The Green Leaf

Recycle. Compost. Landfill.

June 1st, 2011
At the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, you can choose to recycle, compost or contribute to the landfill. Photo by Nina Wu.

At the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, you can choose to recycle, compost or contribute to the landfill. Photo by Nina Wu.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was inspired by the way recycling bins are set up everywhere — from SFO International Airport to the Ferry Building at Embarcadero and at the California Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park.

At the Academy, your choices are to recycle (and there are photo illustrations explaining what to recycle, including plastics No. 1 to No. 6, tin foil, and glass), compost (90 percent of your waste can be composted, including paper plates, food scraps, wood chopsticks and biodegradable utensils), or landfill (plastic wraps and rubber bands).

I thought it was an ingenious way to remind people that when we throw trash away, it doesn't just go away, especially on an island like Oahu.

So maybe we could try the same thing here — at Honolulu International Airport, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and in Waikiki, where we really need it. Unfortunately, only plastics No. 1 and 2 are recycled here in Honolulu, and we don't have a large-scale facility where compostable utensils can actually compost — at least, not yet.

Kudos to Bishop Museum for getting a solar PV system, which makes so much sense.

At SFO airport, there were bins for paper, which would be most appropriate for recycling newspapers. We should set that up here at Honolulu airport.

The compost at the California Academy of Sciences is picked up by Recology, which then goes to Jepson Prairie Organics two miles east of Vacaville, where it is converted into compost that goes to farms, vineyards, and highway erosion control projects. The Academy averages about 120 cubic yards per month from its compost bins, and 300 cubic yards per month from its recycling bins. Not bad.


If you're heading to San Francisco, the museum is a great way to spend the day.

Check out the four-story tropical rainforest, and walk among butterflies and birds, or lean back in your seat and go on a journey to the edge of the universe while watching "Life: A Cosmic Story" at the Planetarium. The aquarium is fun, too — the fish from the Philippine Coral Reef will remind you of Hawaii.

On exhibit this summer: "Snakes & Lizards: The Summer of Slither" (May 9 to Sept. 5, 2011). Shiver! Thank goodness we have no snakes (that we know of) here in Hawaii.

The California Academy of Sciences, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is a Platinum LEED-certified building, with radiant floor heating, a 2.5-acre living roof (that you can check out), walls insulated with recycled blue jeans, a solar canopy of 60,000 photovoltaic cells that will supply at least 5 percent of the academy's energy needs, toilets that are flushed by reclaimed water, and rechargeable sensor faucets.

It's an inspiring example of what can be accomplished in green building. Even more simple is the idea of putting out three bins — one for recycling, one for composting, and one for the landfill.


The California Academy of Sciences' 'Living Rooftop' features native plants which become a home for winged visitors including birds, butterflies and insects. The hills house the Academy's rainforest and planetarium. Skylights help bring in natural light and ventilate hot air from the building. Photo by Nina Wu.

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