Two big pieces of news out of San Francisco this week: Barry Bonds started a brief stint coaching for the Giants, and the city made significant progress toward outlawing plastic water bottles. As a result, the average level of self-satisfaction exhibited by San Franciscans increased by a factor of three.
And that’s just from Bonds’ ego! Did you really think we were going to shame a city for striving to be more environmentally conscious? Not that we’re ruling out that San Francisco might have done it just a little bit to make every other American city look even worse. (Oh, come on! You were thinking it too!) Still, this is downright cheery news.
On Tuesday, the city’s board of supervisors unanimously approved a ban on selling single-use plastic bottles of water on city property. The ban, which still needs a second vote and the sign-off of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, will go into effect in October of this year for indoor events, and 2016 for outdoor events. Sporting events that require excessive water consumption — such as the San Francisco Marathon — could be excluded from these restrictions, but not without first attempting to secure other, more sustainable sources of water.
[Supervisor David] Chiu noted that it wasn’t until the 1990s that there was a plastic water bottle industry, which is now a $60 billion a year business. He said one goal of the legislation is to get people thinking about the waste, much like the city’s plastic bag ban, which has dramatically increased the number of consumers who use reusable bags.
“I want to remind people that not long ago, our world was not addicted to plastic water bottles,” he said. “Before (the 1990s), for centuries, everybody managed to stay hydrated.”
At which point, every other city supervisor struggled to recall what life was like at any point before approximately last Thanksgiving.
Chiu, however sassy about it, has a point. Since 1991, U.S. bottled water consumption per capita has tripled. And this is in spite of the fact that bottled water is widely acknowledged as an enormous scam: 25 percent or more of bottled water is just straight tap water, but you pay as much as 2,000 times more for it than the stuff that comes out of your kitchen faucet.
As scams go, bottled water also has an undeniable environmental impact. In 2007, production of water bottles for U.S. consumption alone used up to 54 million barrels of oil. Seventy-five percent of plastic water bottles are not recycled, instead ending up on beaches, in rivers, and partially full of unidentified liquid on nearly all the empty bus seats you’ve ever tried to sit in.
San Francisco, you’ll always be The City That Waits to Die to us. That said, Most Sustainable City in the United States has a pretty nice a ring to it, too.