Mendocino’s Big River Estuary.
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Cunat Family Vineyards in Napa.
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Monkey Rock overlooking Crystal Bay.
Photo: Courtesy of Cedar Glen Lodge
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Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village, Nev.
Photo: Ryan Salm
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Paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe Water Trail.
Photo: Corey Rich/Aurora Photos
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Oysters at Lowell’s in Sebastopol.
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The Sonoma Coast.
Photo: Stephen Hardley/EyeEm Courtesy of Getting Images
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Oz Farm in Point Arena.
Photo: Courtesy of Visit Mendocino County
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Chaminade Resort & Spa.
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The bustling kitchen at Soif.
Photo: Garrick Ramirez
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Sustainable travel is tricky. The urge to see the world and experience other cultures is real, yet to do so often has a negative impact on the planet. Take a turn in an eco-friendly direction with an easy, green-fueled getaway from San Francisco—each option a distinct but environmentally compatible destination for good.
The jewel of the High Sierra, Lake Tahoe lures nature lovers year-round. Head out on Tunnel Creek Trail, near Incline Village, Nev., for a hike that rewards trekkers with peak views of the lake. Be prepared for steep climbing, but reaching Monkey Rock and the overlooking vista make the challenge worthwhile. If you prefer staying closer to the lake, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and check out Lake Tahoe Water Trail, which links launch sites, paddle shops, picnic areas, restaurants, campgrounds and lodging facilities for paddlers to enjoy the lake in all seasons.
Get your draft game in gear at FiftyFifty Brewing Co. in Truckee. A sustainable business, FiftyFifty donates spent grain to local livestock; beef served in the restaurant is 100 percent natural; and fryer oil is turned into biodiesel fuel. Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village makes all brews using Lake Tahoe water, and if you’ve found yourself gazing at this crystal-clear lake, you need to try this beer. Wolfdale’s Cuisine Unique in Tahoe City is a big proponent of locally sourced, sustainable cuisine, and the menu changes frequently to highlight the best of the season. In summer, chef Douglas Dale hosts farmers market workshops, during which guests can shop with him and learn to prepare a meal back at the restaurant. The food and beverage offerings at Truckee Tavern and Grill include the freshest, highest quality local ingredients. The restaurant works with Truckee brands and growers (Truckee Sourdough Company, Tahoe Microgreens and Alibi Ale Works), as well as nearby organic farms.
For a crash pad that’s conveniently situated near the lake, newly renovated Cedar Glen Lodge fits the bill. The lodge put to use reclaimed wood native to the area and installed energy-efficient fixtures and low-flow plumbing with recirculating pumps to provide hot water. Edgewood Tahoe is a LEED Silver-certified building, and the property uses a lake-sourced cooling system, locally sourced materials and has electric car-charging stations for environmentally minded drivers.
Sonoma County’s Jenner Headlands Preserve, which opened to the public in 2018 and overlooks the Pacific Ocean, is a patchwork of oak woodland, chaparral, coastal prairie, and forests of redwoods and Douglas firs. To find a connection with nature, Unbeaten Path Tours offers excursions at Sea Ranch and Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, and among tide pools, redwoods and coastal cliffs.
Stop at Rodney Strong Vineyards, the first carbon-neutral winery in Sonoma County. Certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, it has one of the largest solar energy systems of any winery in the world. St. Francis Winery & Vineyards is also a certified California Sustainable Winegrower and has an extensive sustainability program. From water conservation to producing more than 40 percent of electrical needs by solar energy, the winery walks its environmental talk.
Husband-and-wife duo Kyle and Katina Connaughton opened SingleThread Farms in 2016 as an immersive experience, from the inn to the farm to the restaurant, which was recently anointed with its third Michelin star. Another restaurant with its own farm, Backyard features menus that change daily as local bounties provide. Each fruit, vegetable and animal is grown, raised or line-caught locally. People, animals and the environment are prioritized at Lowell’s restaurant, which uses only the best organic items available. In the summer months, 60 percent of the menu’s produce comes from the restaurant’s farm. At Zazu Kitchen + Farm—from another husband-and-wife team, Duskie Estes and John Stewart—menus are determined after the restaurant’s garden and farm are harvested, minimizing the distance from farm to table.
Stay at Boon Hotel+Spa, a Zen-like woodland escape where organic cotton linens and robes, reclaimed redwood furniture, a saline pool and hot tub, and locally sourced food combine to make an eco-friendly property that’s also luxurious. The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa follows its corporate Green Partnership program, a comprehensive approach to reducing environmental impact with a focus on waste management, energy and water conversation, and reducing carbon emissions.
Big River Estuary, which flows into Mendocino Bay, is a playground for outdoors enthusiasts. At Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too, rent a handmade outrigger canoe crafted from salvaged redwood and handbuilt at Secret Harbor Boatworks in nearby Potter Valley. Once off the water, return to the land on Pennyroyal Farm. This Boonville farmstead is tucked between Pennyroyal’s vineyard and tasting room, and farm tours include stops at the creamery and vineyard, a visit with the animals, and a wine and cheese tasting.
