Welcome to San Fran-eco!

Trip Start Apr 30, 2009
Trip End Jun 05, 2009

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, May 21, 2009

Welcome to San Fran-eco!
For those who have known us for a bit, you'll remember our trip to South Africa a couple of years ago. We thought we were dreadfully clever in booking into eco-safari lodges, only to discover that in one particular lodge the 'eco' literally meant no electricity, no hot water, no fan in the summer heat and a dinner of freshly caught kudu not dissimilar to road-kill. Very authentically Dr Livingstone and all, with the night-time 'stay in your hut in case the lions eat you' curfew and the locals asking to keep our grotty safari clothes at the end of the stay.
That story kind of sets the scene for our San Francisco Eco-Warrior chapter. We're staying at an eco-hotel called The Orchard Hotel, chosen deliberately so we could feel less guilty about the massive carbon footprint our trip is causing (we ticked the carbon-offset box... really!) and to suss out the fab organic bath products (this is just an excuse to snaffle squillions of the gorgeous little bottles of smelly stuff... I'm OBSESSED) ohhhh, and research for our lovely friend Cid who makes our body and dog products without parabens and sulfates and stuff.  (http://dare2bnatural.synthasite.com/)
The hotel is right in Union Square, so no... there aren't actually any blossoming trees growing our breakfast for us, although we did notice a fruit bowl at the front desk. The coffee, tea and food are organic, the bathrobes unbleached and there's lots of other environmentally friendly initiatives (www.theorchardhotel.com). Kimmy F, we know you're already clicking that link, you sustainable little fiend!!
So that got us to thinking about the word 'eco'. What does it mean? How do we know we're doing it? And if San Francisco is so into it, what special 'eco' measures do they have here?
The word eco comes from the Latin 'oeco' meaning 'household', but also the Ameringlish word 'obama' meaning 'fix the recession'. So, making an obvious link, our deduction is that being 'eco' means using less, buying less, wasting less and committing to planting trees if you travel by plane. After extensive eco-observations here, we've determined that we must be 'eco' if we:

*    Only order a 'grande'-sized beverage in a disposable container instead of a 'venti' (bucket-sized) at Starbucks, then throw the cup into the gutter instead of the bin (reduces landfill caused by public bins we think...). I have a re-usable travel cup that I ask the beverage outlets to use. Oh, you should see their faces when they have to hold my cup to put organic-fair-trade-rainforest-alliance-certified coffee with pesticide free-nonfat-anti-cow-cruelty milk in it! It's like I've asked them to bathe in swine flu! A few have actually picked up my cup with a handful of disposable serviettes and used about two litres of hot water to rinse the cup out, thus possibly nullifying the effect of me using a non-disposable travel mug in the first place. Sigh. 

*    Get 'more for less' at any number of 'food' places, where you can 'eat' three items for four dollars. The packaging kind of tastes like the food too, which again reduces landfill. In San Fran-eco it's a 'thing' to eat thick soup called clam chowder (which loosely translates into 'crap of the sea in lukewarm cream') in a sourdough bread bowl. Ensure you use a disposable spoon and many paper serviettes whilst eating because they don't count. 

*   Take the cable car or walk up lots of steep hills instead of getting a taxi. By the time a cab comes you may as well have walked anyway really. Best to burn natural energy. Yes, for those wondering if we took the challenge, we DID walk up Lombard Street (and I was in my platform leopard shoes!) It's the 'crooked' street in the photos. One part of the street is so steep they had to make the road crooked for safety. The traditional San Fran-eco cable car is nice ("yo too-rists, get ohhhhn too-rists!") Or, you could take a biodiesel bus, a zero-fuel-emissions bus, an eco-bike, an electric streetcar (named 'Desire') or even a bio-diesel rocket jet-boat! These are all very eco-friendly because there aren't many of them, so the ones that do run are very crowded. Like a load of laundry or the dishwasher, never turn on a public transport device unless it's full. 

*    Have a patio on the roof of your apartment complex. No need for plants. Plants require water, which is much more expensive than 'bottomless coke'. Just sit on top of a roof and enjoy that clean SanFran air. From there you can see into people's apartments and watch the play-offs on their giant-sized TV. 

*   Use the Internet for free at the Apple Store. This appears to be a useful trick for students, people staying in youth hostels and those without homes (although why they'd need to trial Sims 3 or check their email we're not sure). Silly us. We were there to buy an iPod battery. How long has this free Internet @ Applestore thing been going on?

*      Buy postage stamps online. This is a great idea. Saves having those UPS stores around. EXCEPT if you're a tourist. Then you DO actually need the occasional store selling international postcard stamps. BTW, there's a tiny little post office in the basement of Macy's in Union Square. There was also a rather large unsupervised knife at the packaging bench, which could double as a weapon if necessary. 

*       Wear minimal clothing, especially in some parts of San Francisco. This requires less fabric production. Better still, wear old crappy 'vintage' clothes made out of reclaimed llama fleece. If possible, work at a club where you dance in your undies in dim light (very eco) to entertain others. Brad has been asked to consider this as a next career. My requests for him to practise in the hotel bathroom to 'Come on Eileen' have thus far been rejected. 

*    Buy unnecessary products in ridiculous quantities at cheap prices. We were at Walgreens to get 'a couple of things' and suddenly NEEDED hair mousse at $1 (I mean really... a dollar??? For hair mousse?), Sunchips (yummy!) in a compostable package (Compostable packets? Remember when we used to re-use chip packets by oven-shrinking them and creating luuuurvely jewellery pieces?), Crest toothpaste in Cinnamon blast flavour in an extra-large economy tube, economy-sized Pepsi (which is cheaper than the smaller bottle) and a massive bottle of Tylenol PM (LOVE this stuff. In the U.S. antihistamines are bottled as night-time sleeping aids...helps you get a good night's eco-sleep). Suddenly, we needed a big eco-doubled-bagged paper contraption to carry our 'necessities' home in. 

*       Shorten your words, and in fact much of the English language, to a mere semblance. Use such terms as "...'sup doh dawg" when answering your mobile phone.  Be economical when explaining directions to tourists, by merely pointing 'over there'. When driving them in a taxi, best not to talk to them at all until the end. Speak to Australian tourists in short phrases they'll easily understand, like "plus tax plus tip no change no checks". 

*     Take up an occupation such as begging on a street corner (outside Walgreens, then Starbucks, then the hotel corner...). Again, use LESS words with tourists. Just shoving a manky Starbucks cup from the gutter in our face is enough. Really. 

*     Better still for the environment appears to be homelessness. There are lots of 'homeless' in San Francisco. There are homeless sea lions that have taken up residence at Pier 39 (mind you, they have someone who comes along and cleans up after them and they don't have to hold a Starbucks cup in their snout). Our observations reveal that homeless people are amongst the most carbon neutral in the city, living 'under the stars', adopting the 'snail home' approach of carrying their goods and chattels in a shopping trolley (who needs a Hybrid Prius car???) and undertaking excellent eco-practices such as reducing litter by eating people's leftovers, maintaining a minimalist wardrobe that doesn't require laundering, drinking that last bit of grog in the tourist bottle ("iv yo dawg haz tha tyyyyme") and offering to re-use that unnecessary cash we all tend to carry around (those stupid little pennies DO add up). Ah yes...Mass Homelessness. Trust America to figure out how to save the planet.
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gildo on

The Bay Area
Ah Tezza, your tales of the Bay Area make me miss home. Make sure you wave at my mum and dad as your travels take you past Monterey please. :)

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