Each year I celebrate Earth Day by going on a plog. For those unfamiliar with the term, know that Thomas was as well until his edification three years ago:
In previous years I visited some combination of my favorite parks nearby our house in San Francisco: Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Sutro, Glen Canyon, Billy Goat Hill, Kite Hill, Corona Heights, and/or Bernal Heights (there were so many amazing parks in walking distance! I love you, San Francisco!). Today, on my first Berkeley/East Bay plog, I jogged with my bag of accumulating trash through Strawberry Canyon and Claremont Canyon. It’s a common theme in the Bay Area that if you want to explore the local parks you have to be willing to climb a lot of hills, but luckily I’ve lived here long enough that the thought of a flat jog is intimidating.
By the end of my jog I’d filled and emptied four bags of trash, not to mention stopped for a few selfies and tree appreciation moments. (Imagine living in the beautiful, magical land that is Northern California and not wanting to save our planet!)
Here is a list of the most common trash items I found:
Masks. This one sucks so much. Not only do we have a pandemic on our hands, but masks are creating additional litter! Wear your mask…but dispose of it properly, please!
Bags of dog poop. As the sign (pictured above) courtesy of Untrash.it says: “This is trash too! Please pack out your dog waste.”
Napkins. In particular: those rough, brown napkins they keep in large dispensers on tables at fast casual restaurants and college cafeterias. Either people are using them as toilet paper on the trails (use a leaf! or air dry!) or they’re eating a lot of trail snacks that require napkins, but either way it was sad how many of them were crumpled up on the side of the trails.
A half-eaten burrito. Ok, fine – this was not a common item of trash. But the fact that I found a half-eaten, foiled-wrapped burrito in the middle of some wood chips in the park was mind-blowing! Not only did this person litter, they also wasted most of a perfectly good burrito! Food waste + litter = double whammy.
More importantly: thank you to organizations like Untrash East Bay who are working to keep our beautiful parks and earth clean. When group activities are back up and running I plan to join them on their weekly group trash pick-ups. I was also thinking that for my next birthday I should invite friends to one of my favorite parks for a trash cleanup partt…prizes for the person who picks up the most trash!
As for other personal Earth-related initiatives, I found this tweet I posted on Earth Day two years ago (from a pre-pandemic world in which and we still commuted to an office for work):
I am sharing this because I have always been passionate about improving access to bikes, buses, and trains as means of both work and personal transport. If you live in San Francisco, I suggest joining and/or supporting the San Francisco Bike Coalition who works to improve bike accessibility and safety in the city. Even more importantly, I recently readthis incredible article written about the lack of representation low-income riders have when it comes to safe cycling and transportation planning. While I have become a more avid cyclist over the past few years, I am continually frustrated by perceptions of the cycling community, and the inclusivity of the community itself. The lower-income folks who rely on bikes as their primary mode of transportation are overlooked when planning and accessibility decisions are made, and the cycling community doesn’t always do the best job of advocating for them. The article provides a great overview of why it’s important to support lower-income cyclists and I am thinking of ways to be a better advocate in my own community.
I’ll end with a post from one of my favorite Instagram accounts @intersectionalenvironmentalist:
It’s been a while since I’ve gone on one of my long and wandering walk-jog-runs. Today’s edition of “Saturday Streets” was a lot more urban than usual, but don’t worry, I’ve still got some tree and flower pictures because there’s only so urban you can get in a beautifully open-spaced, full-of-parks-and-nature city. (Also, I just typed out “Saturday Streets” on a whim but need a better name for my weekend adventures in San Francisco; let me know if you’ve got any thoughts. Other ideas that popped into my head: “Solo San Francisco,” “Wandering Maddy,” “Fog, Flowers, and Findings,” or “41-Findings” – that last one is wordplay on area code 415 – but none of them quite roll off the tongue.)
The best part about chugging coffee, lacing up my sneakers, and heading out the front door on a Saturday on which I have no other plans is that I never know where my feet will take me. Each of my city-ventures is different but all are unified by the same principles:
Do not – under any circumstances – have a plan.
Actually, that’s it. That’s the only principle. Other things to keep in mind include:
Bring your Clipper card in case you get tired and want to take the bus home
Have a fully-charged cell phone so your husband doesn’t wonder if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth
Carry cash because you never know where you might need to stop for snacks along the way, and god forbid you smell something delicious nearby but the vendor doesn’t take credit cards
Wear comfortable clothing, ideally a full-on groutfit
Most of my weekdays are spent religiously following schedules I’ve outlined for myself because I a) have a compulsion to feel in control and b) genuinely do thrive with routine. My life is pretty logistically complicated on a day-to-day basis (“If I’m biking in the morning, what clothes to I need to change into for work?” “Should I pack lunch, or will I have time to get some in between meetings?” “If I’m taking the bus home, should I take the bus in the morning too, or leave my bike at the office?” “If I’m meeting friends after work, should I wear my work clothes or bring something cuter?”) so having the time on weekends to finally not have a plan is a luxury.
