John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Use dog poop for fuel! Have a sustainable rap contest!
Last December, eco-conscious citizens in the District of Columbia convened in a government building to help address the looming waste crisis. The get-together was part of Mayor Vincent Gray's Sustainable D.C. initiative, an ambitious quest to "make the District the nation’s greenest, healthiest, most livable city."
Attendees voted on what they thought were the best ways to keep the city green and garbage-free. (I found out about this event after recently searching the D.C. website for the keyword "poop" which, don't ask, it's for a story.) At the pinnacle of the list was the establishment of a city-wide composting program (211 votes) and a total ban on Styrofoam take-out containers (155 votes). Also scoring well was making recycling mandatory for houses and businesses (94), putting recycling bins in downtown areas (47), eliminating bottled water for municipal workers (30) and shrinking the size of home trashcans while enlarging recycling containers (38).
Then there were the ideas put on the list by well-meaning individuals that garnered no votes. I've listed a few of the more entertaining ones below. I'm not trying to mock the folks behind these unusual brainstorms. It's just interesting to see what ideas boil up to the top of the cauldron of sustainable thought-gravy, and which sink to the bottom like rotten potatoes.
The Zero List
"Call San Francisco for Help"
"Sustainable rap contest"
"Capture energy with micro turbines in sewers"
"Use dog poop for renewable energy"
"Produce biogas from food/compostables"
"More outreach to the elderly community"
"Tool Library" (OK, who in the audience is from Portland?)
Three or fewer votes:
"'Every day I pick up one piece of trash on the sidewalk.' New marketing campaign!"
"Playback theater performance on creative sustainability"
"Putting needles in the city trash is stupid"
"Host a Twitter meeting"
Top photo of a canine using the facilities by holisticmonkey.