San Franciscans could teach Kiwis a thing or two about being responsible global citizens.

Their environmental correctness has seen them named the greenest city in the US and Canada in 2011 and 2012 and they are rightly proud of their status - they like to consider themselves environment pioneers.

There's no such thing as a plastic bag in San Francisco. In 2007 it instituted a ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags in supermarkets and convenience stores, extended recently to almost all retailers in the city.

From supermarkets to clothing stores, your goods will be presented to you in (recyclable) paper bags at a cost of 10c each as a penalty for not remembering your canvas bag.


The plastic bag ban is just one of the initiatives that make San Franciscans the undisputed champs of waste management.

San Francisco has the highest recycling rate of all the US cities, diverting 80 per cent of its waste away from landfills - well above the nationwide average of 26 per cent. Their impressive numbers are a result of new laws that were introduced in 2009, requiring residents and businesses to compost and recycle using a black, green and blue bin system.

It has obviously reaped huge rewards for the city, but for visitors, navigating their recycling system is about as difficult as understanding the backroom politics involved in the America's Cup.

It's not an unusual sight in the media centre to see confused scribes and photographers (moreso the latter) standing in front of the different-coloured bins scratching their heads as they try to figure out which one to toss their serviettes into. There is deep shame in getting it wrong as well - and you'll know from the stony faced glares you receive from the locals when you do.

The next big push for the city is making San Francisco the electronic car capital of the US. A lean, mean, clean transportation team has introduced a range of incentives, some financial, to convince drivers to go green.

The fleet of cars used to cart America's Cup VIPs, and the occasional media representative if you grovel to the right person, are all hybrid vehicles. The drivers sing the praises of the cars as well - so quiet, so efficient, so smooth.

"You all drive hybrids back in Nu Zealand, right?" one driver asked.

His stony faced glare in the rear-vision mirror made it clear exactly what he thought of the answer.