1892: The Sierra Club is established by John Muir and a group of professors from UC Berkeley and Stanford in San Francisco. In its first conservation campaign, the club leads efforts to defeat a proposed reduction in the boundaries of Yosemite National Park.
1902: After two years of intense lobbying and fundraising, the Sempervirens Club, the first land conservation organization on the west coast, is successful in establishing Big Basin Redwoods State Park — the first park established in California under the new state park system.
1910: The first municipally owned and operated street car service commences in San Francisco.
1918: Save the Redwoods League is established in San Francisco. A leader in proactive land conservation, SRL would go on to assist in the purchase of nearly 190,000 acres to protect redwoods and help develop more than 60 redwood parks and reserves that old these ancient trees in California.
1934: The East Bay Regional Park is established as the first regional park district in the nation. This radical Depression-era idea would much set the tone as the Bay Area land conservation vision expanded.
1934: The Marin Conservation League is founded by wealthy Republican women. Three years later, at the league’s behest, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopts the first county zoning ordinance in the state in 1937. Over the next 10 years, the league helps create State Parks at Stinson Beach, Tomales Bay, Samuel P. Taylor, Angel Island, and expand Mt Tamalpais State Park.
1956: San Francisco activists, led in party by Sue Bierman, launch a campaign to stop a freeway that would have run through Golden Gate Park. It marks the first time city residents successfully block a freeway project and launches the urban environmental movement in America.
1958: Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks is founded. It becomes People for Open Space in 1969 and morphs in 1987 into the Greenbelt Alliance. Their efforts lead to the creation of the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District in 1972 and Suisun Marsh in 1974.
1960: Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower launches a brand new organizing and educational concept, the exhibit format “coffee table” book series, with This Is the American Earth, featuring photos by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhalland. These elegant coffee-table books introduced the Sierra Club to a wide audience. Fifty thousand copies are sold in the first four years, and by 1960 sales exceed $10 million. The environmental coffee table book emerged as part of a campaign to persuade Congress to enact the Wilderness Bill, legislation that would guarantee the permanence of the nation’s wild places.
1961: Save San Francisco Bay Association is founded by Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr and Ester Gulick to end unregulated filling of San Francisco Bay and to open up the Bay shoreline to public access.
1961: Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announces plans to build a nuclear power plant at Bodega Bay. Rancher Rose Gaffney, UC Berkeley professor Joe Neilands and others mount what will become the first citizen movement in the country to stop a nuclear plant. The Bodega Bay campaign marks the birth of the antinuclear movement.
1965: Responding to Bay Area citizens’ demands for protection of the bay’s natural environment, the California state legislature passes the McAteer-Petris Act, which establishes the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and charges it with preparing a plan for the long-term use and protection of the Bay and with regulating development in and around it.
1965: Fred Rohe opens New Age Natural Foods on Stanyan Street in San Francisco. He goes on to open the first natural foods restaurant in 1967, Good Karma Cafe on Valencia Street. Rohe would go on to open the first natural foods distribution company in Northern California, New Age Distributing in San Jose in 1970 and found Organic Merchants (OM), the first natural foods retailer trade group.
1967: The Human Be-in is held Jan. 14 in Golden Gate Park (as a prelude to the Summer of Love) with as a major theme higher consciousness, ecological awareness, personal empowerment, cultural and political decentralization.
1967: Alan Chadwick comes to UC Santa Cruz and establishes the Student Garden Project and training program, which would train hundreds of today’s organic farmers.
1968: The Whole Earth Catalogue, published by the Point Foundation and edited by Stewart Brand out of Gate 5 Road in Sausalito is introduced, providing tools, philosophy, and reviews to the growing back-to-the-land movement, helping promote ecological living and culture alternative sustainable culture decades before those words became mainstream.
1969: Brower, after losing his job at the Sierra Club in part because of his opposition to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, founds Friends of the Earth, the cutting edge activist group that would eventually have affiliates in 77 nations around the globe and become the world’s largest grassroots environmental network.
