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Fresh produce

Hospitality and travel businesses lead California's sustainability practices

By Laurie Haynes | 5 min

From restaurants who are creating incredible dining experience with the smallest footprint possible to tourism initiatives created by destination marketing organizations to encourage responsible tourism, industry leaders seem to recognize the urgent need to be more conscientious citizens and visitors. Members of the state’s tourism industry remain well positioned to lead sustainability efforts within a community.

Sustainable moments in Monterey
Recognizing the need to protect their natural resources, the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau created a dedicated initiative to educate visitors on responsible travel. The Sustainable Moments program was created in 2013 as an ongoing, destination-wide campaign that continues to serve as a cornerstone of the destination’s marketing efforts.

3 pillars frame the visitor experience to encourage responsible tourism.

  • Conservation
  • Safety
  • Convenience

After thorough research, the organization set out to build an initiative that involved its members as well as the greater community, sourcing input from elected officials, neighborhood associations, chambers of commerce, utility companies and other stakeholders.

Park patrons
Sustainable tourism is also top of mind for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, which spearheaded the California State Parks Patron Program. The program sources donations from patrons of hotels, restaurants and other hospitality partners to help with upkeep and other needs.

Making sustainable wine
In the state’s world-renowned wine industry, California has the most comprehensive and widely adopted wine sustainability programs in the world, according to The Wine Institute.


The Wine Institute provides resources for wine-drinkers to take a deeper dive into what sustainable winegrowing means and why it’s important to support protecting the soil, air and water. Vineyards that meet the requirements of being a sustainable winegrower can take part in the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing program, earning recognition through an annual third-party audit.

No food left behind
For many of California’s restaurants, employing zero- or minimal-waste cooking practices is at the cornerstone of their mission. 


According to Jeff Stanford, owner of Stanford Inn Eco-Resort and Ravens Restaurant in Mendocino County, being a plant-based restaurant has a significant impact on the reduction of greenhouse gases, benefiting both local and global communities. Ravens Restaurant also grows its own produce without using fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in addition to supplementing its supply with organic and fair trade produce.


“We can compost all organic waste from the kitchen as well as from the dining room. The compost is used in our farm to grow more food for the restaurant. All cardboard containers for purchased produce are recycled and waxed boxes are destined, we understand, to make fire logs."
Jeff Stanford Owner of Stanford Inn Eco-Resort and Ravens Restaurant in Mendocino County

At Santa Monica’s Native Restaurant, former Top Chef contestant Nyesha Arrington’s “vegetable-forward” establishment thinks about sustainability from multiple standpoints, including where its ingredients are sourced. 

To minimize waste in her kitchen, Arrington thinks outside of the box when she looks at each ingredient. Fish skin, for example, is turned into cicharrón; leftover corn kernels and insides are used to make corn stock.

“Normally we wouldn’t use these pieces of things. You might have had something that could have hit the garbage, and instead we used it and brought it to life.”
Nyesha Arrington Chef, Native Restaurant

Here are five examples of sustainable practices in California’s tourism industry:

  • Three SIMCO restaurants on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf  -- Wipeout Bar & Grill, Fog Harbor and Pier Market -- became certified as San Francisco green businesses in 2018. The newest achievement continues a long tradition of sustainability leadership, as the company became Seafood Watch partners in 2011 and switched to paper straws in 2017.
  • Environmentally-minded San Luis Obispo winery Claiborne & Churchill follows strict sustainability practices in growing and creating premier wine through European winemaking techniques. Sixteen-inch walls made of rice straw, for instance, provide the wine cellar insulation without the need for cooling or heating.
  • In 2017, Spa Ojai at the Ojai Valley Inn implemented an initiative to free the 30,000-square-foot spa of single-use plastic items. The innovative movement replaces traditional spa amenities with eco-friendly, reusable versions and establishes a new standard in the luxury spa space.
  • The h2hotel in Healdsburg sets a high bar for environmentally-friendly hospitality practices as a LEED NC 2.2 Gold Certified property. The 100% tobacco-free environment features sustainable bamboo flooring, an undulating roof alive with succulents, fair-trade, chemical-free felt rugs from Peace Industry and recycled water glasses among other impressive details.  
  • The Shore Hotel revolutionized the hospitality industry in 2011 as Santa Monica’s first LEED Gold Certified hotel. The hotel has since saved 31 million watts of energy, 5.2 million gallons of water and 28,000 plastic water bottles from entering landfills, all through the hotel’s eco-friendly management practices.