When visitors to San Francisco see the colorful new banners on display around Moscone Center, they’ll know the city is welcoming them. What they won’t know is that, beginning in March 2013, they’re being welcomed in a far more environmentally-friendly way as a result of a new fabric that’s being used to make the banners.
As part of their commitment to the environment and sustainability and in keeping with the City’s efforts overall to be more green, the San Francisco Travel Association is in the process of installing banners made of an eco-friendly material called EkoFlex, from AAA Flag & Banner.
“San Francisco Travel felt that it was important to spearhead this effort because we want to ensure that San
Francisco’s visitors and residents have a better and healthier experience while in the city. This initiative is one of the many ways that San Francisco Travel is working alongside the Mayor’s Office and City leaders to ensure San Francisco remains a desirable place to visit, as well as to live and work,” said Matt Stiker, San Francisco Travel’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “We are extremely excited to move forward with this initiative, thrilled that AAA has re-configured their manufacturing processes to be more green, and ecstatic that they want to introduce this new product in San Francisco.”
San Francisco is an environmental leader on many fronts. For example, in 2012, Moscone Center received LEED® Gold certification, the first convention center on the West Coast to attain the green building honor. San Francisco has the largest fleet of hybrid taxis in the nation. The city also expanded its plastic checkout bag ban to all retail businesses, encouraging residents to conserve resources by bringing their own bag and charging ten cents if customers want a reusable bag at checkout. Composting and recycling are mandatory for residents and businesses, which has helped San Francisco achieve the highest recycling and compost rates of any city in North America.
"San Francisco has always been a city of firsts when it comes to sustainability and now that extends to our city's street banners. I'm pleased to see the San Francisco Travel Association embrace our city's goals of zero waste and toxics reduction by eliminating the use of PVC, a harmful and non-recyclable material, and up-cycling the banners as well,” said Melanie Nutter, director San Francisco Department of the Environment.
"AAA Flag & Banner is focused on converting the current harmful type marketing materials to ones that create a win-win for both the stakeholders and the environment. Having best in class advertising and environmental responsibility are no longer mutually exclusive ideas. AAA and their clients are leading the way in walking the talk with sustainable advertising practices,” said Craig Furst, president of AAA Flag & Banner Manufacturing.
“Until now, the EkoFlex material has been used in test cases to see if it would stand up to weather conditions and extended exposure. We have over a year and a half working with this product and it is still holding strong,” Furst said. “We are thrilled to help get PVC off the streets and believe we have found a great alternative.”
In 2012, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy tested the eco-friendly materials on banners to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.
"The Parks Conservancy produced more than 100 banners that were displayed on major thoroughfares throughout San Francisco to commemorate the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary. We plan to recycle the attractive banners into bags and other interpretive items when they are taken down following the year-long celebration this May," said Greg Moore President & CEO of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
Other organizations in San Francisco have been testing the eco-friendly banners for the last 18 months, including the America’s Cup Event Authority and the California Academy of Sciences.
“Sustainability is at the core of the Academy’s mission—from recycled denim insulation inside the museum walls, to biodegradable coconut husk trays used to plant our 2.5-acre living roof. Using EkoFlex banners allows us to extend our mission to the streets of San Francisco while sharing our newest exhibits with the public, said Aaron Pope, Manager of Sustainability Programs at the California Academy of Sciences. “Often street banners are discarded after their initial use. By using EkoFlex, we’re able to explore creative uses for this environmentally-safe material, giving our vibrant banners a second life.”
In addition, while banners made out of PVC have historically been discarded to leech their dangerous chemicals into cities’ landfills, the EkoFlex fabric can safely be re-purposed for second life, for example made into bags by San Francisco’s own Rickshaw Bags, which has been a partner in leading the change.
Rickshaw Bagworks is an enthusiastic participant in this important collaboration to eliminate harmful PVC material from outdoor advertising. Though many companies promote eco-friendly products made from reclaimed PVC banners, Rickshaw has instead advocated for the elimination of PVC altogether, and the use of more environmentally friendly PVC-free alternatives. PVC releases toxic byproducts at each stage of its lifecycle -- in manufacturing, use, and disposal.
"We have turned-down countless well-meaning requests to make bags from reclaimed PVC banners,” explains Mark Dwight, founder and CEO of Rickshaw Bagworks. "It is our belief that recycling merely masks the real challenge, which is to design PVC out of our waste stream." Rickshaw applauds AAA Flag & Banner for their commitment and leadership in sourcing, testing and promoting alternative materials for outdoor advertising, and we are delighted to see this grassroots effort taking root in San Francisco -- a city that prides itself in taking a leadership role in environmental initiatives.
The San Francisco Travel Association is the official tourism marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, packages, activities and more, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel or call 415-391-2000. The Visitor Information Center is located at 900 Market St. in Hallidie Plaza, lower level, near the Powell Street cable car turnaround.
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American Express® is the official Card partner of the San Francisco Travel Association.San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 31 international points on 30 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with 75 cities in the U.S. on 15 domestic airlines. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit flysfo.com. Follow SFO on twitter.com/flysfo and facebook.com/flysfo.