1970: Peninsula resident Neil Young writes and sings the lyrics “Look at Mother Nature on the Run in the 1970s.”
1970: Berkeley Ecology Center opens.
1971: Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund is established, marking the beginning of an explosion in environmental law.
1971: Alice Waters opens Chez Panisse, serving up California Cuisine and altering the Bay Area diet helping to create a market for local fresh organic fruits and vegetables. 1971: Berkeley resident Francis Moore Lappé publishes her best-selling book Diet for a Small Planet. Two million copies are sold and as the first book to expose the enormous waste built into U.S. grain-fed meat production, for her a symbol of a global food system creating hunger out of plenty; her effort alters millions of diets.
1971: San Francisco dressmaker Alvin Duskin launches a campaign to limit high-rise office development in San Francisco, creating new allies and a new coalition for urban environmentalism.
1972: The Trust for Public Land, a national, nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, historic sites, and rural lands, is founded by Huey Johnson, Doug Ferguson and Marty Rosen in San Francisco. TPL would go on to protect 2.8 million acres of land and is key in getting land trusts started in Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Big Sur, and around the state.
1972: The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, first urban wildlife refuge in the United States, is established, encompassing 30,000 acres of open bay, salt pond, salt marsh, mudflat, upland and vernal pool habitats located in South Bay.
1972: The Save Our Shores campaign, developed in part by Bay Area residents, results in a state initiative, the Coastal Act of 1972, which is passed by the voters and establishes the first comprehensive coastal watershed policy in the nation.
1974: Berkeley Ecology Center starts the first curbside recycling approach in California, one of first such programs in the nation.
1974: The Farallones Institute in Berkeley begins building the first urban demonstration of an ecological living center with the Integral Urban House, a converted Victorian using solar and wind technologies, a composting toilet, extensive gardens, and energy and resource conservation features. It serves as an early model for the emerging Appropriate Technology Movement.
1975: Berkeley resident Ernest Callenbach self publishes Ecotopia after a round of rejections from New York publishers; it ultimately sells more than a million copies and becomes an environmental classic.
1975: San Francisco’s first community gardens are established at Fort Mason and elsewhere.
1975: The Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals, primarily elephant seals, harbor seals, and California sea lions, is established in the Marin Headlands.
1978: Raymond Dasmann and Peter Berg coin the term Bioregionalism in the publication of Reinhabiting a Separate Country, published by Berg’s Planet Drum Foundation in San Francisco. It represents a fresh, comprehensive way of defining and understanding the places where we live, and of living there sustainably and respectfully through ecological design.
1979 Greens Restaurant opens at Fort Mason in San Francisco and quickly establishes itself as a pioneer in promoting vegetarian cuisine in the United States.
1980: The Marin Agricultural Land Trust is established by Wetland Biologist Phyllis Faber and diary farmer Ellen Straus.
1980: Berkeley resident Richard Register coins the term “depave” — to undo the act of paving, to remove pavement so as to restore land to a more natural state. Depaving begins to spread to create many inner city urban gardening projects.
1981-82: Register and other activists, bring about the first urban day lighting of a creek in Berkeley’s Strawberry Creek Park where a 200-foot section of the creek is removed from a culvert beneath an empty lot and transformed into the centerpiece of a park.
1982: Earth First, a radical environmental group founded by Dave Foreman and Mike Roselle, sponsors the first demonstration against Burger King in San Francisco for using beef grown on land hacked out of rain forests. The demonstrations spread, turn in to a boycott, and after sales drop 12 percent, Burger King cancels $35 million worth of beef contracts in Central America and announces it will stop importing rainforest beef.
1983: Local residents Randy Hayes and Toby Mcleod release the documentary film The Four Corners, A National Sacrifice Area? , which conveys the cultural and ecological impacts of coal strip-mining, uranium mining, and oil shale development in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona — homeland of the Hopi and Navajo. The film wins an Academy Award and illustrates serious environmental justice issues 10 years before that term is coined.
