A little over two weeks ago, I moved from New York City to San Francisco. I expected some level of culture shock: Here, the people wear Birkenstock sandals without risking fashion suicide, housing costs an arm and a leg, and the smell of marijuana hangs like a low cloud over the Bay.
Still, I was unprepared for how futuristic this city is. Complicated tasks that require human-to-human interaction would be accomplished with a few clicks of an app. My commute is green.
Here’s how I know the City by the Bay is the City of the Future.
On the drive home from the airport, the most ridiculously nerdy car zoomed past me, fitting comfortably between my lane and the adjacent one.
The Tango T600 luxury electric car is a one-seat-wide commuter vehicle intended to increase freeway lane capacity. It was featured as a sight gag in the pilot episode of HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”
Once I settled in the new apartment, I needed food. I ordered my weekly groceries through Instacart, an on-demand food delivery service founded and headquartered in San Francisco. Their Whole Foods database allowed me to be choosy with brand, quantity, and prices.
Fewer than two hours later, an Instacart messenger delivered my shopping cart loot to the door.
I substituted human interaction with websites and apps for my most routine activities. Oakland’s bougie pizzeria The Star doesn’t deliver, but you can place an order for pick-up. I wrangled a bike messenger via courier service Postmates, another San Francisco-founded startup, who acquired and delivered the goods in no time.
In subsequent trips to grocery stores, I noticed a charge on my receipt for paper bags. In 2007, the city passed groundbreaking legislation outlawing plastic checkout bags at supermarkets. Paper and compostable bags are available for a small fee, encouraging shoppers to reuse their own bags.
While San Francisco isn’t the only city to ban plastic bags, it was the first. The state of California approved a similar bill seven years later.
During my commute to work, I couldn’t help but notice rats’ nests of wires strung over the city streets.
Those lines power San Francisco’s fleet of electric trolley buses. The low-noise, greenhouse gas-free vehicles snake through the city while tethered to the wires, transporting 32,000 passengers per day. The electric grid is a bit of an eyesore, but a worthwhile effort to go green.
Every curb has not two, but three garbage cans for trash, recycling, and compost. Literally. Every. Curb.
In 2002, San Francisco took on an incredibly ambitious project called Zero Waste, which aims to eliminate garbage that is neither recycled nor composted by 2020. Residents toss food, soiled paper, and plants into the green bins, and those products will be composted into nutrient-rich soil used by local farms.
Even San Francisco’s preeminent fast food burger joint, In-n-Out, surprised me with its consideration of the user experience. When an employee took my order, he asked if I wanted to eat my take-out in the car or have it to-go. I chose the former.
When I drove up to the second window, I was handed a paper placemat to keep my pants clean of the signature “spread” sauce. My food was packaged in an open-face cardboard container, rather than a paper bag, so the burgers were easy to grab.
Taking into consideration my user experience, In-n-Out completely obliterated any worries I had that I might make a mess in the car.
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