Today’s adventure took me through Hayes Valley, up into the Fillmore, across Pac Heights and along the edge of the Presidio, and down into Golden Gate Park:
Most of my recent walk-jogs have found me leaving my house and heading west towards Buena Vista Park, Glen Canyon, or Mount Davidson, to optimize for solitude and nature. Today, though, Thomas was away camping with his friends and I felt the need to be surrounded by people. So, instead of continuing on through the Mission into the Castro, I turned onto Octavia and made my way through Hayes Valley into the Fillmore.
After dodging the unsurprisingly incredibly long line outside of Stacks (can’t you just make pancakes and eggs at home? Sorry, I have controversial opinions about waiting in line and overpaying for brunch), I kept moving until I reached the Fillmore Farmers’ Market. I’ve never been to the Fillmore Farmers’ Market and, while small relative to other neighborhood markets, it had the same assortment of beautiful produce and smiling faces behind its stands:
I spent some time chatting with a farmer wearing a 49ers sweatshirt at one of the stands, mostly because I love making “small talk” with friendly strangers, and also because I felt the need to let him know how much I know about football these days (if you spend enough Sundays sitting next to Thomas on the couch, you become an NFL expert by osmosis).
And because I can’t leave a farmers’ market without buying something – but couldn’t carry anything with me because I’m not supposed to be lifting (and also because I’ve tried many times to jog with apples in my backpack and it’s not exactly comfortable) – I bought a juicy peach to scarf down right there on the sidewalk.
I continued along Fillmore Street, stopping to take two pictures for all of my New England haters who claim they can’t move to California because it “doesn’t have seasons” (we all know you’re just trying to make yourselves feel better about living 3/4 of the year in the freezing cold):
A fallen leaf.
Get owned, Connecticutians..
Fillmore Street is interesting because when you first turn onto it from Duboce or Webster (or anywhere just above Market) you get the Fillmore District, Farmers’-Market-where-longtime-residents-shop vibe; you see elderly people and ethnic diversity (the district experienced an influx of diverse populations after the 1906 earthquake), and obvious signs of its legendary jazz history (in the 50s and 60s it was known as the “Harlem of the West”). But as soon as you cross over Geary, and make your way up to Post St., and then Bush St., it quickly becomes Lower Pac Heights, meaning… a street packed with Instagrammable brunch spots where hungover friends and acquaintances-on-first-Tinder-dates are congregating on a Saturday morning and ordering Eggs Benedict and hipster coffees for $30.
While I do rarely pass up the opportunity to people-watch, something about the whole brunch scene in San Francisco turns me off (if I had to put my finger on it, it’s probably because every single girl is wearing the same sunglasses and fuzzy-sweater-with-jeans combo, and the guys look disheveled even though they’re probably making five times my salary). So I passed quickly through most of Pac Heights, stopping only to grab a picture of this beautiful mural which looked even brighter against the grey sky:
I’m gonna give it to you straight here: I go to specific parks in the city because of their abundance of babies and puppies. Alta Plaza Park is chock-full of adorable babies and leash-free puppies, and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make my day to watch children on the playground and dogs chasing tennis balls. Call me creepy, but it’s hard not to smile when confronted with such stark images of youth and carefreeness, especially when you find yourself unable to believe there could have ever been a time when life was that simple.
After a brief puppy-chasing hiatus, I turned west and headed towards the Presidio for an even bigger dose of #nature. The problem with the Presidio is that once I start, I can’t stop, meaning I’ll spend hours wandering its trails. I knew my energy would be more limited than usual and didn’t want to end up exhausted and miles away from home, so I dragged myself away after a brief hike up the trail along West Pacific Ave.
Heading away from the Presidio and back down towards Golden Gate Park via Arguello, I found myself being passed by tens of middle-aged men in lycra (there is a movie by this name, by the way, in case you are desperate for ways to kill time) who I knew could only be heading one place: Arsicault. Because, are you even a cyclist in San Francisco if your morning ride doesn’t end at Arsicault?! Sure enough, when I reached the bakery a few blocks later, all of the men I’d seen were standing in the line that, as usual, extended out the door onto the sidewalk. (I’ll admit, the croissants are pretty darn good there.)
And now, multiple neighborhoods and a few hours later, my wandering was just about over. Why? Since you asked, here is a comprehensive list of reasons my weekend walk-jogs come to an end:
I get a text from Thomas saying, “Are you still alive?”
My thighs are chafing to the point it’s too uncomfortable to walk and I’m dreaming of Vaseline
I get hungry or stop for food and then have no desire for any sort of movement
This week I waved the white flag due to reason #2, and took the bus back home from the Haight, but not before picking up an entire bag of groceries from the Whole Foods near the Panhandle and spending the entire ride home trying not to eat it all.
If you need me, I’ll be on my couch. Eating my snacks.