San Francisco Wins Greenest City With a Little Glam

written by | Posted on August 22nd, 2011

The world’s largest provider of environmental technology, Siemens AG ranks cities around the world on their level of sustainability every year. In June, they listed San Francisco as the greenest city in North America. The reasons are many.

“Sustainability, green, organic—those types of things are trendy, and cities and businesses that stay current stay busy,” says Lysa Lewin, spokesperson for San Francisco Travel. “And we lead the trend because our city government has mandated that trend.”

The mayor’s office has banned plastic grocery bags citywide and plastic water bottles in all city buildings. And for low impact transportation, the entire downtown core is easily walkable with public Muni and BART systems extending into many of the landmark areas around the bay: the historic Ferry Building, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square.

The private sector is following suit. Virgin America’s new T2 terminal at San Francisco International Airport opened in April—the first LEED Gold terminal in the U.S.—with a visit by Sir Richard and the Virgin Galactic spaceship. The terminal’s F&B lineup includes “Slow Food” vendors such as Cowgirl Creamery, Napa Valley Farms, Equator Coffee and The Plant Café Organic. All T2 vendors use compostable utensils and containers.

On the hotel front, the uber-susty Trace restaurant opens this month at W San Francisco, promoting a “localist lifestyle” experience. It just obtained LEED Silver cert, one of only seven EB (existing building) hotels in North America. Their “Green is Glam” philosophy is just one more example of the evolution of sustainability from fringe to fab. So check out their “Ecolicious” bar menu featuring all organic food, cocktails, beers and wines.

And in February, the 500-room InterContinental San Francisco adjacent to Moscone Convention Center was awarded LEED Gold status.

Fashion too. The Eco Citizen shop in Russian Hill, according to their website, “strives to offer high quality, fair trade, classic fashion design and construction to the eco-conscious consumer.”

“We have people who care about the environment, that’s the most important thing,” says Lewin. “Social responsibility is the spirit of San Francisco.” She recently attended a press event for the America’s Cup, held at the bayfront Ferry Building (seats 400 upstairs), while noting all of the farmers markets and sustainable businesses.

“It’s what’s hip and what’s new right now, and these are all businesses popular with locals too. So people who come to San Francisco on business can enjoy that local experience, versus meeting in a tourist trap.”

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