Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some Trashy Talk

“What would get you to use public transportation for your commute?” was the question recently asked by Two Cents, the feature in the San Francisco Chronicle where the comments of various citizens are printed along with a little photo of the respondent.

Daniel Curzon-Brown of San Francisco, inspiringly, said this: “It would take public transportation coming into my garage when I want it, followed by a carriage or riding area devoid of people, especially threatening or annoying ones, except for me, and a drop-off 100 yards from my office.”

Good lord. No wonder America is in decline, though Ben said he thought the commentator was merely “exaggerating some very legitimate gripes.” Still, it’s disheartening to see people refusing to make the slightest sacrifice when our continued existence is very likely dependent on it. Don’t get me wrong; I hate Muni, too, but if the only choices were to take Muni or to own a car or motorcycle, I would take Muni exclusively.

Today was yet another great day to be a bicycle commuter. I rode to work amid dozens of other cyclists—there seem to be more and more women biking to work—and passed cheery San Francisco Bicycle Coalition volunteers at Van Ness and Market, up to one of their (our) endless improving projects, so many of which have been successful and made S.F. a nicer place to live and bike.

There are some places I don’t like to ride a bike to. My acupuncturist’s office is in a very tranquil neighborhood where the sidewalks are usually empty. It seems to me a perfect place for a bike thief to work in peace for an hour or so while I’m writhing in agony inside—I mean, while I’m receiving J.’s kind ministrations.

I have therefore decided to acquire a third bicycle, a junker I wouldn’t be distraught to lose. Both my road bike (a Bianchi Eros) and my commute bike (a Marin Novato; I would not buy another Marin bicycle, though I have no plans to get rid of mine) were purchased at Freewheel, but I will get the junker from Pedal Revolution, a place in the Mission where they teach young people to refurbish secondhand bikes, thus providing employment and training (that’s lifted straight from their website). I’ll get a bracket for the handlebar so I can attach my light, and a rack so I can attach my panniers, and probably I won’t add anything else to it. Oh, I’ll get a loud bell. Then I can ride the junker instead of taking Muni (or, sometimes, a cab).

San Francisco’s recycling and compost programs have expanded lately. Now I can take home and put in the compost bin the waxed paper I use for the peanut butter and tomato sandwiches I bring to work. I’ve also started taking my teabags home, though I think I’ll try to go one step farther and switch to bulk tea, so I don’t have to throw out the wrapper the teabag came in and the string. The cartons that soy frozen desserts come in can also go in the compost bin.

It drives me just slightly crazy to see people walking along with plastic Starbucks cups and the like, as I’m sure they buy one or two of them every single day and then throw them in the trash.

I have long had a towel at work that I use for face-washing; now I’m trying to remember always to take it to the bathroom for drying my hands. Recently I also brought a dish towel to work for drying off my water and tea mugs after I rinse them in the morning. I didn’t want to use the dish towel to swab off the counter in the kitchen (see “Howard Hughes” below), so this morning I brought a sponge from home, as well. This should reduce my paper towel use at work to nothing.

Not long ago, a sign was put up in the kitchen at work suggesting that people bring cups to work so as to reduce the use of Styrofoam cups. I thought that was fantastic, but after a couple of days, the sign disappeared. Evidently it was “Love the Environment” day or something, and then after that we could get back to hating the environment.

I’m kind of obsessed with reducing the amount of trash I generate, though it conflicts with my Howard Hughes tendencies. For instance, I probably have a friend who uses the same piece of dental floss for a month, but I can’t bring myself to do that. My most embarrassing trash-related secret is that I tend to throw out plastic bags, because the idea of having a lot of soiled plastic bags hanging around distresses me, though I also have many plastic bags that I use for the same thing over and over. For instance, I have a Cal Fed bag whose dedicated purpose is the transporting of my house slippers to other places I might spend the night, like Tom’s brother’s house in Sacramento or my parents’ house.

I wouldn’t put anything else in that bag because then it would touch the same surface my slippers touched, and of course my slippers touch the kitchen floor, which is also touched by my shoes, which touch the sidewalks, which are covered with spit and dog poop. You understand.

Anyway, it’s quite satisfying to see the number of items that must go in the trash decreasing, either because more can be composted or recycled, or because a reusable item or one with less/no packaging has been substituted.

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