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Man holding reusable plates standing in front of counter

Ditching Disposable Foodware in San Francisco Eateries

SF Environment and ReThink Disposable are hitting the streets to help local businesses make the switch from single-use, disposable foodware to reusables.

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Two men wearing masks cutting vegetables.

Beyond the Compost Pail: Fighting Food Waste and Hunger in SF 

Learn how San Francisco recovers thousands of pounds of food from landfill and gets 348,000 meals into the hands of community members in need.

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Climate-Friendly Routines for Kids

It’s never too early to teach children to care for the environment and our future. Here are eleven ways to implement sustainability in your child’s daily school routine.


Man with cap and mask wearing white cooking attire tossing a salad in restaurant kitchen.

Getting Essential Workers Home Safely During COVID-19

Jorge Antonio Dzib Medina commutes five days per week to his job as a cook at Fiorella, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood. In his more than 20 years as a San Francisco resident, he never needed to purchase a car for his commute. 


Four people wearing masks holding bags of hand made masks.

A Crafty Way to Fight COVID-19 and Waste

Last March, little was known about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and no timeline was set for a return to normal, but three things were certain: personal protective (PPE) equipment was in shortage, disposable masks would create waste, and San Francisco non-profit SCRAP had plenty of recycled fabric to spare. 

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Keeping Clothing Out of the Landfill—and Students In Style—One Garment at a Time

Torri always knew she wanted to be more involved in sustainable practices. She used to work at a large retail store and saw the negative impacts of fast fashion. Interning for The Wear Movement provides her the opportunity to give back in a positive way.


Ditching Disposable Foodware in San Francisco Eateries

Woman wearing mask posing outside of food establishment
SF Environment team member posing outside of Taqueria Guadalajara. 

On the bustling 24th Street corridor in the Mission District, La Taqueria Guadalajara serves up San Francisco favorites like burritos, tacos, and nachos. Throughout the pandemic, La Taqueria relied heavily on disposable packaging for indoor dining and take-out orders. Food was packed in single-use, plastic containers and bags, with a side of plastic utensils. La Taqueria’s manager, Virginia Isidro, said the restaurant’s reliance on single-use foodware affected the business in two big ways: increased operational costs and increased waste. 
When San Francisco declared a state of emergency in February 2020 in response to COVID-19, concerns about community spread led to restrictions on the use of reusable bags and mugs in grocery stores and coffee shops. It also meant that food service businesses opted to use disposable foodware instead.  
Two years later, as the City reopens and there is greater understanding of the safety of reusables, the San Francisco Department of Environment (SF Environment) and ReThink Disposable have hit the streets to help local businesses make the switch from single-use containers and cutlery to their reusable alternatives.
ReThink Disposable is a nonprofit that supports Bay Area businesses in reducing usage of disposable foodware through free, hands-on assistance and financial support. In San Francisco, the organization joined forces with SF Environment, whose multilingual community outreach team provides on-site consultations to food businesses. "We combine old-fashioned research with business corridor walks to identify eateries that stand to benefit from participating in this program,” said Doug Streblow, Engagement Coordinator at SF Environment. “Through conversations with business owners and site visits, we can help businesses successfully make the switch, save money, and waste less.”
Woman with mask standing in front of counter inside a taqueria.
Virginia, La Taqueria Guadalajara Manager, Virginia, standing in front of the counter inside the taqueria. 
Since September 2021, ReThink Disposable and SF Environment have helped 31 businesses switch to reusable foodware. La Taqueria Guadalajara is one such business that is now saving money and protecting the environment by making the switch.  Asked what made her decide to transition to reusables, manager Virginia Isidro shared, “I’ve always known how important it is to take care of our environment. But now more than ever, as a grandma, I see it as even more important to take care of our planet for future generations to come.” 
Burrito served in disposable foodware on the left and burrito served in reusable foodware on the right

Before and after of meal served in disposable foodware on the left and meal served in reusable foodware on the right.

