Earth Day 2010 is here, and I’m changing my habits. It’s something I do every year, actually — sort of an environmental New Year’s resolution. It’s a good time to reflect on how our daily actions affect our city and our world.
Earth Day has been incredibly effective in raising awareness for environmental reform that has spurred a wave of social change — so much so that we sometimes forget that we still have a long way to go. On its 40th anniversary, Earth Day still offers a necessary opportunity to make some very simple changes, perhaps ones that you’ve never even thought of before.
We’re San Franciscans — we pride ourselves on a green reputation that continues to set the standard nationwide. Recycling is commonplace, and many of us have moved on to replacing all the lights in our home with compact fluorescent bulbs, ditching our cars to use public transportation, and using a canvas bag for our weekly grocery shopping.
Our San Francisco Unified School District has proven that large institutions can be trailblazers too. Earlier this year, school board Vice President Hydra Mendoza and I co-authored a green policy for San Francisco’s public schools that creates clear policies for reducing the district’s carbon footprint. With support from San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, we even established a director of sustainability position to launch additional initiatives.
We created pilot Green Teams in seven district schools and implemented a tree-planting campaign in collaboration with Friends of the Urban Forest, SF Green Schoolyard Alliance and the Mayor’s Office of Greening. We launched the first annual San Francisco Bike to School Day, and district schools participated in the Earth Hour Challenge. Today, there are 70 schools in San Francisco that compost their food waste, a 40 percent increase from 2005.
Our city’s latest environmental effort is to create mini parks from paved surfaces. Other positive changes we’ve made include transitioning our city’s taxi fleet to run on alternative fuel and the banning of plastic bags in our grocery stores.
And yet, even with all our cutting-edge green legislation, the most dramatic change comes from the everyday choices that you and I make. That’s why for my Earth Day “resolution” this year, I’m focusing on two issues: using recycled toner and getting better at composting. It may seem small, but these little changes really add up.
So what are you waiting for? Tell me, what is your pledge?
Jane Kim is president of the San Francisco Board of Education. She lives in SoMa.