Our family vacation this year took us to San Francisco and Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite National Park is 1,169 square miles in size, but most tourists including us visited Yosemite Valley. Yosemite Valley is a 1 mile wide by 7.5 mile long half-pipe of granite rock formations on the sides rising up 7500 feet with a lush green floor teeming with creeks, trees and wildlife. The Valley also has multiple natural waterfalls including the tallest waterfall in North America. Just down the road from Yosemite Valley is Mariposa Grove. The Grove is home to giant Sequoia Trees that can grow to 200 plus feet and 90 plus feet in circumference.

Being immersed in Yosemite National Park for a week brought two distinct things to mind: age and preservation. The planet has been in existence for approximately 4.5 billion years and has figured out how to survive and thrive. To put this in perspective, if the planets age is equated to a year in time, human existence is only 36 minutes. Humans have inhabited the earth .0068% of the time the earth has existed. I’ve never given much thought to the age of the earth or the time relationship of human existence. The rock in Yosemite dates back 85 to 125 million years ago. The gargantuan trees in Mariposa Grove can live 2000 plus years.   Seeing and touching the rocks and trees brought acute clarity to our place in time and our collective responsibility of preservation.

How does modern society respect the age of the surroundings and preserve it for future generations? Earlier blogs have written about the circular economy where nothing is viewed as waste. Everything is a resource for something else. Design of the package with the end in mind is a big piece of creating circular material flows.

Whether we were in the San Francisco airport, a city street, a park lodge or in the park itself, we saw three bin options when it was time to dispose of something: recycle, compost or landfill. (see three pictures below)  

Recycled items like water bottles and common plastics are turned into another item. Composted items like food scraps and certified compostable bags, plates, and utensils are made into compost to grow something else.  Longer term, the hope is all items are made to be recycled or to be composted completely eliminating the need for a landfill bin.      

As a consumer on vacation, the system seemed to work. While I am sure the purity of the bins is not perfect, it will improve as the item design, packaging labeling and consumer literacy gets better. There is no sustainable packaging without a sustainable system. The consistent presence of three bins seem a great step to a more sustainable system to support sustainable packaging. 

Thanks for reading!!

Trent

The information from this blog along with more references can be found in the links below:

 


Figure 1  Waste Bins at Lodge, Yosemite

Figure 2 Waste Bins Golden Gate Bridge,  San Francisco

Figure 3 Waste Bins San Francisco Airport
Written by David Pugliese