Think about the last time you saw someone litter. Hopefully, it’s been a while. Maybe it was someone tossing their fast food trash out of their car or someone who missed a mid-range jumper into a sidewalk garbage can. I’m always a combination of shocked and disgusted when I see a person carelessly drop their filth wherever they happen to be, like a horse taking a dump as it walks. Except, I’m fine with the horse.
In the not-too-distant future, that’s how we’re going to perceive unsustainability. We’re not quite there yet. A lot more needs to be done to make the sustainable alternative cheaper and easier. It’s hard to be very critical of someone who can’t afford the more eco-friendly option or who has to go way out of their way to help the environment. But if you have the means and it’s not too much of an imposition, there’s not much of an excuse.
Of course, we’re all very familiar by now with the choices we can make in our daily lives. But for most of us, travel — for pleasure, as opposed to business — is something we do with less frequency. If your idea of a road trip involves doing all the things you wouldn’t do at home, maybe it’s time to rethink that. Bring a conservationist mindset with you on your journey, set a good example along the way and consider choosing destinations that are concerned about the common good. In short, travel responsibly.
With that in mind, let me offer an initial excursion idea for your consideration. For many of us metropolitans, tied for various reasons to L.A. or San Francisco, the Central Coast is our home away from home, and we care for it like a sibling. San Luis Obispo is emblematic of all the region represents. And it’s a model of sustainability.
For starters, your road trip need not involve a road at all. You can take public transportation most of the way there and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Amtrak trains, the Pacific Surfliner from the South or Coast Starlight if you’re coming from the North, arrive right in the middle of downtown.
And once there, you can get around the city’s beautiful historic downtown easily enough on foot, or bike or bus, or any combination thereof. Rental locations include Foothill Cyclery, which will get you into gear for all the trails in the vicinity. And if you’re up for a rewarding challenge, head out on a city-to-the-sea trail that showcases the natural beauty of the region. There’s also great hiking near downtown, including Terrace Hill Open Space, a three-quarter-mile hike to a vista, where you can enjoy gorgeous 360-degree views.
The Edna Valley wine region is an ideal bike ride, and the Edna Valley Backroads Wine Trail provides a stunning backdrop. San Luis Obispo has many SIP-certified wineries, so you can continue to do your part for the environment even as you do your part for the local economy. Sustainable wines, like those produced at Tolosa Winery, are the future of winemaking, and if you like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, you’re in for a treat. The winery relies on natural efforts like using owls and cats for pest control, while using modern innovations like solar power to offset upwards of 90% of their electricity demand.
The city of San Luis Obispo is so serious about its environmentalism that it has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2035. One facet of that plan involves planting 10,000 new trees by then. And that’s to a city that is already very wooded to begin with. Another aspect of that commitment comes from the tourism industry itself. The Tourism Business Improvement District is allocating 1% of its entire annual revenue to the cause. That’s your vacation dollars at work. When you book a room, you are offsetting carbon, reforesting the region, and beautifying the community.
So, now it’s time to book that room and start your journey as an eco-friendly traveler. And you need to look no further than the San Luis Obispo Hotel, in historic Chinatown. The plant-lined exterior of the building is not only an embodiment of the resort’s green motif, it’s also a perfect spot for a portrait photo (aka, “selfie”). Meanwhile, Chef Ryan Fancher sources the finest Central Coast ingredients at the hotel’s gorgeous Italian-inspired Piadina restaurant, where you can enjoy live music Wed-Fri.
As the sun sets on your low-impact day, head up to the roof to enjoy a well-deserved glass of local vino at Highbar. And have a look at the world you’re helping to preserve. Cheers to you.