Guide to greener living

Pub date April 17, 2007


This is your one-stop ecoshop for green resources in the Bay Area. Want to know how to convert your home to solar power or learn how to compost, garden, or use nontoxic pest control? The Ecology Center has answers and classes. Want to go biodiesel? Visit the Berkeley Biodiesel Collective, one of the center’s sponsored projects. The center also runs Berkeley’s curbside recycling program, prints Terrain magazine, and publishes an eco-calendar of green events and classes in the Bay Area.

2530 San Pablo, Berk. (510) 548-2220,


"We started the Green Zebra as a way for consumers to start enjoying nearby environmentally conscious businesses," founder Anne Vollen says of Green Zebra’s coupon book, which offers 300-plus pages of discounts on green restaurants, spas, travel, cultural activities, and much more. "But we’ve had such an enormous response from businesses and buyers alike that it’s become a virtual directory of all the green-minded things the Bay Area has to offer."


Don’t let your used electronics go to e-waste. Green Citizen recycles obsolete and unwanted computers, CDs, cell phones, batteries, printers, and TVs (among other media-related things) and helps you hook up with institutions and programs in need of them. Can’t lift that antique monitor? Green Citizen also offers pickup service.

591 Howard, SF (and various locations). (415) 287-0000,


Buildings consume a third of the country’s energy; substantially reducing that usage amount is possible through mindful construction and design. Plan-It Hardware is a green-focused, San Francisco–based hardware and home improvement distributor with hundreds of products and ideas for making your home greener, including environmentally conscious paint, weather stripping, flooring, gardening tools, and plumbing fixtures.<


Eco-friendly limo. Sounds like another term for “VW Vanagon full of hippies going to the prom,” doesn’t it? But in the case of SF-based Bauer’s, it isn’t anything close. Bauers’ 120 electric, biodiesel, and compressed-propane-powered shuttles and cars may be the largest fleet of eco-friendly vehicles in the U.S., but they aren’t lacking for luxury. Stretch and hybrid limo-style vehicles, including the 2007 Lexus RX 400H SUV hybrid, come equipped with leather seats, Wifi, high end CD and DVD systems, LCD monitors for presentations, and even ports to plug in your iPod or phone. That’s a long way from van benches soaked with bong water.

Pier 27, SF; (800) LIMO-OUT,


Pry your rug rats away from those glowing screens and aim them at something natural. With Tree Frog’s programs, kids can go tide-pooling at Duxbury Reef, take a nature hike on Twin Peaks, and get creepy-crawly at Frog Hall with "Ross’s Ravenous Reptiles!" program. There they’ll meet Bully the bullfrog, Sid the snake, and Cletus the three-toed box turtle.

2112 Hayes, SF. (415) 876-3764,


Wanna eat green? Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education, a registered nonprofit, helps restaurants and bars get green certification — and also helps consumers find them through its comprehensive Web site.


World Changing’s Web site presents itself as a forum for figuring out how technology can be used to preserve and improve our world rather than destroy it. Read about and comment on digital houses; the 200 shared bikes of Barcelona, Spain; and state-of-the-art hydroturbines.


Pablo Picasso once declared himself "king of the ragpickers." Some of his most amazing art was made from found objects — other people’s trash. Since 1976, SCRAP (the Scroungers’ Center for Reusable Art Parts) has been helping ragpickers get art materials. The center operates a store and offers workshops on basket weaving, lamp rewiring, and other useful recyclables skills.

834 Toland, SF. (415) 647-1746,


Don’t just throw your old mattress on the street, leaving it to collect rainwater, dirt, fleas, and other unsavory grime. Bedbusters guarantees that your mattress will avoid the landfill, its steel springs and other materials will be recycled, and your conscience will be clear, for a reasonable fee.

(415) 516-5865,


Think you have to go to Yosemite or Point Reyes to commune with nature? Think again. This organization is all about teaching San Franciscans how to recognize and care for the indigenous plants and animals living in our urban landscape — or as some call it, the Franciscan bioregion (from San Bruno Mountain to the Golden Gate Bridge). Check out the Web site to learn more, join a stewardship effort, and find green events.