Though La Taqueria was serving dine-in orders on reusable plates, the restaurant was still using single-use utensils, sauce cups, and drinking cups. SF Environment and ReThink Disposable provided La Taqueria with complimentary sterling silver utensils, water cups, and reusable salsa cups valued at $270. Virginia is hopeful for positive responses from customers, while also glad to send less waste to the landfill and reduce yearly costs by $3,000 or more.  
 Man standing holding reusable plates in front of counter.
Lon Lam Yeung, Metro Hong Kong Dessert and Milk Tea owner, standing in front of counter holding reusable plates.
Metro Hong Kong Dessert and Milk Tea, located in Chinatown, also decided to transition from disposable to reusable foodware. For business owner Lon Lam Yeung, Rethink Disposable program incentives eased the transition, while the opportunity to reduce litter in the City’s waterways appealed to his values.  Lon said that plastic pollution isn’t just a problem he thinks about at work; when he visits the beach with his son, he spots plastic waste everywhere. Lon saw the switch to reusables in his business as a way to do his part to address this problem.
After an in-person consultation, Lon was offered a customized, complimentary set of ceramic mugs and plates, glass water cups, metal utensils, and bowls valued at $400. The program handled the product research, purchasing, and delivery of the items. “SF Environment was helpful in walking me through the transition to reusables,” Lon shared. “They explained the cost-savings and provided support in Chinese.” 
Before and after of meal served in disposable foodware on the left and meal served in reusable foodware on the right
Before and after of meal served in disposable foodware on the left and meal served in reusable foodware on the right.
ReThink Disposable and SF Environment continue to visit eateries in San Francisco, offering free consultations and assistance to switch to reusable foodware. Thanks to participating business owners, San Francisco is that much closer to reaching its climate action goal of reducing waste generated in our city by 15 percent by 2030.  
Woman with mask speaking with person on the other side of counter
SF Environment team member speaking with restaurant employee.
Take Action: Join your local businesses’ efforts to reduce waste: use your reusable bag, mug, or bottle when shopping or purchasing a beverage whenever you can. 

Beyond the Compost Pail: Fighting Food Waste and Hunger in SF 

Two men in mask cutting vegetables.

Climate solutions can take many forms. For the past 25 years, San Francisco’s composting program has played a mighty role in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The food scraps that residents and businesses deposit into the City’s green compost bins are diverted from the landfill, where they would otherwise produce harmful methane gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Instead of harming the climate, composted food scraps become nutrient-rich fertilizer that benefits local farmers and vineyards.
But composting doesn't solve the food waste problem—and it’s a big one. In the United States alone, nearly 40 percent of all food produced goes to waste. While San Francisco does a great job of composting (we collect more than 550 tons per day in our green bins), a 2020 study commissioned by the City found that over 12,800 tons of potentially donatable food goes into our composting or landfill bins. To help tackle food waste, the San Francisco Department of the Environment looked beyond the compost pail–or before it–and launched the Kitchen Zero SF program.

