San Francisco is perhaps one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world and a great vacation destination. The city boasts many green hotels such as the Orchard Garden Hotel, one of the first LEED-certified hotels in the world. There are many opportunities to eat locally grown organic foods from up to 30 venders in the Ferry Building which also has a farmer’s markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays. But the centerpiece of any eco-related destination in San Francisco should be the newly rebuilt (2008) California Academy of Sciences, one of the ten largest museums of natural history and the largest public LEED-certified building in the world. Nearly 10 years and $500 million dollars in the making, the Academy is a crown jewel of sustainable architecture.

The Academy is a single structure but containing an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and the 4-story rainforest. In addition, there’s a 3D theater, a lecture hall, a Naturalist Center, two restaurants, an adjacent garden and aviary, and the amazing living green roof with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Park. The rainforest exhibit is an indoor ecosystem with macaws, moths, treefrogs, lizards, snakes, giant fish, and butterflies flying amongst the huge tropical trees.

In addition to being the world’s greenest museum, the Academy has many environmentally important research programs as well as the many exhibits that help inspire appreciation and understanding of nature. The building itself boasts many significant green accomplishments such as makes 50 percent less wastewater than previously, recycles rainwater for irrigation, uses 60,000 photovoltaic cells, covered with a 2.5-acre green roof, uses recycled concrete and recycled steel and uses wall insulation made from scraps of recycled denim. The building also houses the Academy science labs and administrative offices, including an extensive library and scientific archive consisting of more than 26 million specimens. The architect, Renzo Piano, is one of the world’s greatest architects who won the 1998 Pritzker Prize.

They have a great website;, be sure to check out their live penguin cam! The museum can get very crowded on the weekends so best to go in the middle of the week (every third Wednesday of the month are free) Parking can be difficult and expensive so consider biking or using public transportations (you get a $3 discount if you do) Adult ticket is $24.95
Be sure to check out the Golden Gate Park as well as the De Young Museum and/or the Japanese Tea Garden across the street.

For more in-depth and excellent information check out the book, GrassRoutes San Francisco by Serena Bartlett

View of an Orchard Garden Hotel Room

Ferry Building interior

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