Raising A Green Baby

Tip of the Month – July 2016

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President of Sustainable Danville Area

When asked to define sustainability, I often say that it is acting in a way to protect our natural resources for future generations. As I write this, I’m days away from welcoming the future generation of my family—my first grandson. This child will be welcomed into this world by his parents and a doula in a birthing pool hopefully on his due date, Father’s day…what a present for this first time dad!

I thought I could not be more thrilled when my son shared the news on Thanksgiving Day, but then I got the baby shower invitation. Just above the RSVP line it said: “the parents have decided to use cloth diapers”. With the average baby using 6,000 diapers before potty training; choosing cloth diapers helps eliminate some of the 49 million disposable diapers sent to the landfill that then sits for 200-500 years before decomposing.

Cloth diapers have come a long way since white rectangular fabric that required a degree to fold properly and safety pins to hold in place, but sure to prick your fingers. Now, there are cloth options that are fluffy, soft, and as absorbent as disposables and fitted with snaps or Velcro and elastic legs for extra protection. Some even offer waterproof lining to prevent leaks or pockets that can be stuffed as thick as your baby needs. Because these diapers are easily adjusted they are can be washed and used until the child is potty trained. And while using a diaper laundry service saves a percentage of water usage; home-washing is the economical choice. But both reduce the ecological footprint over disposables by more than fifty percent.

It only seems logical that if one chooses cloth diapers, then you should consider eliminating baby wipes as well. If the average child goes through 6,000 diapers, then at two wipes per change, I figure 12,000 wipes are used and that doesn’t count other various uses adding to that number. Instead, use the following mixture and place cloth wipes in a wipes holder or freezer bag.

Cloth Wipes “Recipe”

3 cups warm water

2 Tablespoons olive oil

3 drops of lavender essential oil

2 drops Tea Tree Oil

2 Tablespoons organic baby wash

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Soak baby washcloths or other soft cloth and place in wipes holder. Do not wring out completely. The wipes holder will keep wipes moist until ready for use.

Reviewing my grandson’s (I like saying that) baby gift registry, I see that the green choices don’t stop at diapers and wipes. Here are a few other ways the parents are choosing to raise a healthy, green baby:

  1. Pumps and glass bottles – Breastmilk is the most ecologically sound food source since it is produced and delivered without using other resources. While artificial baby milk is a necessity for some, it uses resources and creates pollution like all other processed foods.
  2. Glass containers – Preventing chemical exposure from plastics is a good enough reason to eliminate plastic use. If you can’t eliminate all plastic containers, then avoid warming food in them and always hand-wash to minimize heat leaching the chemicals from the container. It’s also important to use less canned food since the resin-based lining of these cans often contains the harmful chemical bisphenol (BPA).
  3. Filtered water pitcher – Instead of buying purified bottled water, reduce plastic waste with in-home water filtration system or a simple counter-top unit.
  4. Baby food steamer and blender – Make your own baby food from seasonal, organic fruits and veggies ensuring your little one’s food is richer in nutrients and without pesticides. Buying bulk in season lowers costs and you use can flash freezing to save portion-sized for later use. If you can’t buy all organic, check the Environmental Working Groups (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” list to find the safest bets for you and your family.
  5. Gently-used clothing and toys – With friends ahead of my son raising green babies, they will be the lucky recipients of well-loved items that are locally-made, including organic, cotton clothing and wooden toys. We’ve already covered the importance of limiting plastic exposure, but given how quickly babies grow; utilizing used clothing is not only economical— it reduces the carbon load of producing items that are used for only a month or two.
  6. Natural bath care products – Good Guide was started by a dad worried about the ingredients in sunscreen he was using on his young child. Now you can check the ratings for shampoos and body lotion before using it on your baby. Another way to save your baby’s gentle skin and save water is to skip a few of those daily baths and sponge bath just his bottom.

The most touching of all the requested items was for friends and family to contribute to the library for the new baby. I loved passing along my son’s copy of The Wild Things, one of his favorite books. The complete set of A.A. Milne’s classic based on the adventures of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh will have to wait until the baby visits Nonna’s house.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:

http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html

 

 

 

The Secrets of Growing Great Tomatoes

By Carol Rossi, The Bounty Garden’s Seedling Instructor

The best thing about home-grown tomatoes (besides their delicious flavor of sweet sunshine) is that they can be grown pretty much anywhere you have a patch of reliable sunlight. You just need to know the attributes and requirements for your particular growing situation.

