It’s not easy being green

Pub date April 5, 2011
SectionGreen City

A smattering of the phenomenal sustainability people and places you can plug into around the Bay.


Green your home


Yeah, yeah, you watched The Cove and try to keep up on the latest bycatch horror stories — but sometimes you’re out with friends and that petrale sole looks divine … eek, was it on the “good” list? Text 30644 with the word “FISH” and the name of the waterway inhabitant in question (or be fancy and use the iPhone app) and within minutes you’ll receive a text with its sustainability level — and the rationale behind it.



It has been said that the key to success is having good role models. And if your aim is growing your own meals inside city limits, you could do a lot worse than Novella Carpenter. Her book Urban Farmer gave a tantalizing primer on her life farming in West Oakland, and her blog provides inspiration, tips, and community farming news. Carpenter is currently sparring with Oakland city government over urban farming regulations, but we’re confident she’ll pull through in the end — and educate us all while doing so.



“Affordable” usually isn’t the first word that comes to mind when it comes to local, natural foods. The Alemany farmers market became the first to open in the Bay Area in 1943, and is affectionately referred to as “the people’s market.” It’s rumored to be one of the most affordable markets in the city, and is well-known for supporting small farmers.

Every Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. 100 Alemany, SF



Ever wonder if your favorite coffee shop or tapas bar is as green as you want it be? This website has user-generated sustainability ratings of hundreds of city eateries (not to mention helpful rankings of businesses from spas to furniture stores).

Cleaner commutin’


One of the hardest parts about being car-free are those days when you just want to get out of the city and into nature. Enter Post-Car Press, the website and guidebook assembled by East Bay couple Kelly Gregory and Justin Eichenlaub. The two give you the low-down on how to get to camp-hike spots in Marin County, Mount Diablo, even Big Sur without a motor vehicle.



Biking and BART don’t always mix, especially at peak commute hours. That’s why Caltrans has this smart, cheap shuttle to get you and your bike across the Bay Bridge during morning and afternoon rush hours for only $1. It will pick up you and your steed and drop the two of you off at the MacArthur BART Station and SF Transbay Terminal.



These green taxis and shuttles will take you where you need to go without increasing your carbon you-know-what-print. With a fleet of exclusively ultra fuel-efficient vehicles in the country, it’s the first taxi service to put fuel efficiency in the front seat. PlanetTran’s primary business is in green rides to and from the San Francisco and Oakland airports.


An association of biodiesel companies committed to providing fuel to those who already use it — and assistance for those who want to lead their diesel engines to greener fields. Go to any of the alliance’s locations to fill up on biofuel or get help converting your vehicle to biodiesel. Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley, Dogpatch Biofuels, and People’s Fuel Cooperative located in Rainbow Grocery are all part of this groovy green oil alternative.


Green your home


Partnering with the San Francisco Department of the Environment, SFCP is a nonprofit that helps small businesses and low-income residents save money and reduce environmental impact. SFCP recently launched a free Green Home Assessment Audit initiative available to all city residents that helps improve home safety, disaster-preparedness (how timely), efficiency, and ecofriendliness. It also distributes vouchers for home improvements.



This benevolent mulch-making company donated all the material needed for sheet-mulching the magnificent Hayes Valley Farm and has contributed, free, to dozens of other community projects. Even the small-time urban grower can pick up mulch, compost, or soil amendment from its SF or Redwood City sites. It also delivers (for a small fee), so go ahead and rip out those invasive, inedible weeds in front of your house. Your own patch of nature awaits.



Speaking of patches of nature … visit this group’s website for gardening tips, links, and a list of local nurseries that sell native plants.



Before you build, paint, remodel, or so much as hammer in a nail, it’s worth tripping to the Bay’s building resource centers — second-life sites for construction debris and used building supplies. The East Bay’s Urban Ore and The Reuse People host landscapes of pink toilets, claw foot tubs, and towering stacks of discontinued tile. Looking for some SF supplies? Try Building Resources in SF ( or


Build your green community


Of course, being sustainable isn’t all heavy lifting and culinary vigilance — environmental friendliness can be a fertile way to meet your like-minded neighbors. This weekend, trek to the city’s largest green expo for more than 130 speakers, music, and exhibits featuring everything from Food Not Bombs to reclaimed redwood manufacturers.

Sat/9 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sun/10 11 a.m.–6 p.m., $5–$25. SF Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., SF.



A great online visual for people looking for the nearest community garden, recycling center, and so much more, this happy cartographic achievement documents our city by highlighting its bright green hubs of activity.



Gardening involves more than just a tub of dirt, seeds, and a healthy appetite. To really get your hands dirty, there is a body of knowledge you’d do well to tap into. At Garden for the Environment’s Inner Sunset one-acre farm, you can learn about leafy greens while meeting like-minded seed slaves. After all, it pays to have a buddy who can plant-sit.