Archive for February, 2015

Once again Seattle, Washington is flexing its large, environmental muscle – one that not only seems to be superior in terms of size, but also seems to have the enviable ability to trigger movement and action in both the local and state governments.

In Seattle, it is now illegal to throw away food with rubbish (it has already been illegal, for several years, to throw away recyclable items with rubbish). This comes as a pumped-up version of mandates for composting that already exist in places such as San Francisco, Vancouver, and Vermont. The difference, however, is that Seattle homeowners failing to comply will be penalised directly, after being warned once – a warning displayed publicly with a large, red tag around the offender’s rubbish bin. These red tags also double as a public education campaign about the new law on recycling and composting.

While the establishment of this policy is something to be admired in and of its own right, the sentiment behind it sheds light on an exemplary dedication to the larger environmental goals of the people of Washington. This (comparatively) strict law did not come into place as a strong, last-ditch effort to fix some overwhelming problem. On the contrary, it was established to help the city increase its recycling and composting rate to 60%, only four percentages points higher than its current level, and was a result of the fact that the state’s recycling rate slipped to 49% in 2013 from 50% in 2012 – even though this 49% is still among the highest recycling rates in the US. This new law therefore symbolises just how committed Seattle is to its environmental and ecological responsibility. The people of Seattle and Washington are willing to push strong, novel policies in reaction to small (environmental) steps backward and/or in order to increase, even by relatively small amounts, their already exemplary environmental practices and lifestyles.

Excuse my implied pessimism for the rest of us, but this ambition to be ‘better even when already one of the best’ seems a refreshing deviation from the environmental attitude of setting discouragingly low goals and coasting once a level of ‘good enough’ has been achieved (restricting the growth of many an environmental muscle).

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