If all you have is a couple large pots on a balcony you are still set to produce some beautiful tomatoes. Just ensure the pots are located so they receive a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight – this is one growth requirement where tomatoes will not compromise. Next, replace the soil in the pots every growing season with a fresh batch of potting soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter. Tomatoes are nutrient gluttons so you can use a mix that is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and without worrying about over-feeding them. Now select the proper variety for your pots. Look for dwarf (or patio) size, or small-fruited “determinates” such as cherry, grape, and pear tomatoes. Determinates grow to a certain size and then stop so they are perfect for small spaces and also don’t require much support. The small, cone-shaped tomato cages should suffice but instead, I recommend the heavy-duty kind instead of the spindly wire type. Train determinates to support their stems on the cage but don’t prune them. They will reward you by covering themselves with wonderful, tasty tomatoes.

If you are a lucky gardener with lots of room you definitely have more options!  Tomatoes come in early, mid-season, and long (or main) season varieties, so for an extended harvest period all you have to do is mix up the varieties. Choose early cultivars for half your plants, one intermediate, and the remainder long season. Because the early varieties put a lot of energy into quick production, the fruit tends to be smaller and less flavorful than the long season types that luxuriate long summer days on the vine. But put in some Early Girls and you can be eating tomatoes in late June or early July while looking forward to the August arrival of Big Boys, Mortgage Lifters, and Brandywines. You can also choose “paste” varieties, such as Black Plum and San Marzano, which make great sauces, but are less juicy and tangy than the “table” or “slicing” types. Just be aware that while small and intermediate size tomatoes can be grown in 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day the standard and big sizes require a minimum of 12 to 14 hours daily.

With all that room you may select indeterminate cultivars which, theoretically, can grow as large as conditions allow. They will require a strong trellis where vines can be tied, or a heavy-duty cage 5 to 6 feet high and 2 feet around. Google “tomato cages” and get some inspiration, but don’t skimp on support because broken vines result in far fewer tomatoes. Pruning an indeterminate will also reduce the amount of the crop, although some gardeners still trim them back to increase the size of individual tomatoes and keep the vines manageable. The choice is dependent on your philosophy!

Tomatoes like their space. You can plant dwarfs and cherry tomatoes 18” apart but all the others need at least 24” between plants. Don’t crowd them because they are heavy feeders and compete for soil nutrients. They are also sun lovers and sun blockers so you must ensure each plant gets the sunlight it needs.   They will produce well if grown in a single row (never in a block) where they each get an equal share of sunlight and nourishment.

Care and cultivation are the same for potted or in-ground tomato plants.  Tomatoes don’t need (and don’t like) a lot of water. Water them well at planting and you should not have to water them more than once weekly. One weekly deep watering is MUCH better than regular shallow watering. Uneven watering will also promote a condition known as blossom-end rot—consistency is key. Don’t get water on their leaves because this promotes disease.

Tomatoes are also the nutrient gluttons of the vegetable world, so you will need to supplement their feeding throughout the long growing season. Spray plants with compost tea, seaweed extract, or a similar fertilizer two weeks after transplant. Spray them again at flowering, after first fruit is set, and then weekly when plants start producing. You can use a foliar feed or a soil-soak to keep them happy. The mid to late season varieties should produce until the first rains of fall start in October. Then you can clip any remaining vines with green tomatoes and hang them in your garage to ripen.

Tomatoes define the summer!  There are no excuses not to get growing! Learn more about The Bounty Garden at https://thebountygarden.wordpress.com/  and Sustainable Danville Area at http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea

 

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:

http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html

 

 

 

 

