San Luis Obispo is often a city that people pass through on their route to Los Angeles or San Francisco. But this Central California city deserves more credit. After all, it’s one of the most sustainable cities in the United States, and it is continuously raising the bar on ensuring that future generations have a healthy planet to live on.

From the outside looking in, it would seem more appealing to skip through to head to some of California’s bigger and more well-known destinations. But, we want to drop a few facts that may change your mind the next time you’re on the West Coast.

As we work to be more sustainable all around the world, and as we prepare to honor Mother Earth on Earth Day, here are a few key facts about San Luis Obispo and its efforts to lead the charge on a creating a cleaner city for its residents and the world.

1. It was the first city to ban public indoor smoking

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If you always hated the smell of cigarettes in indoor spaces, you can thank San Luis Obispo for leading the way in banning them.

In 1990, the city officially banned smoking in all indoor public places. They were definitely the first to do so in the United States, and many even argue the first in the world.

2. It's home to one the largest public night markets

Courtesy of Visit San Luis Obispo

Night markets are a big thing in other countries, but not so much in the US. Since the early 1980s, SLO has run its popular Thursday night Farmer’s Market.

Although it started as a way to give local growers and farmer a place to sell their fresh fruits and veggies, the market has expanded over the years to also include local artisans and musicians.

On any given week, you can visit up to 100 vendors while supporting locally owned and grown. It’s so popular, that local restaurants even purchase their fresh produce at the market each week.

3. Deemed America's best biking city

Photo by Uriel Mont

We saw people turn to biking as a form of therapy during the pandemic, and we’re sure the planet greatly appreciated the break from so much vehicle traffic.

But, did you know SLO was deemed one of the best biking cities before it became popular?

Now, the California city is taking things up a notch by adding colorful artwork to its bike lanes in hopes that it will entice residents to bike versus drive.


4. There will be 10,000 new trees by 2035

Photo by: DeAnna Taylor

It sounds like a lofty goal, but if anyone is going to reach it, San Luis Obispo certainly will.

The city launched its “Keys for Trees” program in November, and as it works to become carbon-neutral by the same year, we will see an influx of trees in the city, too.

The program is funded by local hotels, including popular Hotel Cerro— so every time you book a stay, you’re also helping the planet.

5. Single-use plastic bags have been banned since 2012

Photo by Brian Yurasits

Exactly a decade ago, San Luis enacted a rule that supermarkets and other retailers had to do away with single-use plastic bags. The entire state of California followed suit in 2016.

So, if you have plans to visit, be sure to pack your reusable bags if you plan to shop.