The first organic and biodynamic winery in the U.S., Frey Vineyards has not developed 90 percent of its land, keeping it as an unspoiled natural habitat. Until the tasting room opens post-Redwood Complex Fire, find Frey wine in Mendocino restaurants, bars, wine shops and online. Stop at Parducci Wine Cellars in Ukiah, which is the first winery in the nation to achieve carbon-neutral status. Plus, winery operations use 100 percent nonpolluting green energy through purchased wind power and on-site solar.
In Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s tap room, a painted yellow sun sports the words “Solar Powered Beer,” and, indeed, solar panels provide more than 40 percent of the brewery’s energy. Spent grain is also donated to local livestock, and spent hops become fertilizer. At Harbor House Inn, chef Matthew Kammerer sources all ingredients within a 50-mile range. The hyperlocal menu promotes flavors tied to the North Coast terrain and includes seaweed, seafood and vegetables—items that are gathered and foraged for each morning.
Pick from your choice of cabins, yurts and geodesic domes at Oz Farm in Point Arena for a rustic, serene retreat in the redwoods. This off-the-grid farm uses solar and wind power for all its operations, and grows organic apples, pears and a large variety of vegetables. If rustic retreats aren’t your thing, head to The Brambles. Deep in a towering redwood grove along Indian Creek in Anderson Valley, it was built using all recycled, repurposed and reclaimed materials, including wood milled from the property.
Second Saturday at Connolly Ranch features a Farm Camp that introduces kids to some of the ranch’s animals while learning from where food comes. Seasonal crafts and a natural playground ensure campgoers have the best day ever. Laces and Limos delivers to oenophiles by eco-chic, 100 percent electric tuk-tuk. Pick the classic tour, or dial things up a notch and create a custom tour around a variety of wineries and food-pairing experiences.
This year marks the 51st anniversary of the creation of the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve. Visit and taste vintages at wineries continuing the legacy with innovative sustainable business practices. Beringer recently constructed a rainwater collection system using a decommissioned 150,000-gallon stainless steel wine tank. The rainwater is reserved for use in the refrigeration system’s condensing units. Bouchaine Vineyards uses falconry to chase pest birds away during the final months of the growing season. At Napa Green-certified Materra, part of Cunat Family Vineyards, sustainable practices include planting winter wheat as a cover crop in the vineyard and planting native redwood trees to provide a safe habitat for friendly birds. One of the first estates to become Napa Green certified, Silverado Vineyards also provides helpful vineyard birds a home with 22 owl boxes and 75 bluebird boxes.
Archetype restaurant sources as much as possible through local farms and buys only from sustainable fisheries. Live and post oak is used as firewood, and the culinary team pickles, ferments and dehydrates food that might otherwise be wasted. Chef Chris Cosentino at Acacia House focuses on local and sustainable produce, and his menus feature a fresh take on classic California cuisine with Napa Valley ingredients, such as lamb tartare with green harissa, mint and chickpea crackers.
Bardessono is one of only eight LEED Platinum-certified hotels in the country and features on-site waste management, low water use and a solar system discreetly mounted and concealed on the hotel’s flat roofs. The Meritage Resort and Spa composts 100 percent of its food waste from its restaurants and banquet events, and uses compostable water cups and straws.
The country’s best Earth-minded farmers come to UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems to train, but you don’t have to quit your day job to wander the 30-acre farm and 3-acre Alan Chadwick Garden. When your itinerary calls you to zip from place to place in Santa Cruz, consider leaving your car in the parking lot and taking advantage of the vast stables of on-demand electric JUMP bikes.
The region’s abundance of organic, locally grown greens and vegetables is the star of the healthy, sustainable and affordable vegan cuisine at Charlie Hong Kong. The certified Green Business serves delicious noodle and rice bowls, like Spicy Dan’s Peanut Delight. It also composts and sources vegetables from nearby organic farms. In Capitola, Shadowbrook has a long legacy as a romantic dining destination. The restaurant (also a certified Green Business) takes sustainability seriously and has turned part of the kitchen’s roof into an organic herb garden.
Pop in to Storrs Winery & Vineyards’ new tasting room. At a former quarry, this 6,800-square-foot structure on the organically farmed site is also a teaching opportunity for home gardeners and small-scale farmers. Relying on stellar fruit from Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards, the chardonnay, pinot noir, zinfandel and petite sirah come from this boutique winery. Back in Santa Cruz, duck in to Soif, which offers a wealth of options to taste wines from around the world. Plenty of sustainable varieties are in the shop, including Margins Wine, which produces low-intervention wines using grapes from little-known regions, vineyards and varietals.
Check into Chaminade Resort & Spa for its quiet hilltop setting, scenic nature trails and relaxing day spa. The spa is where you’ll find two Himalayan salt saunas—a first for Santa Cruz County resorts and health clubs. Dream Inn Santa Cruz is the area’s first certified green hotel. It’s also the city’s only beachfront hotel, and its Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge features menus that showcase the local bounty of California’s Central Coast.
Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco