And by drinking this water, your hair and nails will grow stronger…

Since we arrived in the US in November I’ve been full time dedicated to look for our new house in San Francisco Bay. In the past six weeks I’ve seen close to 70 properties and I’ve met with many realtors, landlords and a few relocation agents too. Most of them were very friendly, some more than others; but in general they were all pretty normal, with just one exception.

A few weeks ago I found a two story townhouse in Mountain View. The location was great, the description and price sounded right for what we were looking for, so I requested an appointment.

When the owner opened me the door, she seemed nice and safe enough to follow her inside. She gave me the standard tour and then she suggested to confirm details and talk about the application process. Until here all pretty normal, and then, she suddenly changed and started singing the praises of living in Mountain View, which I had heard before until she mentioned the water:

Mountain View has the best water in the world.

And with this introduction she jumped to:

The water here has amazing properties. It will grow your hair and nails stronger. The city has money so they enrich the water with minerals and other substances so it makes you healthier.

She really looked convinced when she went on and on for the following ten minutes about how she had to get her kids haircuts ofter than when she was living outside the US and how their nails grow faster.

I listened to her while thinking how to politely put an end to the conversation and run away fast from this crazy lady and her theory of the magical water. It took me 15 more minutes to escape but I did in the end, safe and sound thank God. After that, I convinced myself that this lady’s magical water was just an anecdote and I decided to forget about it. And I did until two days later when visiting another house the realtor said:

The kitchen has a water filter system. The owner didn’t like to drink the city’s enriched water, so he had it installed a few years ago.

A water filter? The owner didn’t like to drink the city’s enriched water? Is it actually possible that the crazy lady was right about the water? Is the water here actually enriched with something that has some impact on the growth of my hair and nails?

As the Germans would say: “Jein” which is a combination of Ja (=yes) and Nein (=no). The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission distributes fluoridated water and Mountain View fluoridates the water delivered from the Santa Clara Water District. And according to Wikipedia:

Fluoridation is the controlled addition of fluoride to a public water supply to reduce tooth decay

So, yes, the city enriches the water to reduce tooth decay. Fluoride is what your toothpaste usually contains to help prevent cavities, which makes sense in the toothpaste, but does it in the water? I don’t know but they do it anyway. This came as shock because in Europe most countries don’t put fluoride in the water or anything else for that matter.

But apparently in the US this is a standard practice. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the Department of Health and Human Services of the US Government recognized:

water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century

However there is an open debate about its real benefits. For example, according to the World Health Organization, there is not a clear evidence of lower tooth decay rates in those countries with fluoridated water.

I am unsure which side to take, do you agree or disagree with the benefits of fluoride in your water? But in the meantime let me tell you that according to the Water Quality Report:

The City of Mountain View is committed to providing its customers with a safe and reliable supply of high-quality drinking water that meets Federal and State standards

For more information:  

After you have glanced over the water quality reports of the above links, you learn that they are all similar and in the end, they have to be since the water supply in Silicon Valley comes from the same sources: the SFPUC and the SCVWD.

Having read so much about the fluoridation of the water in the US, and of course in the Silicon Valley, I still haven’t found any reference about my crazy lady’s theory of the magical water. She was right about the government enriching the water, but she got the whole water benefits completely wrong:

Dear crazy lady,

By drinking this water, your kids may get fewer cavities. But their hair and nails will still grow at the standard pace.

xoxo

A European in San Francisco

Recycling in Silicon Valley in 5 easy steps

After living in Germany for three years I am very aware of the importance of recycling at home.

Germany is one the greenest countries on earth and not only thanks to its production of renewable energies, but also to its household recycling rules (powered by the incorruptible obedience of the German citizens). I admired them a lot (both the rules and the people), but unfortunately I’m not as rigorous as they are and so during my time living in Munich, I was told off (by the building maintenance man, the concierge and of course the neighbors) more than once because, one way or another, I was breaking one or another of their many recycling rules. It happens to the best of us, it’s not a big deal. You get reprimanded, you learn the rule and then you move on.

California is easier. At least the rules are. After a month in Silicon Valley, I believe I’ve learn enough to give you a general overview on how recycling works here. Let’s have a look:

1. – MULTI-UNIT APARTMENT COMPLEX

bc

Since we are staying in a corporate apartment while we find our new home in San Francisco Bay, I feel that I have to start with photos and the recycling policy of these type of multi-unit complexes. The policy is slightly different than the one in a single family house. The above pictures show two of the three household waste groups.

  1. Only paper: this is similar to what we had in Germany (and in Europe in general): paper packaging, newspapers, magazines, etc.
  2. Containers only: this is the group that amazes me the most: they dispose glass bottles, metal aluminum cans, foil and plastic containers all together!!
  3. The rest goes in a different container.

2.- THREE CONTAINERS/BINS FOR SINGLE FAMILY HOMES

Source: Peninsula press and Flickr http://peninsulapress.com/2012/03/19/more-recycling-in-palo-alto-means-city-cant-afford-trash-collection/

Source: Peninsula press and Flickr

If you live in a townhouse or similar, then you are responsible for your garbage and recyclable materials. You need to register your residence with the city and pay the monthly tax. Then you get your black/blue/green containers; instructions on what to dispose on each of them and the pick-up schedule. As an example: According to the city of Palo Alto:

Dispose in the BLUE CONTAINER: all recyclable materials, such as paper, glass, plastic and metal. Click here for the full list.

in the GREEN CONTAINER: green yard trimmings. For example: branches and stumps, leaves, grass, plants, holiday trees and similar.

In the BLACK CONTAINER (Garbage): according to the city of Palo Alto:

As a rule of thumb, if an item doesn’t go in your blue or green container and it is not a functional, reusable item that you can donate, it most likely goes into your garbage container. 

3.- PAYING FOR THE PICK UP OF YOUR GARBAGE

Depending on the property you’re leasing you will be responsible to pay for the garbage tax or no because the owner does it for you, so it’s included in your monthly rent.

In any case the garbage rates vary depending on the different size carts for garbage, recycling and yard trimmings that you chose for your home. According to the city of Mountain View:

Garbage carts are available in 20-gallon (mini-can), 32-gallon, 64-gallon and 96-gallon sizes (click on Trash Rates).

Click here for information on rates in Mountain View. If you live in Palo Alto, Cupertino, San Jose, etc. check your city’s official site for more info or you can always access it through the official site of the California Recycle Government page.

4.- WHAT’S RECYCLABLE AND WHAT’S NOT

In the Santa Clara county (Silicon Valley) there are different companies that operate the pick-up and recycle business, but in general the rules tend to be similar. For example here you can find a list of what’s recyclable: items accepted (or not accepted) in Mountain View’s recycling program.

5.- A FEW SURPRISES FOR US (EUROPEANS)

If you read the details of the list (what’s recyclable) you will be surprised by a few rules. For example: they dispose their household batteries in the blue container!; or the light bulbs in the grey container together with window glass and animal feces.

In Europe, these items have a completely different recycle policy, as in: “under no circumstance dispose them in your bin”. Instead you need to take them personally to its specific recycle point.

What’s your experience recycling in California? Have you recently relocated from Europe to northern California?