After sidling past a local student who was asking if she could photograph these green elements for a college project ("It's unlikely," offered someone at the front desk apologetically. "You can't really see them."), I found myself in a comfortable, contemporary sort of place.

A sister establishment to the city's award-winning Orchard Hotel, the Orchard Garden was one of the first Californian hotels built to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's specifications, governing "green" constructions. The insistence on these integrated environmental measures came from the Orchard Garden's 83-year-old owner, Mrs S C Huang, who is passionate about what she describes as "clean environments".

The hotel was constructed from sustainable wood and concrete made from fly ash (a recycled by-product of coal combustion). Insulation reduced the need for heating and air conditioning while all plumbing is "low-flow", to save water. The fabrics used were developed by a San Francisco-based company to incorporate recycled materials that are themselves washed in chemical-free cleaning products.

At ground level, the Roots restaurant (using locally sourced organic products) has its menus printed using soy-based inks. Diners can start the day with a breakfast burrito and granola with seasonal fruit, or feast in the evening on roasted scallops with mussels and chorizo.

The spacious bedrooms, replete with energy-saving measures, display a good balance between style and warmth. There is no cutting-edge design to be found here (some guests might consider the furnishings to be a little corporate-looking). Yet, with more hotels than you can shake a Fair Trade tote bag at now highlighting the smallest concessions to the continued survival of the planet, it's the behind-the-scenes commitment to the environment here that particularly impresses. Having said all that, it's an ethos that doesn't sacrifice style and comfort in the name of environmental concern.


Orchard Garden Hotel, 466 Bush Street, San Francisco, California, US (001 415 399 9870; The hotel is a couple of doors down from the landmark Chinatown Gate and within easy reach of the city's main attractions.

Time from international airport: it's around 35 minutes' drive from SFO; a taxi should cost around $40 (£29).


The hotel's 86 "boutique rooms" are more standardised than you might at first expect, with functional furniture made from renewable maple. My room was fresh and light with subtle touches of muted green. The bedroom and bathroom were generous, and everything had been designed with comfort in mind: king-sized bed (complete with a mattress so comfy that even the most committed environmentalists shouldn't lose any sleep over its production), oversized desk, LCD TV and iPod dock. Although the large window didn't open (another energy-saving detail) it had a view of one of lauded US urban artist Shepard Fairey's "Arab Woman" murals in the street below.

Freebies: organic Aveda toiletries, internet access.

Keeping in touch: direct-dial phone. The business centre also offers complimentary use of computers.


Double rooms start at $199 (£140), without breakfast.

I'm not paying that: Green Gulch Farm Zen Center offers an organic farming and Buddhist retreat 30 miles north of San Francisco. Rooms start at $145 (£105), including full macrobiotic board (001 415 383 3134).