Nora Pouillon’s Visit to THE BOUNTY GARDEN

Good evening Friends of the Bounty Garden,
Today, Michael Barnard of Rakestraw Books in Danville announced that Chef Nora Pouillon, a true visionary in the certified organic foods arena, will be visiting Danville to introduce her book, My Organic Life.  
Many may know of Ms. Pouillon and her infamous Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C.  It was the first certified organic restaurant in the United States and one can only imagine the lengths to which Ms. Pouillon had to go to find farmers and ranchers who insisted on the same qualities of production that she desired long before certification became the norm.  She is a true inspiration and her visit is sure to be educational, charming and inspiring!
The Rakestraw Books event will be an evening gathering in The Bounty Garden where a refreshing drink and light hor d’oeuvres will be served before we sit down under the soft lights to enjoy Ms. Pouillon recount her colorful life from her childhood home in Austria to the bustle of Washington, D.C.  It is sure to be an adventure.
We are honored to host Nora Pouillon at the Bounty Garden.  And, we are extremely touched by Rakestraw Books creating this fundraising event to benefit the Bounty Garden and our efforts to grow organic, nutritious and fresh vegetables for the Food Banks of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.
If you would like to learn more about this special event, please visit Rakestraw Books’ link at  http://www.rakestraw-pouillon.eventbrite.com and remember that the price of a ticket includes Ms. Pouillon’s book, My Organic Life.
With best wishes from the Garden,
The Hive 
Vegetable Beds at The Bounty Garden

Getting to Zero Waste

Tip of the Month – April 2016

By Cynthia Ruzzi

As we approach Earth Day 2016—a day set aside for the past 45 years to channel our energy and consciousness towards caring for our planet—I find myself thinking about the Sustainable Danville Area motto, Every Choice Counts.  It is a phrase that has encapsulated the practices of many in our community and guided Sustainable Danville Area for the past six years. For some, it is a reminder that small changes contribute to a greater difference and for others it has led to lifestyle changes that deprioritize convenience in order to protect our special place for those that come after us. And while it is a reminder to make ecological and environmental choices that preserve our community and planet for future generations, the word ‘environmentalism’ is not the antonym to ‘luxury’ or ‘good-living’.

Not a plastic bagWhen I shop, I carry a natural cotton jute bag from Dean and Deluca—a stylish choice for a man or woman—or my favorite, Anya Hindmarch “I am not a plastic bag”, that she designed in the 1970’s to create environmental awareness. You have to admit either of these choices is better than a flimsy plastic bag from a local grocery store. And with Danville following Walnut Creek this July by banning single-use plastic bags, it might be time to start your very own collection.

If you’ve read Sustainable Danville Area articles about the importance of eating whole, local foods without pesticides, growing native, drought tolerant and edible gardens, driving electric, using LED lighting or creating art without chemicals, then you know our dedication isn’t just about what’s on the outside of the bag. However, with all our green practices, we still drink fine wine, coffee and eat chocolate—biodynamic, organic and fair trade but delicious none the less.

Which got me thinking…how far would we have to go to consider caring for our planet a sacrifice? In honor of this Earth Day, let’s find out! I’ve challenged myself and my family to be ‘zero waste’ for one week and to see which one of us can make the least waste. From Friday, April 15th – Friday, April 22nd, we will make choices that prevent any contribution to the landfill—and for extra points we’ll limit what we need to recycle. Here are some of the morning-to-night plans we’ve discussed to accomplish our goal:

  1. Food Shopping – Carry reusable bags for transporting food stuff. Buy only items with no packaging, recyclable or compostable packaging. We’ll use mesh or cotton bags for produce and other bulk items. I’ve readied a bunch of glass and BPA-free plastic containers that customer service at my local grocery store will weigh and tag for use for liquid and other items, like fish and meat. My husband already uses a French press for his daily coffee, so no filter to trash or even compost.
  2. compostCompost – Luckily, we will avert any food waste going to the landfill since Alamo and Danville have curb-side food scrap recycling. All food waste, including bones, cheese, citrus peels and other oily/fats (which I would never put in my backyard composting bin) can be included in our organics bin. If you are not already participating in this program, you can get a nifty plastic container for under your sink by calling Republic Services at 925-685-4711. Please do not leave this container outside for pick-up. Instead empty it weekly into your organics green bin. More details can be found online at http://www.recyclesmart.org/app_pages/view/251
  3. Body and face care – I suspect this will be my area of weakness. Even though I use organic shampoos, face creams, etc. their packaging is usually no better than conventional products. Secretly, if I don’t run out of anything during the challenge, I’m fine…but I’m trying to negotiate a handicap with my husband just in case.
  4. Entertainment – I’m feeling good here. We love downtown Danville restaurants and with over 27 of them participating in the food scrap recycling program we don’t have to exclude this activity during the challenge. I’m notorious for having leftovers, so I’ll be traveling with my own ‘doggy-bag’. For places that rely on plastic utensils (my favorite yogurt shop), I’ll rely on the bamboo travel set of spork, knife and chopsticks I recently bought at Whole Foods.

