GREEN CITY When we say a product is "eco-friendly," what we really mean is "eco-friendlier," as in "less ecologically damaging to the environment than available alternatives." The manufacturing process always has some negative effect on the environment, and while products may be labeled organic, biodegradable, recycled, acid free, ecospun, fair-trade, unbleached, vegetable-based, cruelty-free, or all-natural they all require land, unclean energy, and unrenewable resources to produce.
The easiest way to start thinking eco-friendliest is to take into account the enormous amount of energy used in distribution. Sure, it's unrealistic to expect all of our products to come from California, because certain things, like lifesaving medicine or Belgian ale, don't have homegrown substitutes. But some items do have nearby equivalents. Here's a guide to some of our favorite stylish eco-stops for locally manufactured gems.
For eco-friendly home goods, make sure you stop by Russian Hill's Spring (2162 Polk, SF. 415-673-2065, www.springhome.com), where you can get your Coyuchi organic cotton sheets, Method home care products, Sara Paloma vases, International Orange spa goodies, Erbaviva homeopathic baby products, Naya bath salts, Nectar Essence aromatherapy sprays, and EO bath and body things, all in one trip. Did I mention that all these companies are California-based?
Another favorite on the spendy eco-boutique front is Eco Citizen (1488 Vallejo, SF. 415-614-0100, www.ecocitizenonline.com), which carries sustainable high-end clothing and showcases several talented local designers, including Sara Shepherd, the San Francisco clothier who creates conceptual, modern styles in black and white. While you're there, be sure to ask about Jules Elin, a designer from Novato who works solely with organic and recycled fabric, and whose feminine, whimsical jackets are perfect for life in a perpetually spring-like city.
If you're shopping for tomorrow's green warriors, try Mabuhay's (1195 Church, SF. 415-970-0369, www.mabuhaykids.com) eco-friendly children's clothing, featuring San Franciscan lines like Smallville by Jimin Mannick, who hand-sews lovely little garments for boys and girls. Jasper Hearts Wren play clothes for toddlers are decorated with charming details like rocket ships and birds crafted from felt made entirely from postconsumer recycled plastic bottles, and are made by Oakland's Heather Jennings and Lisa Schwartz.
And speaking of kids, Ladita's (827 Cortland, SF. 415-648-4397, www.shopladita.com) owner, Christine Kay, has been wanting to open a boutique since she was a kid herself. At the sweet little boutique, whose storefront reads "Eco-friendly of course," check out Kim White's handbags created with vintage fabrics pulled from automobile upholstery, like a clutch made from a 1980s Camaro. Also keep an eye out for regenerated cotton socks by Love & Socks, made here.
Other places to keep on your radar? Eco Boutique (4035 18th St., SF. 415-252-0898, www.shopecoboutique.com) offers glass products by Dharma, a Fort Bragg company think wonderful little glass straws you can use instead of plastic disposable ones. EcoLogiQue (141 Gough, SF. 415-621-2431, www.ecologiquesf.com) offers 100 percent made-in-California T-shirts by Naked Cotton using organic cotton grown in the San Joaquin Valley. If you want to commission your own messenger bag, contact Rickshaw Bagworks (904 22nd St., SF.