1985: The Rainforest Action Network, established in San Francisco, emerges from the Burger King action.
1986: Fifteen years after Duskin’s first anti-high-rise initiative efforts, San Francisco finally passes Prop. M, the nation’s most important sustainable growth law.
1988: Register invents a stencil to be used next to street storm drains that says “don’t dump — drains to bay.” The wastewater pollution mitigation education concept spreads around the region and nation and then becomes an international volunteer effort to lessen pollution in urban runoff, which generally flows untreated into creeks and saltwater.
1989: Carl Anthony, Karl Linn, and Brower establish the Urban Habitat Program in San Francisco, one of the first environmental justice organizations in the country.
1989: Laurie Mott of the National Resource Defense Council’s SF office rattles the apple industry by engineering a suspension of the use of the pesticide Alar by the Environmental Protection Agency. A national debate ensues.
1992: Berkeley writer Theodore Roszak coins both the term and field of ecopsychology in his book The Voice of the Earth. The movement he helps found asks if the planetary and the personal are pointing the way forward to some new basis for a sustainable economic and emotional life.
1992: The first Critical Mass bike ride (initially called a “Commute Clot”) is held in San Francisco. Similar rides, typically held on the last Friday of every month, began to take place in more than in over 300 cities around the world.
1993: The U.S. Green Building Council is founded by David Gottfriend in Oakland. The council becomes the most important environmental trade organization in the world. In 1998, the council develops the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, which provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction and design.
1995: The Edible Schoolyard is established by Chez Panisse Foundation at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley. It serves as a model for similar programs in New Orleans and Brooklyn, and inspires garden programs at other schools across the country.
1999: The Green Resource Center starts as a joint project of the City of Berkeley, the Northern California Chapter of Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), and the Sustainable Business Alliance.
2000: Wendy Kallins, working with the Marin Bicycle Coalition, begins a Safe Route to Schools program in Marin to encourage students to walk or bicycle to school. The program is so successful that Congress allocates more than $600 million for similar efforts across the country.
2001: The first Green Festival is held in San Francisco.
2001: Berkeley becomes first city in nation with curbside recycling trucks powered by recycled vegetable oil, thanks to a campaign by the Berkeley Ecology Center.
2002: San Francisco adopts a greenhouse gas reduction initiative that aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
2003: Bay Area Build It Green is formed by a number of local and regionally focused public agencies, building industry professionals, manufactures, and suppliers. Its activities are focused on increasing the supply of green homes, raising consumer awareness about the benefits of building green, and providing Bay Area consumers and residential building industry professionals a trusted source of information.
2005: San Francisco passes the Precautionary Principle Purchasing Ordinance, which requires the city to weigh the environmental and health costs of its $600 million in annual purchases — for everything from cleaning
supplies to computers.
2006: Bay Localize is launched in the East Bay with the aim to work to build a cooperative, inclusive movement toward regional self-reliance and increase community livability and local resilience for all while decreasing fossil fuel use.
2007: In an effort to meet the challenges of global warming, carbon pollution and job creation, East Bay activist Van Jones declares that the nation is going to have to weatherize millions of homes and install millions of solar panels. His best-selling book, The Green Collar Economy, stimulates a national movement and a new organization, Green For All.
2007: San Francisco begins collecting fats, oils and grease from residential and commercial kitchens, for free, to recycle into biofuel for the city’s municipal vehicles, the largest biofuel-powered municipal fleet in the United States.
2008: San Francisco becomes the first U.S. city to establish green building standards.
2010: The Green Building Opportunity Index names San Francisco and Oakland the top two cities in the nation for green buildings.
2010: San Francisco becomes home to the Sunset Reservoir Solar Project, the largest solar-powered municipal installation in California.