There are a lot of environmental rules to which departments within the San Francisco government must adhere, but the bottled water ban Mayor Gavin Newsom instituted in 2007 got a lot of press, which makes it surprising that several offices within the San Francisco Board of Supervisors seem to have missed the memo (pdf). According to the New York Times / Bay Citizen article published this weekend, “[t]he city’s 11 current supervisors and their staff members have guzzled $4,387 worth of bottled water since the prohibition went into effect more than three years ago, public records show.”
Take action: (ed 10/26) Tell the Board of Supervisors to walk the talk and cancel their bottled water contracts. And, if you are from San Francsico, consider also emailing your supervisor directly. If you want to take it further, ask your member of Congress to stop the use of bottled water in their offices.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Bottled Water Ban
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is the combined city and county council for the hub of the Bay Area that is home to more than 800,000 people. It’s the legislative counterpart to the mayors executive branch. In 2007, Mayor Gavin Newsom determined that spending $500,000 a year on bottled water was outrageous for a city that owns Hetch Hetchy, a pristine reservoir in the Sierra Nevada that is said to produce some of the country’s best-tasting tap water. So the mayor declared a ban on spending city funds to purchase bottled water, one of the first of such bans that have taken hold across the country, most recently just to the north in Oregon.
City Embraces Tap Water for the Budget and the Environment
Check out this excerpt from a San Francisco Chronicle article written by San Francisco Department of the Environment Director Jared Blumenfeld and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Susan Leal: “Just supplying Americans with plastic water bottles for one year consumes more than 47 million gallons of oil, enough to take 100,000 cars off the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, according to the Container Recycling Institute. In contrast, San Francisco tap water is distributed through an existing zero-carbon infrastructure: plumbing and gravity. Our water generates clean energy on its way to our tap — powering our streetcars, fire stations, the airport and schools. More than 1 billion plastic water bottles end up in the California’s trash each year, taking up valuable landfill space, leaking toxic additives, such as phthalates, into the groundwater and taking 1,000 years to biodegrade.”
Supervisors Skirt Ban and Continue Buying Bottled Water
So how have members of the Board of Supervisors managed to avoid complying with Newsom’s executive order? Apparently purchasing water from their digressionary office funds. In spite of the ban and an effort to convert city offices to water dispensers or straight tap water, only three of the 11 supervisors have stopped using bottled water, and those within the last year and a half.
After a trip to visit Hetch Hetchy last year, “Supervisor John Avalos and his staff began refilling jugs from a faucet at City Hall. Chiu and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi followed suit last spring,” reports Jennifer Gollan, the Bay Citizen reporter who wrote the story. Faced with inquiries, an aide to Supervisor Eric Mar committed to canceling the office’s bottled water delivery, but Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, David Campos, Carmen Chu, Bevan Dufty, Chris Daly, and Sophie Maxwell did not return Gollan’s calls.
Take action (edited 10/26):
Tell the Board of Supervisors to walk the talk and cancel their bottled water contracts. And, if you are from San Francsico, consider also emailing your supervisor directly.
If you want to take it further, ask your member of Congress to stop the use of bottled water in their offices.
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