San Francisco’s Temple Nightclub One of Three “Sustainable” Clubs in the World

When Temple Nightclub and Zen Compound founder Paul Hemming first conceived of his idea for a nightclub and cultural venue in San Francisco, he immediately sought to create an established that would pursue the triple bottom line and his idea of the world as “one living organism and one family”.

Born of a Mormon father and Buddhist mother, Hemming was from an early age familiar with the concept of "East meets West" and combines this sensibility to his efforts in creating a nightclub built around the idea of sustainability.

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Mike Zuckerman, Temple Nightclub and Zen Compound’s director of sustainability since 2006. While I would expect some club owners will take exception, Mike counts Temple as one of three sustainable nightclubs in the world, the other two being Club4Climate in London (which apparently had a bit of a controversy this summer with Friends of the Earth) and the appropriately named Watt in Rotterdam. Watt bills itself as the “first” sustainable nightclub, opening just earlier this year, and E Magazine mentions other clubs around the U.S. as “eco-friendly, but Zuckerman says that Temple (which Hemming reincarnated from the old DV8 and Caribbean Zone clubs) isn’t really trying to compete for eco-marketing rights. He’s more interested in building awareness and community, both locally, regionally, and globally.

As the old saying goes: think globally, act locally.

Temple Nightclub/Zen Compound LLC is a member of the Business Council on Climate Change (BC3), a partnership between the Bay Area Council, the San Francisco Department of the Environment, and the UN Global Compact.

Businesses throughout the Bay Area have joined BC3 in their commitment to address climate and sustainability issues in regard to their own business practices and operations. Many of these businesses are becoming leaders in the sustainability community, and Zuckerman is proud of the role Temple Nightclub plays in promoting sustainability and community.

Waste, water, energy

Mike Zuckerman’s approach to sustainability rests in the five principals laid out by the Business Council on Climate Change. The first of those principals is internal implementation. Temple began the process with an energy audit from Pacific Gas & Electric (which he recommends every business do), a water audit from the Public Utilities Commission, and a waste audit from NorCal Waste. From there Temple placed its initial focus on the Big Three for any hospitality business: Waste, Water, and Energy.


  • 89% of Temple’s waste is diverted from landfill.
  • All food and drink is either recycled or composted.
  • All kitchen grease is donated to GoToGrease for conversion to biodiesel.
  • Temple uses interface carpet tiles, when one gets ruined (which I’d guess might happen a lot in a nightclub), only that portion needs replaced.
  • No UV coating on any flyers for any Temple event. Yes, paperless is best, but UV coated flyers are the norm, un-recyclable, and usually end up in drain sewers and eventually in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. At least non-UV flyers can be (and are) recycled.
  • All cups and straws are corn-based.


  • Temple uses all low-flow toilets, using 1.26 gallons per flush (using at least 50% in water use).
  • Regular leak inspections.
  • All faucets have low-flow aerators installed.


  • All energy consumption is offset through PG&E’s Climate Smart program.
  • LED lighting retrofit. Temple nightclub will receive a $17,000 rebate once all the full retrofit recommendations from the PG&E audit are completed
  • To the extent possible, employees are encouraged to conserve their own energy use while at work (taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.)

Sustainability is a journey

Other aspects of Temple’s sustainability plan that are either planned or in place include:

  • A vertical urban garden. The test area will eventually lead to the entire exterior surface of the building covered in native plants to help promote biodiversity and provide a habitat for bees and butterflies.
  • Public transit discount for customers. Clubbers that can show some form of proof that they arrived using public transit (a BART ticket, Muni FastPass, etc.) get a discount for admission into the club.
  • Energy-generating dance floor. One of the first things I asked Mike about was the piezoelectric dance floor I’d read about while doing my research for our interview. Mike was not surprised by the question and, alas, explained that the several reports of the energy-generating dance floor at Temple (from other blogs which shall go unmentioned)p are not accurate. Not yet anyway. Zuckerman told me Temple plans to install a piezoelectric dance floor as soon as possible.
  • Urban wind generation. Temple is investigating several options for installing wind power generation, and fully supports the City’s efforts to streamline the permitting process of such systems.
  • Growing their own food. Part of the Temple/Zen Compound is Prana Restaurant. The compound’s geodesic dome will eventually be used to grow food for use on Prana’s menu.

Community and transparency

Two other important principals from the Business Council on Climate Change are community leadership and full transparency of real efforts toward sustainability and their results by actively sharing best practices and lessons learned with other businesses and the public at large – principals that Zuckerman takes seriously. He especially sees the community leadership role Zen Compound plays as an entertainment and cultural “third space” (derived from the concept of Third Places). Temple has always tried to help other entertainment and hospitality venues throughout the Bay Area find ways to go green. Zuckerman is now taking on a more organized role in working to create a community of like-minded business owners assisting each other in their efforts to achieve sustainability and work toward the triple bottom line. “Going green does not cost money”, Zuckerman told me. He wants to show any business interested how his own experience has repeatedly shown this to be true.

Temple Nightclub/Zen Compound has been a member of the Bay Area Council on Climate Change since its inception. Zuckerman served on the original Advisory Council. Using the business’ assets to “tell a story of sustainability” and making available the venue for other organizations (like the Urban Alliance for Sustainability that we reported on earlier this year) for events that promote eco-awareness are key roles that Zen Compound play in the community.

And the winner is…

In October, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce hosted the 17th Annual Ebbie Awards for excellence in business. Zen Compound/Temple Nightclub won the Ebbie Small Business Award.

It may be true that most people looking for a crowded, thumping nightclub to dance the night away aren’t thinking much of sustainability. But then again, thanks to the vision owner Paul Hemming and the effort and commitment of Mike Zuckerman, maybe more and more folks are.

Read about Temple Nightclub’s sustainability practices and their results on the Temple

Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

One response

  1. Dear Mike Zuckerman,
    When I attended the last conference at CCSF at South East campus, I chose to listen to you. I see a combination amazing components in your project. When I listened to you you had also indicated you would be establishing your company and hiring the peoples. If there is any thing in urban gardening for sustainability, I am interested. I would like to know more about you. I am after all green career.I don’t know how!

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