By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

Epicenter of environmental innovation: San Francisco

by in Environment.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA. (Source: Stefan Bock/flickr)

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA. (Source: Stefan Bock/flickr)

April 22 marks Earth Day, with festivals and rallies held in nearly 200 countries. San Francisco is hosting many outdoor events, which is fitting because the city is in many ways the epicenter of environmental progress in the U.S. On Tuesday, the tech-startup hub passed legislation mandating that from January 2017 all new buildings in the city 10 stories or less must have either solar PV or solar thermal panels installed on their rooftops. The city is aiming to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and rooftops are an under-utilized opportunity.

The city banned plastic bags in 2007, and another local movement is heating up to ban Styrofoam, although – predictably — industry is against it. However, the sad truth is that only 0.2% of polystyrene foam waste is recycled today. The other 99.8% ends up either in a landfill, where it will take centuries to decompose, or, as is all too common with plastic waste, in our oceans, where birds often mistake the crumbly bits for fish eggs and ingest them. There are some uses, like transporting medical supplies that must be kept securely at a constant temperature, in which Styrofoam is called for. But for most other occasions…

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