I’m sure there will be other facets of our lives that we’ll find alternatives for during the challenge, but overall we don’t expect to be inconvenienced, just slowed down a bit. The extra time it takes for us to accomplish our daily tasks will allow us to be more mindful and grateful for what we have and hopefully live more in the present.

I welcome you and your family to join our challenge. Post pictures and comments to www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville and let’s try to get to zero waste.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:

http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html

 

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Celebrate EARTH DAY 2016 with the Town of Danville and The Danville Library

8x11_2016_Earth_Day

Inside Cosmetics

 Tip of the Month – March 2016

BY CYNTHIA RUZZI

Have you seen the short video, ‘The story of cosmetics’ by Annie Leonard?  I was floored by the facts presented so simply.  Even though I am someone who spends a lot of time reading food labels and trying to stay away from processed foods, I rarely stop to consider what my latest skin care regimen (read wrinkle reducer) might be doing to my health and that of the environment.

Keeping your family healthy should include more than focusing on what they put into their bellies.  Have you considered what skincare products might do to them?   At home, look at the labels of your favorite products – while you might have fun trying to pronounce words like, METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE you might be shocked to find this chemical is linked to immunotoxicity. Hopefully, that will be enough for you to ‘wash that shampoo right out of your hair’ and look more closely at the other products you’re using.  Honestly, if you can’t say it, should you spray it, slather it or even dab it?

Other parents have come to similar conclusions.  Dara O’Rourke, a professor of environmental and labor policy at the UC Berkeley was prompted to start the company, GoodGuide, after realizing he didn’t know what was in the sunscreen he had applied on his young daughter’s face.  After checking analysis that most consumers don’t have easy access to; Dara found the lotion contained an endocrine disrupter, two skin irritants and a carcinogen activated by sunlight.  Now GoodGuide helps consumers make purchasing decisions by providing online and mobile information on the health, environmental and social performance of products and companies.  While shopping, I can use my iPhone to scan the bar codes on the items I’m considering purchasing and the GoodGuide application gives me a score on the product’s safety. And to help teens understand the importance of non-toxic sunscreen here’s an easy to read guide from the Environmental Working Group.http://static.ewg.org/reports/2014/teensunscreen/pdf/EWG_teensunscreen_guide_2014.pdf

The average adult woman uses 12 different products daily and for the average teen girl that number is closer to 20.  When you figure that each product averages 20 chemicals (some not required to be listed), that’s approximately 400 potential toxins our teens are exposed to daily.  This means that when our teenage girls are most susceptible to chemical damage to their maturing bodies, they are exposing themselves to higher levels of potentially harmful cosmetic ingredients.   A few years ago, the Environmental Working Group did a very readable and relevant study about the burden of hormone altering chemicals on teen girls: http://www.ewg.org/book/export/html/26953  Hmm, if we aren’t moved to free ourselves from the beauty industry’s hold on our teens’ fragile psyches, how about protecting their physical health from unknown and hidden chemicals?

Remember if a chemical is not ingested, then they are not reviewed rigorously by the FDA.  Skincare products can use terms like ‘Herbal, Natural and Organic’ without the legal restrictions applied to food.   If you use a body lotion every day on your largest organ, your skin, you can expose yourself through absorption to a significant amount of toxins.  We can start by cutting down our exposure to toxins with our water and food, but don’t forget about what we apply to our skin.

Look in your cabinets and check that the products you use aren’t harmful to you and your family.  Don’t forget to check infant care products as many leading baby shampoos have formaldehyde and dioxane.  And while you’re ‘cleaning house’, please consider replacing antibacterial soaps which often contain triclosan, a carcinogen linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity.  Visit GoodGuide at www.goodguide.com or use the cosmetic safety database provided by the Environmental Working Group http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ for guidance and to check what’s in your products.