Kitchen Zero SF focuses on food waste generated by the City’s businesses and other large food generators. The program helps ensure that any unused food is properly matched to food donation organizations that serve the San Francisco community. It also helps businesses get a head start on meeting the targets defined in Senate Bill 1383, a state law aimed at ensuring at least 20 percent of disposed edible food is rescued by 2025. Since the launch of Kitchen Zero SF in 2019, the program has helped recover more than 418,000 pounds of food and get 348,000 meals distributed to community members in need. 
Woman in mask loading trays of meals into microwave.
Imperfect Foods, an online grocer, is a large food generator that opted into Kitchen Zero SF to maximize their food recovery and help the food insecure. The company’s mission closely mirrors the program’s goals; it partners with over 250 farmers and producers to reduce waste across the entire supply chain and since 2015 has saved over 145 million pounds of food from going to waste.
As a Kitchen Zero SF participant, Imperfect Foods tracks and donates surplus food using food donation matching software from program partner Replate, which also offers food transportation to local charitable organizations. Maddy Rotman, Head of Sustainability at Imperfect Foods, described what program participation means to the company. “We are so proud to partner with Kitchen Zero SF to improve food security in our San Francisco community and have donated over 70,000 pounds of food this year.” She added, “Partnering with Kitchen Zero SF is a crucial part of our goal to increase food security and build a better food system.” 
    men and women bagging produce
Replate matched Imperfect Foods to Farming Hope, a garden-to-table job training program for the formerly incarcerated or homeless. Since the beginning of 2021, Farming Hope has cooked and served 57,000 hot meals made with equipment funded by a $9,000 grant from the Kitchen Zero SF program. Farming Hope currently provides meals to the community by delivery only, but plans to welcome unhoused families at Refettorio SF, their food hub in Hayes Valley, once COVID-19 regulations permit.
Man standing next to boxes of produce on cart. Replate van in background.
In July and August of 2021, Imperfect Foods donated over 12,000 pounds of food, some of which was distributed to Farming Hope. Andie Sobrepeña, Farming Hope Operations Director, oversees day-to-day operations at the organization’s two locations–Manny’s, a community space and restaurant in the Mission, and Refettorio SF. She shared, “We are so proud to be part of Kitchen Zero SF. Together we’re positively impacting San Francisco by providing culturally relevant meals to our food-insecure neighbors, while simultaneously helping our Apprentices gain culinary and life skills to prepare them for employment.”
The high tonnage of recovered food and meals distributed in the two years since Kitchen Zero SF’s launch foreshadows what all of California can anticipate under Senate Bill 1383. Aimed at reducing the production of methane and helping the state achieve its climate goals, Senate Bill 1383 will require large food generators to donate surplus edible food they would otherwise compost or landfill to food programs. As Senate Bill 1383 is implemented in phases starting in January, other cities can look to Kitchen Zero SF as a successful model to replicate.
Take Action: 
Interested in supporting the San Francisco community and helping to prevent food waste? Volunteer with Farming Hope for meal distribution, grocery bag packaging, and meal delivery. Visit

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Climate-Friendly Routines for Kids 


It’s never too early to teach children to care for the environment and our future. Now more than ever, everybody plays an important part in taking action against climate change to protect our communities and loved ones. With students back in the classroom, parents and guardians can introduce climate-friendly practices into a child’s daily routine and support San Francisco in taking climate action.  
Here are eleven ways to implement sustainability in your child’s daily school routine. 

Dress with Local Finds 

Repair and Remix: At the start of each season, get creative and shop your  closet first. If an item is worn out or has a rip, extend the item’s life with a quick repair. Visit SCRAP SF, a creative refuse center, for sewing classes or watch this short video.   
Get Thrifty: There’s more to fashion than fast fashion! Support local thrift stores or organize a clothing swap with friends and family before shopping for your kids’ new outfits. If uniforms are required, ask the school if they have a second-hand uniform program or check with your child’s graduating peers for their retired uniforms. Save money and keep clothes from going into the landfill.

Climate-Friendly Commute

Travel in Climate-friendly Ways: Walk, bike, skateboard, scoot, carpool, and take public transportation whenever possible. Build community and makie walking to school fun by inviting families in your neighborhood to start a Walking School Bus –an organized walk to school for children, supervised by an adult. Start with one day a week and work your way up to three to five days a week. For longer commutes, save money and bus to school–Muni is free for all youth! Did you know all SF residents are within two to three blocks of a Muni stop? Start planning your bus route to school

Zero Waste and Zero Toxics in Class 

Shop for Supplies at Home: Instead of buying more supplies, use what you already have: organize a fun scavenger hunt around the house for pens, pencils, notebooks, and markers. If you find yourself in need of more supplies, SCRAP SF– a creative refuse center– has a bunch of low-cost classroom and art supplies. 
Eat Fresh, Eat Local: When purchasing groceries, find the freshest foods from local farms at San Francisco farmers’ markets. When you buy directly from local farmers, the produce travels a shorter distance, so you get food at peak freshness. 
Avoid Toxic Chemicals: When you pack leftovers for lunch, store lunches and snacks in stainless steel or glass containers to avoid plastic particles in food. When plastic containers are heated in microwaves, they release harmful chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to cancer and reproductive health issues. These chemicals can then leach onto the food.  
Choose to Reuse: Build your child’s reuse habits by providing alternatives to single-use plastics. Reusable water bottles cut down on plastic pollution in our Bay waters and will keep your child hydrated all day with easy refills. 
For smaller food items like snacks, beeswax wrap is a great alternative to plastic wrap. Beeswax wrap keeps food fresh and can be washed and reused allyear long. Pack a reusable fork, knife, and spoon so your child can refuse plastic utensils.  
Learning Outside of the Classroom 
Connect to Nature: Connect to nature in San Francisco and visit a community garden or explore one of San Francisco’s 220 city parks.  
Read Green: Introduce new environmental concepts to your child with books about climate change, composting, the importance of water, and more. The San Francisco Public Library has a Green Book list tailored for children. 
Seek Leadership Opportunities: Encourage your child to join the school’s eco club. If there isn’t one, the San Francisco Department of the Environment can support them with an eco club starter toolkit.  
Celebrate Earth Day, Every Day: Learning doesn’t stop on the weekends—there are endless ways to learn and care for there environment. Here are some ideas.  
Incorporating climate-friendly practices into your child’s day-to-day routine can be easy! Try one, two, or all of these tips to grow your child’s environmental awareness at school and nurture an environmentally friendly youth leader. Share these simple tips with friends, family, and school peers to build an even more resilient community. 

Getting Essential Workers Home Safely During COVID-19

Man with cap and mask wearing white cooking attire tossing a salad in restaurant kitchen.

Jorge Antonio Dzib Medina prepares a salad at San Francisco restaurant, Fiorella. 

Jorge Antonio Dzib Medina commutes five days per week to his job as a cook at Fiorella, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood. In his more than 20 years as a San Francisco resident, he never needed to purchase a car for his commute, relying instead on San Francisco’s public transit system. But at the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Jorge’s confidence was shattered. “Riding the bus made me worry about my health and safety, being in close distance to others and running the risk of infection,” Jorge shared. “I also worried about how I would get home late at night if I missed the last bus.”  

Essential workers have worked non-stop during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, public transit was the primary mode of transportation for many San Francisco workers like Jorge. In February 2020, MUNI tracked 1.5 million weekly boardings. But as the City transitioned to shelter-in-place in March 2020, many establishments closed their doors and offices turned to remote work. SFMTA and other regional transit providers, in turn, reduced their service routes and hours, leaving  essential workers scrambling to find ways to get home. Hyejung Jun was among them. 
Hyejung started her job as a senior center caregiver at the height of the pandemic. Though she was thrilled to start a new full-time job, Hyejung was concerned about how she would get home at five o’clock in the morning after her late-night shifts. Hyejung built rapport with her new co-workers and sometimes carpooled. At other times she walked, or had no choice but to use a ride-sharing service, spending more than she otherwise would on public transit. 
Questions of health and safety and the extra expense associated with commuting during the pandemic disproportionately impacted essential workers like Hyejung and Jorge. In response, San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) Commissioner Matt Haney called on SFCTA to find a way to help San Francisco-based essential workers. SFCTA, Bay Area Air District, and the San Francisco Department of Environment (SF Environment) stepped up to support those in need by creating the Essential Worker Ride Home Program.  
SF Environment worked swiftly to implement and administer the new program. By early May, the program was running and processing reimbursements for safe and reliable taxi rides for essential workers to their San Francisco workplace. The program expands on a legacy program, Emergency Ride Home, and supports those who commute to work using a sustainable mode of transportation. Those who carpool, bike, bus, or walk to work  help San Francisco get closer to its Climate Action goal of having 80 percent of all trips in San Francisco taken by sustainable modes, to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.  

Man with cap standing and women with hair up sitting together behind a table smiling.

