Green Travel is not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about a trip to the USA, but it's equally (perhaps even more) important to ensure visitors take a responsible approach to travel as it is with anywhere else in the world. San Francisco offers a number of city tours that support the ecologically minded and is a city rich with both wildlife and culture.
Ecotourism in San Francisco is simple, this is one of the most progressive thinking cities in the US when it comes to sustainability and the environment and as such, is a must for the green tourist. There are a plethora of options to eat, get around, shop and sightsee which are kind to the environment, far too many to list here.
Getting around in San Francisco
Not only is driving in the city bad for the environment, it's also not great for stress levels - parking in the city is expensive at around $20 per night and another $10 per day. However, San Francisco has plenty of green options to transport you around the city, so forget hiring a car and use the various methods of eco-options available.
Visitors can purchase 3, 5 or 7 day MUNI passports or city passes which gives unlimited rides on the city's cable cars and other selected transportation for a fee. Muni is the city bus service which goes all over San Francisco and the city pass also includes entry to some of the city's attractions such as Aquarium of the Bay, de young Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Other options include sightseeing tours of the city on a double-decker bus and tours to see the world famous Alcatraz and other attractions.
The Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) system is less useful for tourists, being used mostly by San Francisco commuters, but goes all over the city, including the airport.
Alternatively, ecotourists in San Francisco can go really green and opt to cycle around the city, there are plenty of options for bike hire, one of the most popular being Blazing Saddles.
Green accommodation in San Francisco
There are plenty of options for the ecotourist to take advantage of when it comes to somewhere to lay their head in San Francisco. For years now the city has been building with conservation in mind and as such the green traveller can choose from a variety of quality hotels.
The Orchard Garden Hotel is perfectly located where Chinatown meets Union Square and is America's first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) property. The hotel was built from sustainable materials and is well insulated and very energy efficient; rooms are decorated in neutral, calming tones to create a Zen-like atmosphere.
San Francisco is also home to the largest city-owned solar installation in the United States, the Moscone Center has a 60,000 solar array perched atop its convention centre and is committed to providing sustainable travel options. A number of equally ecologically-minded hotels are dotted about the centre, as well as restaurants and conference facilities. The award-winning centre was built with sustainability in mind and uses energy efficient materials to achieve this, it is also excellently located close to an array of public transport, cutting out the need for car journeys.
Organic Foods and Vegetarian Dining
San Francisco has a wide range of restaurants to interest the ecotourist. Not only does the city boast a plethora of Vegan and Vegetarian options, it also has a number of organic restaurants which are committed to providing a sustainable menu.
The Plant offers a particularly extensive menu, which is 100% organic, and as a company they're committed to reducing the carbon footprint relating to the foods that we eat. Everything served is sourced locally, from fish found in San Francisco bay to eggs from their own free-range chickens. The Roots Restaurant also serves organic food and sources all its produce locally, as well as ensuring that all menus include naturally raised meats and sustainable seafood.
Shopping San Francisco
As one of the most progressive cities in the country, San Francisco has constantly been trying to adapt to change and adopt new practices; so, it's no shock to hear that San Francisco has a "green" movement all of its own. Grocery stores, and markets, are just a few green businesses in San Francisco.
For those days when you may want to cook your own food, or simply shop for delicious snacks, the Ferry Building Marketplace has options to suit everyone from farm shops, locally caught fish, pastries and much more. Or visit the Ferry Plaza farmer's market run by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) and browse a variety of foodstuffs by local 'artisans' from meats to ales.
Wildlife city tours in San Francisco
There is a wide array of wildlife to be found in the Bay area of the city and some of these have become endangered as pollution and development have encroached onto their habitats. A number of species live in and around the Bay, such as small mammals, reptiles, insects, amphibians and butterflies. This is ideal for nature lovers; using a city tour in San Francisco that has experienced guides can lead ecotourists to the ideal spots.
Historical city tours
Visitors can opt to choose from a number of daily city tours in San Francisco, including a city tour of all the historical aspects to this colourful city. First hop on an historic street car to visit the Mission Delores, the site of the area's first European settlement, then go on to explore Chinatown and sample deliciously authentic cuisine.
Golden Gate Bridge
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a tour including the wonderful Golden Gate Bridge. Daily tours in San Francisco include a walk across the famous bridge and then go on to take in some of the lesser known beaches dotted around the Bay.
California wine tours
The region has become famous for its new world wines over the course of the past decade or so and interested visitors can experience a daily tour in the San Francisco area by taking part in a wine country trek. These can take place over a number of days, staying in various accommodations around the area. There are also a number of vineyards in the San Francisco area which offer a guided daily tour, giving visitors a fascinating insight into how their favourite tipple is made.
San Francisco has a lot to offer the ecologically-minded tourist; this beautiful city with its iconic bridge has made enormous leaps in attempts to create and maintain sustainability. It's a simple affair to find green travel options in the city without spending a fortune.
Photo credit: PatrickSmithPhotography