Homeowners looking to reduce their energy consumption can take advantage of the rebates Gainesville Regional Utilities offers for solar water heaters. Commuters looking for a way to conserve fuel can use the new Web-based Alachua County carpool program. These are just a few of the latest ways Gainesville residents can go green. And it's our guess, judging by the growing number of Toyota Priuses driving around town - along with UF's growing commitment to sustainability - that this trend is one that's here to stay. However, local government may be overlooking one of the most fundamental ways to protect the environment: recycling.
The City of Gainesville's mandatory recycling ordinance, first enacted in 1997, requires all businesses within city limits to separate designated recyclable materials and establish a recycling program. But for the roughly 23,000 apartment units around town, the city has only mandated that newspapers and metal cans be recycled. Why stop there?
Much larger cities like Pittsburgh, San Diego and Seattle have successfully made recycling mandatory. In 2006, Seattle passed its recycling law to prohibit recyclables in both residential and business garbage as a way to reduce landfill space and saw a 90 percent compliance rate without enforcement problems.
While the City of Gainesville Web site does provide a helpful checklist where you can figure out if you are a "garbage geek" or an "environmental angel," we think it's time Gainesville stepped up to the plate and made recycling mandatory for all apartment complexes.