Guest Post | Greening Santa Clara

Santa Clara is finally moving forward with plastic bag and Styrofoam bans.
Santa Clara is finally moving forward with plastic bag and Styrofoam bans.

Sudhanshu “Suds” Jain retired from designing chips in 2008 to work on Climate Change.  He volunteers for Acterra, Sierra Club and Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

On March 18, 2014, the Santa Clara City Council voted unanimously to direct staff to prepare ordinances for both a single-use carryout plastic bag ban and on a ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS = “Styrofoam”)  foodware containers. Santa Clara is one of very few cities in the Bay Area which still don’t have plastic bag bans. I’m irked every time I go to the supermarket in Santa Clara and see that 90% of the people mindlessly have their groceries placed in single use plastic bags; most people just seem to be on autopilot and oblivious.

In 2012, San Mateo County completed an environmental review for a countywide plastic bag ban that cities in Santa Clara County were invited to participate in. By joining this effort, cities would have legal coverage to pursue a bag ban. As a Santa Clara resident, I was disturbed by the fact that Santa Clara didn’t join the San Mateo County group EIR even though it would have cost the city nothing and wouldn’t have obligated the city to implement a ban.

I’m currently a Sierra Club Cool Cities leader and have an email distribution list of about 30 people who are interested in greening Santa Clara. In preparation of the March 18th vote, I emailed often to this list encouraging members to write letters to Council and to come to the meeting. I also emailed to some distribution lists and teachers at my son’s previous schools.   I got wind that the folks were going to come to the meeting and ask that the bag ban be put on the ballot for a vote. I countered at the meeting that the vote wouldn’t be a fair fight because we’d be vastly outspent. What really seems to have clinched the vote was the large turnout of Girl Scouts and one very brave 5th grader.

The fight isn’t over yet. Once staff has prepared the ordinances, Council has to vote to adopt. I encourage all Santa Clara residents to watch “Bag It” and then come to the meeting to show that there continues to be strong community support for joining neighboring cities in eliminating plastic bags.

– Sudhanshu “Suds” Jain