The Moscone Center the prestigious 2009 Environmental Achievement Award for distinguishing itself as a sustainable building that has helped to protect the environment. The EPA and Department of Energy awarded Moscone Center the 2004 Green Power Leadership Award for distinguishing itself for using on-site renewable energy applications. 

The Moscone Center has long set the standard for U.S. convention centers in diverting material from the waste stream. Begun in 1998 with diversion of high volume materials from the exhibit floor and lobby areas, the program today targets materials from all areas and sources. Nearly two million pounds is diverted annually, with 20 percent of that total donated to local area non-profits. 

Industry News
Many local tour companies in San Francisco are using more environmentally friendly fuel sources for their boats, vans and limos. Among those leading the way are Adventure Cat Sailing Charters, Alcatraz Cruises, Bauer’s Worldwide Transportation, Hornblower Cruises & Events, Incredible Adventures, SuperShuttle, and Mr. Toads Tour LLC. Two tour companies using Segway personal transporters operate in the Bay Area: Segway of San Francisco and San Francisco & Sausalito Electric Tour Company. Walking tours are plentiful and there are more than 82 miles of signed bike routes. 

Many San Francisco hotels implement these (and other) eco-friendly practices: towel and linen reuse program; 100 percent non-smoking policy; recycling program for guests; use of compact fluorescent lights instead of incandescent bulbs; the use of nontoxic cleaning products by housekeeping staff. In addition, many of the hotels compost food waste and have installed devices that power down heating and cooling when guestrooms are not occupied. 

The Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf is among the first Hyatt properties to install permanent charging stations for the Tesla Roadster; the zero-emission, 100 percent electric sports car is being developed and manufactured by Bay Area-based Tesla Motors.

San Francisco’s Hotel Non-Profit Collaborative is a model in the nation for hotels donating unwanted goods to area non-profit organizations. 

AT&T Park is the first major league baseball stadium to use solar panels. The Diamond Vision scoreboard will use 78 percent less energy than the ballpark's original scoreboard. 

Nine farmers market operate in the city including the renowned Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA). 

“Make art, not landfill” is the motto of the Artist In Residence Program created in 1990 by San Francisco waste haulers. Sixty-five professional Bay Area artists have completed residencies. For unique, one-of-a-kind gifts, check out exhibitions by these artists at 

Solar energy will provide at least five percent of the new California Academy of Sciences energy needs when it opens in Golden Gate Park in late 2008. The new design, which features a living roof, will integrate the academy more sensitively into the park and make nature a part of the building’s structure. When it opens the Academy expects to be the largest public LEED platinum building in the world. 

Tips for holding a meeting in San Francisco: 

  • Serve tap water at your events. San Francisco has some of the purest water in the world. 
  • Think “green” when ordering promotional giveaway items and direct your vendors to use products made from post-consumer waste. 
  • Support San Francisco’s waste reduction goals by holding a zero waste event. For more information, phone 415-355-3700. 
  • San Francisco welcomes “volun-tourism.” Team building can include habitat restorations or beach clean-ups. For more information contact the Convention Services Department of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, visit 
  • Encourage delegates to walk to and from meeting sessions. San Francisco’s hills can present a challenging work-out, but the views are ample compensation and as that famous quip goes, “when you get tired of walking around San Francisco you can always lean against it.” 
  • Promote public transit usage to your members on your conference website. Attendees can use BART and Caltrain to get to many Bay Area destinations.
  • Alternatively, encourage delegates to purchase one-, three- or seven-day Muni passes which are good for all Muni buses, light rail vehicles, historic streetcars and cable cars. Passes are for sale at the Visitor Information Center, 900 Market St., or 
  • Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) can assist you with promoting it’s airport service to your members. BART has direct service from SFO and OAK to downtown San Francisco. BART can provide you with copy to use for your conference website and tickets can be purchased on their site. Contact Imara Yokely for more information. 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

San Francisco residents have embraced recycling since “scavengers” reclaimed their unwanted items in the 19th Century. One of the largest recyclers, Recology, has been serving San Francisco since 1921. ( ).

Today, San Francisco has one of the most aggressive recycling laws in the country with a current 70 percent recycling rate:

  • In 2007, San Francisco banned plastic bags
  • In  2009 San Francisco passed the “Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance,” requiring all San Francisco residents and businesses to separate recyclables, compostables and landfilled trash and participate in recycling and composting programs. Those who refuse to participate will receive a fine of up to $1,000. ( 
  • The city’s goal is 75 percent by 2010 and zero waste by 2020. 
How to “Blend In” with the Locals

San Franciscans are “early adopters” of everything green – even if your hometown doesn’t support some of the practices, you can still adopt “ecothusiam” while visiting San Francisco: 