(415) 564-4107,


Realize whirled peas (and carrots and broccoli) with help from Garden for the Environment, a nationally acclaimed program that teaches organic gardening, urban composting, and sustainable food systems at community workshops, the Gardening and Composting Educator Training program, outreach programs for local schools, and a one-acre urban demonstration garden. Plus, most classes and workshops are free.

780 Frederick, SF. (415) 731-5627,


Everything you ever wanted to know about living car-free in the city. Part resource, part activist organization, Livable City hosts workshops on walking, biking, and using public transit, as well as advocates for parking reform, better street planning, and the creation of a landscaped greenway to connect parts of the city.

995 Market, SF. (415) 344-0489,


An extensive and well-designed green resource guide for the city, this government Web site has information on everything from where to recycle toner cartridges and mercury thermometers to how to dispose of asbestos and biohazardous waste. (Choose the item in the easy "ecofindeRRR" box or search through resources one by one.) This is also the place to join Green Connect volunteer events, learn about green-leaning celebrations and meetings, and find links to news stories about the environment.


PlantSF is a grassroots program that provides information on permeable landscaping and urban farming and works with the city on land-use conversions. If you’ve ever wished the expanse of concrete outside your house were a little less paved and a bit prettier, these are the people to talk to about making that happen.

11 Grove, SF. (415) 355-3700,


All aboard the ecobus! This organization takes Das Frachtgut, the veggie oil–fueled bus Jens-Peter Jungclaussen uses as a mobile classroom, on an ecofriendly party tour. Movie nights are all about watching modern classics and then doing some kind of relevant outdoor activity (e.g., see The Big Lebowski, then bowl outside). Dance nights turn the bus into a mobile DJ booth and an instant, impromptu club. It’s fun, safe (no drunk driving, kids!), and above all, Earth friendly. *


There was a time when real estate was all about making money – and realtors were like the characters in American Beauty. Thankfully, times they are a changin’. Now you can buy or sell your house through Green Key Real Estate, the first (and only) green real estate brokerage in San Francisco. Green Key runs a sustainable business (minimizing office waste, donating a portion of profits to green building organizations, running the office on wind power) while encouraging sustainable building and remodeling. Most importantly, though, it’s experienced real estate agents linking like-minded people to each other and to the services they need.

28 Clayton, SF; (415) 750-1120,


This online superstore is like Target (or Fred Meyer, for you Pac Northwest transplants) for environmentally sound products. We’re talking organic soy wax candles (since paraffin pollutes the air), recycled glass tumblers, picture frames made of reclaimed wood, super efficient refrigerators, all-natural hardwood furniture (since pressed wood products use formaldehyde and synthetic adhesives), household cleaners, baby clothes, and so much more. Plus, the Richmond-based (but exclusively online) store maintains a list of useful articles, news, and tips about living green, as well as a directory of green service providers, from dry cleaners to long distance phone companies.



Based on the principle that if we learn about our local surroundings, we learn about our world, this non-profit strives to turn barren, ugly, or otherwise underutilized public spaces into beautiful, relevant, useful parks and gardens, called living libraries and thinkparks, using local resources – human, ecological, economic, historic, technological, and aesthetic. The public can visit one of the SF sites in Excelsior or Bernal Heights, take kids to a Living Library in- or after-school program, or get involved in a free adult green skills job training class specially designed for low income adults (and especially immigrants).

(415) 215-5992,

Sustainable Business Alliance

Green business is good business – at least, that’s the philosophy behind this membership organization linking companies committed to sustainability. This networking and resource group hopes to educate members about sustainability and then strengthen their businesses through involvement with each other through meetings, workshops, seminars, a green business directory, and events such as East Bay Drinks, a monthly meetup on third Wednesdays at Triple Rock Brewery in Berkeley.

PO Box 11944, Berk. (510) 931-6560,