Jorge and his manager, Megan, at Fiorella restaurant. 

Jorge, who primarily commuted to work by bus  five days a week before the pandemic, was a perfect candidate for the Essential Worker Ride Home program. When Jorge’s manager, Megan, told him about the Essential Worker Ride Home program, it was welcome news to learn that he could get home by simply calling for a taxi. Jorge noted, “I’m grateful for the program because I can get to my family quicker without having to stress about the cost, my health, or my safety.”  
Hyejung was also grateful to learn about the program through a co-worker. She noted, “It’s convenient and easy to call a taxi when needed, and helpful for me, especially not having a car.” Thanks to the program, Hyejung can quickly find a ride when she ends her shift early in the morning after a long night at work. After the pandemic she will continue to choose walking and public transit as her main modes of transportation. To date, the program has funded more than 2,000 taxi rides home for essential workers, like Jorge and Hyejung, who commute to work sustainably.

About Essential Worker Ride Home Program 
The Essential Worker Ride Home program provides a reliable and safe taxi ride home from work for essential employees commuting to and within San Francisco, helping to fill the gap left by reductions in public transportation services.  The program covers the cost of taxi rides home for essential employees in San Francisco, up to ten (10) rides per month, per person, and up to $70 per ride. For the most up to date information on eligibility requirements, click here. Program details and application are also available in Spanish and Chinese.  

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A Crafty Way to Fight COVID-19 and Waste

Three people standing holding bags of mask with one person crouching holding bag of masks behind cardboard boxes
African American Art & Culture Complex and SCRAP SF staff holding bags of face masks. 

Last March, little was known about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and no timeline was set for a return to normal, but three things were certain: personal protective (PPE) equipment was in shortage, disposable masks would create waste, and San Francisco non-profit SCRAP had plenty of recycled fabric to spare.

At the time, as public health officials and the media stressed the importance of wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19, people across the country flocked to stores and online retailers to buy disposable surgical masks. Though masks are essential to public health during the pandemic, disposable ones can come at a cost to our environment. In Wuhan, the first epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals produced six times more PPE waste per day than prior to the pandemic. At its peak, Wuhan produced 240 tons of plastic waste. If the U.S. were to follow, it would generate a year’s worth of medical waste, 5 million tons, in two months

To meet the desperate need for PPE at the beginning of the pandemic, SCRAP, which specializes in creative reuse of discarded materials, mobilized its powerful army of volunteers, artists, and other supporters to start cranking out reusable masks. With the support of a zero waste grant from the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment), to date SCRAP has made more than 2,000 reusable masks for the City. It partnered with the African American Arts and Cultural Center to distribute them in San Francisco’s historically marginalized communities in Bayview, Fillmore/Western Addition, and Tenderloin District.

Fabric scraps with different prints
Scraps of fabric.

SCRAP is the nation’s oldest creative reuse center, established in  1976. As experts in creative reuse, SCRAP is the go-to place for San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) teachers to access  free or low-cost recycled material for arts and crafts projects and general classroom supplies. The non-profit continues to make a huge impact on San Francisco’s zero waste goals: every year, San Francisco students and artists divert about 200 tons of arts and crafts materials that would otherwise have gone to landfill.

In early March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SCRAP closed its doors and paused in-person workshops. Yet, even with their doors were closed, SCRAP’s first question was, “How do we continue to serve our community?”— and  the Face Mask Making Program was born. The program produces hand-made reusable masks and distributes them via partner organizations.

With a $10,000 grant from SF Environment and relying on their network and word-of-mouth, SCRAP mobilized quickly. SCRAP community members made hundreds of reusable masks to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and keep San Franciscans and the environment safe. Leah Fong, one of the mask-makers, contributed her sewing skills and talked about her reasons for participating. “During this pandemic, many of the most-at-risk residents may not have time to sew or buy masks,” she said. “I wanted to help as much as I could with the extra fabric and materials I had at home, because everyone deserves to have a mask to feel protected.” SCRAP provides fabric and materials from their reuse center for mask-makers, though many have their own or had previously purchased fabric from the organization’s depot center prior to its closing (yes, reuse!).

