San Francisco is known for being one of the most progressive cities in the world, but it’s also known for being one of the most environmentally conscious locales. In fact, the City by the Bay recently claimed the title of top green city in the U.S. from WalletHub.
So how does San Francisco earn its green reputation? The city’s famous fog can’t block too much sunshine: Even cloudy cities produce plenty of solar energy, and a typical solar rooftop can produce more than $1,500 worth of electricity in San Francisco.
As the San Francisco Chronicle notes, “San Francisco has a reputation for being hugely environmentally friendly.” The city leaders began a zero-waste goal in 2002 and introduced blue, green and black bins for recyclables, compost and landfill respectively. These colors have become a ubiquitous system across the town, helping the city move toward its goal to produce no trash by 2020.
Not only does San Francisco have an effective waste system, but it’s also banned plastic bags. Their plastic solution: The city ordered composting and recycling for residents, restaurants and events, and people can be fined if they don’t put their food waste in the green bin. And just last summer, the green city adopted the strictest Styrofoam ban in the country — not a bad rule, considering all the festivals that happen in town.
“San Francisco is committed to working toward a greener, healthier future for the city, and I think there’s nowhere else on earth where you will find more environmentally involved residents, businesses and visitors than in San Francisco,” Mayor Ed Lee said in 2011, when the city received an earlier honor for its environmental efforts.
In 2016, Lee and the Board of Supervisors introduced new green building standards for municipal construction. The project won top honors from CBRE Group, Inc., a real estate services firm, for meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in 7 million square feet of office space.
“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” a famous song from the ’60s suggested. Today, you might want to ditch the floral adornments and bring your own bags for shopping instead, since new plastic ones aren’t given at stores. But if you forget, you can buy reusable ones at many locations for 10 cents. Hotels also encourage guests to use sheets and towels more than one day to save water — a common practice across the country and especially pertinent in a place that has experienced so much drought.
Over the years, San Francisco has solidified its rank by improving energy, land use, green buildings and transportation, all while lowering carbon emissions. One of the world’s most beautiful and open-minded cities intends to also remain one its most green.