Today is the day that approximately 90% of registered San Francisco voters have waited for — the end of Donald Trump’s presidency. It’s finally time to say good-bye to a leader whose narcissism, careless tweets, heartless policies and radicalized supporters spurred a constant stream of crises. This columnist would dance in the streets if I wasn’t so exhausted.
Trump’s administration has been tough for many, and people who care about our planet are no exception. We’ve stood with Standing Rock protestors, marched for science and rallied for the climate, while individually working to eat more meatless meals, eliminate plastic waste and reduce consumption. As the climate crisis intensified heat waves and wildfires, we watched Washington, D.C. unravel hard-fought victories for cleaner energy and transportation. And now that Trump is finally leaving, we have to clean up his mess before it’s too late.
Yes, it’s been tiring and there’s a lot left to do. But after covering local environmental efforts in this column for over five years, I believe San Franciscans have the imagination, passion and dogged determination to keep fighting. We can finally look forward again and work to rebuild an economy that’s more sustainable and equitable. In my opinion, that’s reason enough to get off the couch.
The rapid changes brought about by the zero-waste movement are one example. When the shelter-in-place order was issued in March, Bay Area businesses quickly harnessed technology to deliver goods more sustainably. Today, thanks to Dispatch Goods, San Franciscans can order a pizza from Square Pie Guys in a reusable box or takeout from Zuni Cafe, the first San Francisco restaurant to provide all orders in reusable containers. Services, such as the Silo Pantry and Zero Grocery, also deliver groceries in plastic-free packaging.
“We were only six people in February,” Zuleyka Strasner, the founder of Zero Grocery, told me. “Now there are several hundred people working on this project. It’s amazing to provide jobs and opportunities to people.”
These businesses provide tangible evidence that environmental efforts can lead to economic growth — a message city leaders have propounded in response to Republican claims that regulations kill jobs. Since 2016, San Francisco has set numerous environmental policies and goals, such as efforts to reduce waste from large residential buildings and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. These policies created jobs and helped develop a local green economy.
Now that the White House is no longer openly hostile to the planet, innovative and determined San Franciscans may be able to accomplish even more. Solutions pioneered in the Bay Area can reduce waste, reimagine meat, improve energy efficiency and transform atmospheric carbon into building materials, all while putting people to work. With government support and necessary regulation to level the playing field, these solutions should grow and be able to compete with existing industries. That’s capitalism at its best.
“The Bay Area is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurialism,” Thomas Baruch, a venture capitalist who works with Bay Area companies to scale and market climate solutions, told me. “I liken these entrepreneurs to the great painters of the 15th and 16th centuries.”
During the new administration, San Franciscans can build on this creative spirit to help the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But businesses and policymakers should keep equity in mind. The green economy cannot thrive if only the privileged reap the benefits. Any work must include making jobs with living wages more accessible, services more affordable, and healthy food and water more available.
“This is an era of hope,” Strasner told me. “But change has to make sense for the ordinary, hard-working American. It’s no good if it’s only for the absolute echelons of society.”
Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. She is a guest opinion columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner. Check her out at robynpurchia.com.