  • Order your water “on tap” instead of bottled
  • Separate your trash – many places have separate containers for compostable material, recyclable material and regular trash
  • Walk or use public transportation whenever possible
  • Shop local – from sustainable farms, to locally made goods and services
  • Embrace seasonal ingredients when cooking or ordering food in a restaurant
  • Turn off lights, computers and other appliances when you leave the room or when they are not in use
Green Initiatives for 2009

Many San Francisco hotels, tours and attractions have embraced green concepts. Here are but a few – for a complete list of eco-practices, visit 

Orchard Hotel Earns LEED Certification for Existing Building 
In April 2009 the 104-room Orchard Hotel, 665 Bush St., joined its sister property, the Orchard Garden Hotel, 466 Bush St., in “green” certification, earning LEED-EB® (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-Existing Building) certification for an existing building by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). San Francisco's only hotel to earn this honor, the Orchard Hotel is the second hotel in California and fourth hotel in the world with this certification.  LEED-EB is the USGBC's leading edge system for operating high performance buildings dedicated to whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues, recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs and systems upgrades. In 2007, the Orchard Hotel's sister property, the Orchard Garden Hotel, was awarded LEED-NC® (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-New Construction) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). San Francisco's first hotel to earn this honor, the Orchard Garden was only the third hotel in the U.S. and fourth hotel in the world with this certification. For information visit or call 888-717-2881 or 415-415-362-8878. Media contact: Trisha Clayton, 415-346-4565,

SPUR Opens Urban Center Venue in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Arts District May 2009
The San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association (SPUR) opened its contemporary, LEED-certified green Urban Center, 654 Mission St. Designed to be a bright and airy space evoking the dynamics of living and working in San Francisco, this $18 million facility offers engaging exhibits detailing the urban planning process, be equipped with flexible seating and state-of-the-art audiovisual. The center is available for events, presentations, symposia, product launches, plenary sessions and more. The Urban Center also provides a unique backdrop to expand SPUR’s public policy research, education and advocacy efforts in an exceptional gathering space offering direct views of the dynamic architecture and street life that have become the trademark of the Yerba Buena Arts and Cultural District. For information visit  or call 415-781-8726. Media contact: Julie Kim, 415-781-8726 ext. 112,

U.S. EPA Awards SMG and San Francisco’s Moscone Center Environmental Honor
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pacific Southwest Region 9 has awarded The Moscone Center and SMG the prestigious 2009 Environmental Achievement Award for distinguishing itself as a sustainable building that has helped to protect the environment. In acknowledging the award, Dick Shaff, vice president and general manager, SMG, noted “business practices at Moscone Center, which minimize environmental impact, benefit the local community and make economic sense.” Sustainable purchasing, green cleaning and management of toxic materials are all practiced throughout The Moscone Center, San Francisco’s primary convention facility, and the building actively manages energy and resource usage to be as efficient as possible. The award was presented on April 16, 2009. The Moscone Center is owned by the City and County of San Francisco and is operated by SMG, a private management company currently operating 200 facilities worldwide. For information visit or call 415-974-4000. Media contact: Naina Ayya, 415-974-4017,

SFO Launched Green Rental Car Program Discount Program 
On Jan. 1, 2009, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) launched the first green rental car program that rewards customers for renting “green” alternative-fueled vehicles and rental car companies for increasing rentals of high mileage and alternative-fuel vehicles. The innovative incentive program is expected to eliminate more than 4,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. Customers who rent hybrid cars that receive an EPA rating of 18 or higher will receive a $15 discount at the rental car counter. Cars in this category include the Honda Civic Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Prius. Rental car companies will qualify for a 20 percent reduction of their airport rental fees if they achieve a goal of increasing the percentage of their overall transactions to 15 percent for rentals of high mileage or hybrid cars (EPA ratings of 17 or higher). Cars in this category include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Focus, as well as the hybrid cars. By offering these incentives to customers and rental car companies, SFO hopes to increase the total number of these cars to greater than 15 percent. The customer credit is available only to companies located in the airport rental car center. For information, visit Media contacts: Jane Sullivan, 650-821-5123, or Michael C. McCarron, 650-821-4000, 

California Academy of Sciences Received Highest Possible LEED Platinum Rating from U.S. Green Building Council 
The California Academy of Sciences is now officially the greenest museum in the world. On Oct. 7, 2008, the U.S. Green Building Council issued its formal rating for the new building, awarding the Renzo Piano-designed facility with its highest possible certification: LEED Plantinum. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is a voluntary, consensus-based standard for evaluating high performance, sustainable buildings. By earning points across a variety of sustainability categories, buildings can earn a basic certification (at least 26 points), a Silver rating (at least 33 points), a Gold rating (at least 39 points) or a Platinum rating (at least 52 points). The Academy earned a total score of 54 points and was evaluated across six different categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design process. The new building of the California Academy of Sciences, which opened on Sept. 27 in Golden Gate Park, houses an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and world-class research and education programs. For information visit or call 415-379-8000. Media contact: Stephanie Stone, 415-379-5121, 

