(This is the third in a series of posts from our Green Alternatives Department that is currently conducting its first China-U.S. Exchange Program. These posts are written by Green Alternatives Department Intern, Antonia Malhi.)

Learning about categorization at Ferry Building Farmers Market. photo: Antonia Malhi

Our “walk” through of California’s green economy for our guests is turning out to be a great success. We have taken them to the San Francisco Ferry Building for an explanation of sustainable farming and continued examples of San Francisco’s trash sorting practices.  While we were there, we took in the scenic views of the Bay Bridge and then hurried off to Berkeley, where we met with Dan Knap at Urban Ore to hear his story of trash to treasure and successful business.

Then we met with GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives – Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance), an organization of anti-incineration activists.  This was a particularly special meeting.  Two of the participants in our tour work for a large incineration company in China, and feel that incineration is the greenest option that works.  This meeting with GAIA allowed them to understand that the key to overcome the obstacle of handling mixed waste is categorization.  Sorting the trash from compostables and recyclables allows each material to be disposed of properly, and thus incineration will be less necessary.

Ready to go at Recology. photo: Antonia Malhi

The essence of this program is to promote green alternatives to the status quo in China; this idea seemed to solidify for the entire group at the GAIA meeting.  June, Sunny and I felt a great sense of accomplishment as we headed to the California Academy of Sciences for a night of learning and lighthearted fun.

Friday morning we met with Recology, San Francisco’s waste handling company that has implemented the fantastic three bin model.  We took a tour of the facility and learned about the goal of a 75% waste diversion rate by 2011. Currently the city boasts a diversion rate of 73%.

At the Golden Gate Bridge. photo: Antonia Malhi

After Recology, we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was an unforgettable experience for our group.  We stopped in Sausalito for a look back at the rest of the Bay and then proceeded on to Sebastopol for a campfire and Fair Trade s’mores making. Yum!

Sunday they will be heading to Yosemite for an overnight stay.  Sadly, the trip is winding down quicker than we all expected.