I just returned from a nice long trip to California. Never having been to the west coast, I planned to see many sights and take lots of pictures. Some of the places I visited included San Francisco, Yosemite, Silicon Valley, San Jose, Half Moon Bay, and Santa Cruz. San Francisco was a very exciting city. From the Presidio to Chinatown to Pier 39 to the Golden Gate Bridge and everywhere in between, I took in many sights and pictures of this diverse and photogenic community.
In the California forests I saw astonishing Redwood trees, which grow to hundreds of feet tall over thousands of years. Breathtaking. I took panoramic photos of these living antiques! I also saw the biggest male deer I ever saw in my life! The rack was tremendous. He gracefully posed and I got plenty of shots of him and all his deer pals. I even saw a bear in a tree and got a few long-distance shots as he climbed around the tree top.
Silicon Valley, the technological capitol of the world, was quite interesting. We visited Apple HQ, and around every corner was some industry giant like Google, eBay, Intel or Microsoft. Google HQ has multi-colored bicycles for the employees to ride scattered about their property. I even photographed a unique 7 person red tricycle. Half Moon Bay’s fishing fleet and Santa Cruz surfers reminded me of East Hampton. I was able to photograph many surfers catching long waves, and got a few shots of some nice aerials as well!
The cold Pacific water along the mountainous shoreline is home to sea-lions, otters, pelicans and an assortment of species who do not reside on the east coast. They were fun to watch as they gracefully dove for a meal and then posed for the camera. We all relaxed in the warm California sunshine, and every so often took another picture of something new and interesting .
Even with all of these great Kodak moments and the undeniable beauty of California, there was only one sight that made me envious of the west coasters. It was the California refuse containers. The photos attached to this blog are not of the astoundingly splendid, remarkably awe-inspiring, breathtakingly beautiful sights of the natural and built worlds of California, but of the different recycling receptacles I found in every single place I visited.
The first picture I took in California was of a set of home garbage pails and recycling bins. They are always seen together in California. This next picture was of a restaurants recycling dumpster. As I was snapping away at the neat blue dumpster, a woman came outside and asked me if everything was OK. I assured her it was, I just liked her dumpster. I quickly learned that homes and businesses routinely recycle in California. Home recycling is ordinary and composting is a way of life. In San Francisco, composting is the law!
Even more interesting was that the Redwood forest, Pacific shore, mountain towns,cities,suburbs and a historic National Park all had one thing in common. They all had recycling containers in public places. Yes, it is true! Go see for yourself if you don’t believe me. I promise you, the pictures are real. I have not doctored them or superimposed any recycling lingo on ordinary trash cans.
California actually has places to dispose of glass, plastic, paper, tin and compostable stuff when you are out and about in public places. The little that is left goes into the trash bins. I even found a cork recycling bin! It’s amazing, I know! At first, I was overwhelmed. I often stood pondering the meaning and true worth of these strange receptacles. How did they do this, and why couldn’t we?
As I composed each shot I was always hoping that I would capture just the right angle, with the best possible light, so I could always remember these unobtrusive fixtures of California communities. I found these ecological and economical variants to East coast living encouraging, but also disturbing because they have them and we don’t. If I could magically turn one picture from my California adventure into reality here in East Hampton, it would be to have recycling containers in all of our public places, just like California.
I know, I dream big dreams. This futuristic idea of recycling in public places would cause a significant amount of recyclable material to be removed from East Hampton’s solid waste stream. Currently this recyclable material is discarded. This type of trash management would decrease the disposal fees that the Town incurs while increasing the conservation of natural resources.
There's gold in them thar' trash cans! We could also make money by selling the recyclable materials. Cardboard and paper is a commodity that others readily buy. The market price is good for paper products now. Plastics and tin are also at a good price, and we can crush the glass and reuse it for other purposes. In addition, recycling would reduce our overall carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling and awareness raised by such programs could reduce littering and the public health threats associated with litter, and of course, would reduce environmental pollution.
East Hampton could then become a model for other east coast municipalities to follow. One can only dream... a California dream.
PS- I’ve also attached a few pictures of East Hampton refuse containers… can you tell the difference?
Editor's Note: Deborah Klughers is an East Hampton Town Trustee.