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Travel green with eco-friendly California cities

By: Lena Katz Friday, July 18, 2008

Green is the new black, I think we can all agree. Lately, everything is touted as eco-friendly, sustainable, carbon-offset, organic, locally sourced and socially conscious. Including, for example: film festivals, nightclubs, airlines and the grapes I just bought at the supermarket (that, upon further investigation, turned out to be conventionally grown in Mexico—go figure).

Half the time, "green" is just a marketing hook and "locally grown" is just a sticker. So who can blame me for becoming jaded? Jade green. (See, now I’m doing it too.)

However, growing up in California, I remember all these little communities where everyone lived the way of the peaceful green warrior: mulching their compost, eating vegan from grade school, refusing to use ant spray, even in the direst circumstances…eew that was gross. But the point is, they were evergreen (not seasonal), and they were for real.

And if you promise to forego fast food, hairspray, and anything made of plastic when you travel there, then I will tell you where these places are ...

A former logging town turned historic preserve — bordered by state parks, with redwoods in one direction and ocean cliffs in the other. Half the county lands are protected. If the locals had their druthers, that percentage would probably increase. Mendo residents are artists, small farmers, organic winemakers, Berkeley graduates or a combination thereof. Even the big business concerns (like the wine producer Fetzer) have been committed to sustainable and organic practices since the ‘80s. With its picturesque streets, colorful art galleries, nearby wineries and friendly, funky little inns, Mendocino is a haven for San Francisco and Sonoma residents on a quick getaway.

Other towns have started to come into their own as well: Hopland, home of the Real Goods Solar Living Center; and Gualala, a longtime artists’ colony that sits on the coast, at the Sonoma County line. Hopland’s annual SolFest has been celebrating sustainable living since 1996 — this year, it takes place August 16-17. Gualala’s Art in the Redwoods Festival happens the same weekend. Ambitious people could hit one day of one, and one day of the other, as it’s about a 2-hour drive. (You will, of course, rent a hybrid.)

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