 Woman with black-framed glasses, flower mask holding a roll of fabric Rows of masks on table
SCRAP SF shopper with roll of fabric of left. Table with different patterned masks on right. 

Mask-makers like Laura Chinn-Smoot understand  the impact the SCRAP mask-making initiative has on the environment and the community. A SCRAP regular since the 1980s and a former SFUSD public school teacher, Laura relied on SCRAP for her classroom arts and craft projects. Laura recalled, “When I graduated from my 36-year SF public school teaching career, I knew exactly where to send my cool ‘SCRAPs’ as I cleared out my classroom.” After retiring, Laura donated all of her school supplies to SCRAP to give them a second life. Now Laura contributes to the San Francisco community by making comfortable and stylish masks with SCRAP. Laura makes each mask with care, sewing her masks for comfort and durability. She carefully selects durable elastics, fun patterns, and always makes sure to include instructions for care and handling. 

By July  2020, 63 sewers dropped off or mailed five to 50 reusable masks each, totaling 1,100 masks that were delivered to the African American Art & Culture Complex. These masks benefited Mo’MAGIC, Regina’s Door, The Village Project, SF Collective Impact, and many other San Francisco community-based organizations. And while the initial program was launched to meet the huge need for PPE in the early days of the pandemic, it has continued to serve the ongoing need for PPE that won’t harm the environment. In November, SCRAP surpassed their initial goal of 2,000 masks with 2,238 masks made.  Their new goal is to make 3,000 masks. SCRAP is still in search of more mask-makers– no sewing experience necessary, and materials can be provided. The goal is to make sure San Franciscans are masked and to extend the life of the fabrics.

Take Action
Support SCRAP’s Face Mask Making Program by volunteering as a mask-maker, donating fabrics and materials, or shopping at the SCRAP reuse center. To join the community of mask-makers, email Danielle Grant: [email protected].
Join the SCRAP community in reducing waste: when possible, choose a reusable mask or face covering and make sure to toss your disposable masks, gloves, and disinfectant wipes in the black bin.

About the Zero Waste Grant Program
The Zero Waste Grant Program awards grant funding to non-profit organizations whose work in source reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting helps San Francisco towards zero waste. From community composting workshops, to implementing composting and recycling at local events, to collecting textile clothing, these organizations exemplify diverse strategies to achieve zero waste. 

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Keeping clothing out of the landfill—and students in style—one garment at a time

The Wear Movement is a campus initiative to help keep wearable clothing and usable textiles from the waste stream. Awarded a Zero Waste grant from SF Environment, the initiative is led by two San Francisco State University (SFSU) professors with help from student interns who collect, repair, and redistribute clothing through targeted donation drives on the SFSU campus.

Each month The Wear Movement puts out “a targeted ask,” or a request to the SFSU Community for specific clothing types, such as denim, work apparel, and more. Student interns assist with the collection, marketing and distribution  of these clothing products. For student interns like Tori, the opportunity to offer the community a more sustainable alternative to fast fashion has its own rewards.

"I always knew I wanted to be more involved in sustainable practices,” Tori commented. “I used to work at a large retail store and saw the negative impacts of fast fashion. Interning and working with The Wear Movement, I’m happy because I get to give back in a positive way."

During the Fall 2018 semester, The Wear Movement saved over 420 pounds of garments from the landfill. From March through April, the collection features suits and button-down shirts, which are invaluable to students during interviews. As intern Tori states,“It feels good to see the clothing donations from SFSU faculty and students go to those who can keep wearing the clothes and keep using them. It makes me feel a sense of community."

In celebration of Earth Day and the SF Month of Climate Action, The Wear Movement held a workshop on how to sew a button, patch a jacket, and hem a pant. The goal is to equip the University and wider San Francisco community  with even more tools to extend the lifecycle of clothing products.

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