San Francisco Botanical Garden Opened Newly Renovated Ancient Plant Garden
The Ancient Plant Garden, a distinctive region of San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, opened October 2008. The garden showcases a spectacular collection of plants that tell the story of botanical evolution. Formerly referred to as the Primitive Plant Garden, it has been redesigned and divided into five epochs or periods of geological time: the Devonian, the Pennsylvanian, the Jurassic, the Early Cretaceous, and the Eocene. The new layout allows visitors to move chronologically through the five different time periods, recreating the feel of the ancient ecosystems and offering a hint of what it must have looked and felt like to be among these plants “back in the day.” Located at Ninth Ave. and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is open 365 days a year; free guided walks are offered at 1:30 p.m. every day. For information visit or call 415-661-1316. Media contact: Lisa van Cleef, 415-412-3230, 

San Francisco Ferry Building Won the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in December 2008 that the Ferry Building of San Francisco had won the 2008 Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) for its green initiatives. GEELA is the state of California's highest and most prestigious environmental honor. The award program recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses that have demonstrated exceptional leadership for voluntary achievements in conserving California's resources, protecting and enhancing the environment and building public-private partnerships. Award recipients are chosen in eight different categories based on their strength in eight specific areas including results; transferability; environmental impact; resource conservation; economic progress; innovation and uniqueness; pollution prevention, and environmental justice. The Ferry Building, one of only 21 other recipients that were honored in 2008, won the award for Sustainable Practices. For information visit or call 415-693-0996. Media contact: Jane Connors, 415-983-8001,

Alcatraz Cruises Adds Hornblower Hybrid to Fleet
A 64-foot-long recycled catamaran, originally built for use as a commercial diving vessel, has been retrofitted – and renamed the Hornblower Hybrid . The 149-passenger vessel is powered by a combination of Tier 2 diesel-powered engines, electric motors, wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels to charge batteries that will power all the functions of the vessel. Other environmentally friendly adaptations include carpeting, counter tops, lights and signage. In 2008 Alcatraz Cruises also began operating the Alcatraz Clipper and Alcatraz Flyer. Both vessels have state-of-the-art Tier 2 Marine Diesel Engines, which are 80 percent more fuel efficient than standard marine engines. In addition, these vessels have selective catalytic reduction units, which use an organic compound to dissolve the emissions that come from the engines. For information visit or call 415-981-ROCK (7625). Media contact: Tegan Firth, 415-983-8208,

Paint the Town, Red, Green or Off-White
San Francisco is the first and only city to collect unused residential paint, donate it to Bay Area service groups and schools for graffiti, as well as send it to countries around the world and. Recology Waste Systems (formerly Norcal Waste Systems) separates the collected paint by type, blends it and then pours it into five gallon drums. Since the program started in 1995, Recology has sent more than 18,365 gallons of recycled paint overseas. Destinations include the South Pacific, Africa, Mexico and Central America where recycled paints are valued. The paint comes in three shades: red, green or off-white. For more information visit Media contact: Robert Reed, 415-715-6270, 

Green Never Tasted So Good: Eco-Licious Cocktail Mixer Debuts at W San Francisco
The XYZ Bar and W Café at W San Francisco, 181 Third St., debuted  eco-friendly cocktails and organic bar bites. W San Francisco's eco-licious cocktail menu uses local, organic, sustainable and seasonal ingredients whenever, wherever possible. Five at Five for Five-- five days a week. Happy hour includes a selection of handcrafted organic cocktails, micro brew beers and biodynamic wines paired with organic bar bites by executive chef Paul Piscopo, all for $5 each. Mon.-Fri., 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the W Café or  XYZ Lounge. For more information, visit or call 415-777-5300. Media contact: Allison Fox,, 415-817-7813.

San Francisco is at the forefront of conservationism, food sustainability and recycling, and its efforts to improve air quality and protect the environment are much more extensive. Hotels, restaurants and attractions in the city all contribute to reduce their carbon footprint. For updates about San Francisco’s “ecothusiam,” visit the Only in San Francisco green Web site at

Media contact for Mayor’s Office of the Environment: Mark Westlund,, 415-355-3714. 


Tanya Houseman

Also See: Kimpton’s San Francisco Hotel Triton Selected as a Model for Conservation by the State of California / September 2004
Trade Shows, Convention Centers Going Green; Recycling Stations, Organic Food, Hemp Drapes, Natural Light / Sandi Cain and Darlene Gudea / August 2006
Kimpton Hotel s Mission is to Lead the Hospitality Industry in Supporting a Sustainable World / April 2005

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