Once you’ve cleaned those cabinets for your health, go one step further and make sure aren’t ‘eating’ your exfoliate. Popular cosmetic manufacturers use microbeads in facial scrubs, soaps – even toothpaste – to add an abrasive cleaning quality to their product.  Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic that are designed to wash down your sink and shower drain as you use the cleaning product.  Unfortunately, these tiny bits of plastic also make it past our water treatment facilities and flow by billions of particles into our local waterways. Microbeads sponge toxic chemical pollutants along their travels and become snacks for fish that are caught for human consumption.  So, if you like to eat fresh water fish or seafood, there’s a pretty good chance those microbeads and their pollutants wind up in your stomach. Check whether you’re skin products contain microbeads by using EWG’s iphone app Skindeep or visit their website, EWG.org.  Have a favorite natural, home-made skincare routine?  Share it with us at sustainabledanville@gmail.com or at Facebook.com/sustainabledanville and remember to visit us athttp://www.sustainabledanville.com.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:

http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html

Running with the Green Dogs

TessBy Tesla Faraday-Einstein, Majestic Mascot, Sustainable Danville Area

Some environmental pundits say that the carbon impact of a pet can equal that of driving a large car. As an expert on the subject, I can pretty much say my people would be lost without me in their life. Not only can they count on a kiss whenever they’re feeling down; but once my stomach starts growling in the morning, I’m a punctual alarm clock. Most of my kind can entertain kids for hours with a Frisbee or ball—me, not so much. And while I don’t want to brag, my imposing size and bark keep my people feeling safe. I tend to get my people off the couch for a brisk walk every day. And since the average person burns about 150 calories in 30 minutes of exercise…add up five days and I’ve got them losing a pound a week! And ‘between dogs’—I pretend I’m interested in the squirrels just to pick up the pace.

But let’s face it, with over 78 million dogs in the United States it is important to make sure our people understand how ‘walking’ a little more lightly helps take care of us, the planet and the community we love. Let’s start with a subject near to my stomach, food.

Eating and living more organically these days? Shunning the chemicals from your foods and your cleaning products? Buying local? All these principles are important for us dogs as well. While you might think its cost prohibitive for you to feed me organic food, you might find that it’s just pennies a day that you’ll save in the end in veterinarian visits. It is important for you to know what goes into every food bag and where it’s produced. Food that is produced overseas requires an excess amount of energy to get it to our door and may not use processes that are environmental-friendly. Consider local brands that have limited ingredients with the majority being meat and vegetables.

Food produces waste, so let’s not beat around the bush—let’s talk poo. First of all, furry friends please talk with your people, tell them—It’s not okay to leave my poo ever, even in a bag, at the side of the road, street, trail—even if they plan to pick it up on their way back…nobody wants to see that, for shame!” Bags do add up, so please purchase bio-degradable ones. Better yet, designate a small area in your own fenced yard and fill it with pebbles and train your young ones to do their business there. Using a shovel to collect the waste into a stainless steel covered can reduces the number of bags needed and keeps our walks smelling fresh and embarrassment free. My people even considered a composting doggie toilet for their yard, but it turned out to use many gallons of water and that’s a precious resource in our continued drought conditions.

When not properly trained or allowed to roam freely, dogs can harm native wildlife or precious landscaping. Dog parks are a great alternative, as long as you’re not driving miles to visit a preferred venue. Playtime is a major priority for me—tired dogs are good dogs, so purchase a good supply of environmentally friendly toys and rotate them out every few days. Truth be told, I rather have a stick, a deer antler or a rope instead of a plastic toy any day!

I’m not one of those dogs that particularly like bath time, but once resolved that it’s gonna happen and I’m clean—I like the way my people nuzzle me. Unfortunately, just like human grooming products, dog shampoo, flea treatments and other care products can contain a large amount of chemicals which get washed down into our waterways and aren’t great for us dogs either. Most organic liquid soaps are fine for dogs, like Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, but my people usually use Burt’s Bee shampoo to keep my coat shiny and clean.

Far be it for me to be politically correct—my people got me from a reputable breeder instead of a shelter. It’s a long story, but I’m happy we’re together. But there are lots of reasons to adopt a shelter dog. There are over 2.7 million adoptable dogs (and cats) that are still euthanized each year in the US because too many pets come into shelters than there are resources and dollars to care for them. Many of these are happy, healthy pets whose people could no longer care for them, not because the dog did anything wrong. Consider adopting one of these furry friends and not only will you get a great dog, but it’s wonderful for your self-esteem since you’ll be saving a life.

Have a great green doggie tip? Share with us at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea .

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News