Our family recently spent a week visiting my sister and her family in North Western Washington State. They live in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island off the Puget Sound. They have a beautiful home, a beautiful family and they are surrounded by beautiful nature, but I came back feeling so happy that I was still a Californian. The first time I went to visit her I was ready to pack my bags and buy a huge lot where I could plant my “Martha Stewart Inspired Garden”. However this challenge to lessen my carbon footprint has got me considering my surroundings in a whole new way.
Anacortes is gorgeous, there is no doubt about that. The endless water views, the soaring bald eagles, the pebble shores and the way the redwoods meet the ocean is just breathless. The seafood is delicious, come summer the wild berries are like no other I have experienced, and there is certainly no shortage of local produce. The people are friendly and eclectic. They have a rich history, unique local work culture, and a diverse population. There are also A LOT of Californians, specifically former Bay Area residents, now calling it home. Their reasonable, or should I say fair, home prices are definitely an incentive. So why was I so thrilled to land at SFO you ask? Where do I begin?
First off there are two large oil refineries that cloud up the landscape on the side of the island that houses the best view of the ever snowy Mount Baker. They may look pretty at night, which is what I heard over and over again, but they’re huge and sending out pollution all day and all night. I also heard arguments about the amount of jobs it produces, and the tourism it brings by way of Texas oil workers that is (almost no tourists are searching out refineries I would assume). One refinery belongs to Tesoro and the other is Shell. Its seems so risky to have a refinery next to a water way that so many are fighting to protect. According to my sister there have been some protests against it, but they never seem to go anywhere. In 2010 there was an explosion that killed 7 people. California definitely has its share of controversial power plants and refineries, but fortunately I do not have to feel one this close everyday.
The biggest shocker to me was that there is no in-home composting happening. Meaning there are no green bins. My sister was confused when my mom and I grilled her about composting. Finally I asked what do you do with your yard waste here? “oh, they burn it. There are burn days.” Really? WTF. I can’t accuse all of Washington for being so ostrich-like as there are other counties that do offer a compost bin to their residents but I was astounded that the whole state wasn’t jumping on the band wagon. They fought to legalize pot, but they can’t give all their residents a green bin? Clearly their neurons are not connecting. It felt so so awkward and wrong to throw our grapefruit rinds in the garbage. I guess some residents may have a compost pile but on our tour around the neighborhood I couldn’t find one in there manicured yards and there are no fences to peek over. So sad, this is such a simple step to take.
I did find a bulk section at the local market that I was definitely envious of. They had no paper bags which is bizarre and we had a limited selection of jars since they aren’t the most convenient to fly with, so I couldn’t exactly go to town. But I did drool over their rainbow of lentils and entire aisles of bath and cleaning products. No one was there to man the cheese counter so I’m not sure how accommodating they were in that department. Elsewhere you wouldn’t find much zero wasting going on. I got weird glances and even a “you want it in this?” question when I tried to use my reusable coffee cup at the coffee shops. Everything has a drive through it seems, and one of their chains of coffee shops involves a drive thru window with a women in a bikini or lingerie making up your coffee. That can’t be sanitary, another reason to be thankful I am from California I guess.
Deep down I know that by living in Marin, I live in a bubble. 55% of our county is reserved as protected open space, 75% is actual open without development. We kick out honest farmers if there is a hint of their practices harming the natural ecology of our landscape. We compost and shame each other for not doing it. You are likely to get behind a slow going prius nearly 24/7 (I only saw two in Anacortes and one tesla the entire trip) we even own one ourselves. I spent four years of my young adult life in Fresno, I know that not all of California is even close to this, but as a state we generally have higher eco-standards, recruit EPA scientists to join our team, and have a governor who has made it very clear that he will do everything in his power to combat climate change. I feel lucky that my ancestors decided to move west in the 1840’s to start a new and better life here. We are progressive thinkers and as my boss said “everything starts here and moves east” (she would know she’s a native Texan). Hopefully it will move north too.