A 2009 California League of Conservation Voters poll documented what we’ve always known growing up in Asian families: Asians and Pacific Islanders are natural environmentalists. We care about preserving resources and the environment for our families and for future generations. In fact, 96% of Chinese Americans in California described themselves as “environmentalists,” nearly double the rate of other state residents.
San Francisco has already learned this lesson with its Asian American leadership and residents. We are the highest density Asian population city in America, and it is no coincidence that San Francisco is also regularly rated as the greenest city in America as well.
But the true catalyst for this high ranking has been San Francisco’s resource recovery (formerly “waste management”) partnership that works with all members of the San Francisco community. The city’s waste company, Recology, runs this program with its employee shareholders and more than 270,000 Asian American residents, thousands of Asian American-owned businesses and many Asian American visitors and patrons of this City.
Alarmingly, however, on Election Day, June 5, San Francisco’s record for waste reduction and our path toward becoming the first zero-waste city in the nation could be in jeopardy. Out of town garbage companies have conspired to put Proposition A on the ballot in a mean-spirited attempt to undermine San Francisco productive citywide collaboration that leads the nation in waste diversion.
Laura Tam, the Sustainable Development Policy Director for think tank SPUR wrote that San Francisco has had a “strong and historic relationship” with Recology for more than a century. Although there have been debates over rates and cost effectiveness, she said “It is clear that the arrangement has been beneficial for both environmental performance and the City’s ratepayers.”
Key to Recology’s record-breaking performance has been working with and returning benefits to the city’s culturally diverse and multilingual Asian American community. Recology has been taking the guesswork out of recycling in its blue, green and black bins while educating Asian Pacific Islander communities about using less Styrofoam and plastics and using alternatives, including Japanese-inspired Bento boxes as meal containers. At the same time, the company has recycled city food scraps and yard clippings into compost giveaways in major Asian Pacific Islander neighborhoods like the Sunset, Parkside and the Portola and benefiting thousands of families.
The public-private partnership is unique, considering that local employees own stock in the company whose operations include the City’s southeast sector – where nearly two out of five residents are APA. That’s important to the economy – opportunities for Asian employment and Asian-owned small businesses providing services and goods to Recology or attracting company workers to spend in local restaurants and retail.
Historically, environmental protection could not be accomplished without economic benefit to consumers and companies. However, the city’s relationship with Recology has kept San Francisco among the greenest in the nation as opposed to the alternative of having an out-of-state corporation which does not live with the consequences of its work. Vote No on Proposition A.