Green is the New Black

With few public options for recycling in Sacramento, it’s time to trash our old way of thinking and create some stylish new ways to make our streets and parks as clean as our conscience.
Wnh Recycling
Photos courtesy of Bryant Park Corp. (left) and Landor Associates
In NYC, Ignacio Ciocchini designed tulip-shaped cans for Bryant Park (left), and Landor Associates created modern recycling bins for Central Park.

The Idea

In recent years, Sacramento has made great strides in becoming more eco-friendly, from solar panels atop City Hall to more LEED-certified buildings. One area we haven’t delivered on quite as well is public recycling. Walk down virtually any street, and not only are trash cans few and far between, but there are no recycling receptacles to be found. There are public recycling cans in Davis (naturally), but not here in the City of Trees. Yes, the city provides recycling bins for residential customers, but if you finish a can of Coke Zero while walking around midtown or downtown, a trash can is your only option. And guess what? None of that trash is recycled. (The city says the homeless remove the majority of bottles and cans.) That’s not great branding for what should be the progressive capital of California.

Instead, we ought to take a cue from New York City and create some receptacles that not only encourage recycling, but also improve our streetscape with bold urban designs.

Last year, for example, the Central Park Conservancy commissioned 700 new color-coded trash and recycling cans based on the architectural vernacular of the park, using 30 percent recycled aluminum alloy and eco-friendly paint (so, yes, even the garbage cans themselves are recyclable). The nonprofit Bryant Park Corporation in Manhattan produced 100 tulip-shaped trash and recycling cans to complement the surrounding natural environment. The public even got to vote on the final designs.

The Players

Sacramento isn’t alone. Roseville doesn’t have recycling bins on its sidewalks either, but the recyclable materials in their trash, unlike ours, are separated at the landfill. In the central city, groups like the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, Convention & Visitors Bureau and Midtown Business Association could and should help facilitate new recycling cans.

And the state of California, which maintains the trash cans on its many properties downtown, should certainly be leading the way on this front, but there’s not a single recycling receptacle encircling Capitol Park. Gov. Brown is clearly concerned enough about public perception that he’s ordered the historic Capitol Fountain to remain dry because of the drought (even though the fountain, ironically, uses 100 percent recycled water), but he doesn’t provide recycling options for those who visit the park surrounding his office.

The Bottom Line

It’s cool to be green, but city residents, tourists and conventioneers who care about the environment don’t have enough options as they stroll around our city. And while cultivating the perception of being a green city is important, it’s even more critical to do the right thing and recycle. In New York, the Central Park Conservancy reported a year-over-year increase of 35 percent in recycled materials collected—all because of some sexy new trash cans.

It’s time to follow their lead and beautify our city and planet at the same time.

What could be cooler than that?