Save Me, San Francisco!

Mar 6th, 2012 | By | Category: Make a Difference!

I just came back from a few days out in the Berkeley-San Francisco area in California (which is nice as a New Englander… went from cold rain here to sunshine there, back to cold rain-snow-sleet mush here), and the trip, though brief, has reminded me of all the reasons I love the West Coast. The entire green economy there is absolutely flourishing, and I think my outside perspective that San Francisco takes a lot of things for granted, surprised a lot of people.

One of the most incredible things is that, in a small way, the green economy actually helps out the homeless population (which, in Berkeley and neighboring Oakland, is sadly extensive). In many places in the country – including CT! – there are “Bottle Bills” that make you pay a small deposit on bottles, cans, and other recycling (normally pretty small, around 5 or 10 cents). In California, while recycling is picked up on the curb regularly, it’s common practice for the homeless to pick up the cans and bottles early in the morning and take them to recycling centers to get the deposit money. This isn’t greenness-for-the-sake-of-greenness, but it’s nice that an environmental policy is helping solve economic issues, even if uninentionally.

The other thing that really struck me were all the bicycles. They struck me in particular when I was in a car going 5 miles per hour behind all the bicycles. It’s amazing how many bicyclists there are. And how slowly they go… but seriously, it’s really fantastic how much people were out in groups, travelling to places in a carbon-neutral way. I think it’s really incredible how much California – and especially San Francisco – has environmentalism embedded in its overall mindset.

And did I mention that Action for Nature is based out of SF? As is the California Academy of Sciences, the Marine Mammal Center, all of the UC Berkeley environmental institutes, departments and organizations (including the nation’s first really exceptional program in Environmental Law!), the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (… explains all the darn bicycles!), Save the Bay, Fair Trade USA, EarthJustice, the Tides Foundation, the Sustainable World Coalition, and many many others. (OK, that’s actually the whole Bay Area, but still.) WOW!

So what precisely is my point? I think there’s a couple things to note here: (1) if you’re in San Francisco, bless you, you have a lot of resources; (2) if you’re on the East Coast, maybe we can start to use the West Coast as an example of just how green our cities can look. What I’ve mentioned here is a small subset of the many things I noticed – electric cars, green roofs, etc. When I look at the green “Cities of the Future” that people are always modelling and discussing, they all seem reminiscent to me of the Bay Area… now all we need to do is make EVERYTHING like that! (Sounds easy…)

Leave a Comment