San Jose’s "Green Vision" Initiative Means Low-Impact Sleep, Eat and Play is Easy in Silicon Valley

© Team San Jose - Mythbusters, the exhibit, are coming to The Tech.

When traveling, finding green hotels and organic eateries can be challenging without an extensive search. In San Jose, a pleasant escape in the Bay area, it may be easier since the city established a "Green Vision" back in 2007. It starts with a LEED Silver-certified Mineta Airport and Convention Center, continues along 50 miles of paths connecting parks, and plans that businesses align with, earning a Sustainable Community Award.

Gathered from a recent fun trip to San Jose, here's an easy guide to hotels, eateries and attractions to make visiting greener:

SLEEP!

© R.Cruger - San Jose's Green Vision connects 50 miles of trails to parks including an award-winning rose garden.

Green hotels in San Jose range from the elegant boutique Hotel Valencia in pedestrian-friendly Santana Row to options in also walkable downtown filled with cultural options, dining and an electric trolley between spots. The Valencia’s various conservation efforts include timed outdoor CFLs, a “Heatsvr” pool blanket that saves up to 40% natural gas, the now-standard linen reuse plan, a farm-to-table restaurant and even biodegradable recycled key cards.

Some other hotels, located downtown, feature environmentally-friendly practices including the uber-eco Fairmont Hotel with complimentary parking for hybrids, kitchen-waste diversion and Eco-Meet package and the Doubletree, a member of California Green Lodging and Earthcare program.

EAT!

© Team San Jose - Dining al fresco in San Pedro Farmer's Market district.

Chef Robert Sapirman at Hotel Valencia’s Citrus Restaurant serves scrumptious meals with seasonal ingredients from nearby farmers, fishermen and ranches. "Everything is traceable” from the tuna to the fiddlehead ferns, with globally-inspired flavors, paired with the region's organic wines.

Other area restaurants using local and organic foods include: Vegetarian House with raw food dishes, Aqui Cal-Mex for “wild organic Mexican," vegan hotspot Good Kharma, Tigelleria for "tipica Italiana" in nearby Campbell, and Manresa with Chef David Kinch's Catalan-style cooking and biodynamic vegetables grown exclusively at Cynthia Sandberg's Love Apple Farm.

In the bustling San Pedro neighborhood, the Farmers' Market is a waste-free environment with 30 farmers' produce stands, surrounded by indoor/outdoor eateries, a garden shop and entertainment.

PLAY!

© R.Cruger - A cyclone of shredded paper and paper clip tree in SoFA gallery.

There's lots of art museums and theaters downtown, including The Tech, an intriguing Silicon Valley version of a science museum with creative hands-on experiences from sea to air, health to microchips. It has a permanent “Green by Design” exhibit with self-made turbines, solar experiments and renewable energy, and an informative display about the plastic gyre in the Pacific.

In the galleries of SoFa (South of First) at the Institute of Contemporary Art, I saw an exhibition on “The Office” with willow-like tendrils of repurposed paper clips and feathers made of staples. The San Jose Museum of Art also exhibited environmentally inspired art including a global-warming themed pinball machine, melting polar bears and hard-carved tires.

A must-visit in the area are the many organic wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I tasted and toured Cooper-Garrod Vineyard, a family-owned 28-acre estate and member of the region’s Sustainable Winegrape Growers Alliance, which uses cover crops, erosion control and canopy management. Located above the village of Saratoga on an unirrigated hillside, its solar array handles 25% of the energy needs. The organic Cabernet Franc, Viognier and Test Pilot blend are all standouts available online.

© R.Cruger - At Cooper-Garrod Vineyard's Chardonnay ridge, second-generation vintner Bill Cooper lets bluebirds eat the bugs.

Bike and hike the Guadalupe River Park winding through downtown. The urban green space has 50 miles of trails connecting to parks and rose gardens with plans for more. Also, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition hosts rides and events, like its upcoming Bike to Work Day, May 10.

San Jose's “Green Vision”

© R.Cruger - San Jose's History Park houses early electric cars and trolleys among its attractions.

The capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is the tenth largest city in the U.S. Its Green Vision emphasizes clean tech innovation with 10 goals in green jobs, energy, water, waste, trees, and transportation. It follows the d-Stewards Standard for recycling electronics, diverts trash from landfill and rubberized asphalt reuses 17,000 old tires as part of California’s “Greenroads” project.

An early adopter, it has banned plastic bags (considering only 4% are recycled) and charges for single-use bags.

© R.Cruger - Today's electric cars at Santana Row showroom of Silicon Valley's Tesla Motors.

Shopping on Santana Row offers an array of boutiques and services like InSpa’s waterless pedicure, H&M's sustainable line of clothes, 100% Pure personal care products made with fruits and veggies and even a Tesla showroom.

Tags: California | Environmental Footprint | Green Entertaining | Tourism

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