Can I? Yes, You Can

Tip of the Month – July 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

I have to admit I was jealous— toiling in my office when I received Carol’s text. The photo showed she was already testing her brand new Ball Fresh TECH Electric Water Bath Canner with Multi-Cooker. With urgency, I replied ‘whatcha cookin?’ I imagined early season peaches, green beans or even the first tomatoes. The possibility was endless and I counted the days until my new canner would arrive—or Carol shared some of her ‘to-die-for’ dill pickles.

Home canning is one of those passions that folks rarely talk about, but ardent ‘canners’ spend hours lovingly processing and ‘putting up food’. There are so many reasons to consider canning food at home, starting with its:

Love in a jar: For some, canning is a connection to their past—a reminder of time spent with family or a link to their heritage. Maybe it’s a jar of preserves based on a family recipe that brings you back to after-school snacks or a crisp dill pickle in the middle of winter that smacks of a summer’s picnic, but its right there in the jar no matter when you need a flood of memories.

A joyous gift: It’s hard to go wrong sharing the gift of food. There’s something special that comes from presenting or receiving home canned foods. I don’t feel the pressure to consume it immediately, but I also appreciate the love and caring that has gone into the preparation of the gift. I pack my pantry with jams, pickles, pasta sauces and apple pie-in-a-can and when the holidays roll around…well, I have a back-up plan to cover everyone on the list.

It’s a matter of taste: Let’s face it, locally grown, harvested in season produce or fruits, canned when just ripe, beats a commercial product any day. I know the quality of the organic, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables I preserve and it beats a supermarket’s effort any day. Best said by Eugenia Bone, avid food writer and author of Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods, “Preserving is an extension of the values that made you shop in the farmers’ market in the first place.” If asked, I’d agree and add…the values that bring me back to the garden again and again. The terroir sweetens more than the wine –

Health is wealth: My first choice is organic fruits and vegetables whether I’m growing or buying them. This way I can help my family avoid harmful additives and pesticides. Home canning also helps avoid BPA, a harmful chemical often in the plastic lining of metal cans, such as those used for tomatoes.

Eating for the planet: Canning your own food lowers your environmental impact. Mason jars are reusable and thus reduce the packaging associated with buying conventionally packed foods. Additionally, consuming foods that are trucked thousands of miles burns fossil fuels contributing to pollution and often delivers foods that are rendered tasteless from being picked and packed before peak ripeness. Simple home canning allows you to enjoy delicious ‘pantry to table’ food year-round from your own backyard.

Save a penny: Eating seasonally is not only good for the planet; it’s also good for your pocketbook. When you grow or buy produce in season, it’s bountiful and therefore cheaper—making canning an economical way to stock the pantry.

There are countless resources online, including Getting Started videos from Ball, the Preserving Authority. http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/waterbath-canning You’ll also find recipes for everything from jams to pickles, along with one of my favorites I use as gifts:

Apple Pie-in-a-jar (7 16oz pints)

http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipes/apple-pie-filling

  • Submerge 12 cups organic sliced, peeled medium apples in 4 cups of water and ¼ cup lemon juice to prevent browning
  • 2 ¾ organic sugar
  • ¾ cup cooking starch
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 ½ cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 ¼ cups cold water
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 7 16oz pint size glass preserving jars, lids and bands

Directions:

  1. Prepare water canner. Heat jars in water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set aside.
  2. Blanch apple slices (2 batches of 6 cups) in large pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon & keep warm in covered bowl.
  3. Combine sugar, cooking starch, cinnamon and nutmeg in large stainless steel saucepan. Stir in apple juice and cold water. Bring to boil, stir constantly and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and return to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  4. Fold apples into hot mixture. Before processing, re-heat, stirring until apples are heated through.
  5. Ladle hot apple pie filling into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims of jars. Center lid on each jar and apply bands until fit is fingertip tight.
  6. Process jars in water canner for 25 minutes. Remove jars and set on kitchen towel on counter to cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex when center is pressed.
  7. Tag with date. Add your favorite pie crust recipe if preparing as gift.

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleaning the chemicals out of your home

TIP OF THE MONTH – June 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Growing up, cleaning wasn’t just about removing the dust. Our house wasn’t clean until you could smell the Pine-Sol, LYSOL, Windex and Mr. Clean throughout the house. While many of us now use cleaning products that include enticing scents like Magnolia Lily or Jasmine Mint, these synthetic fragrances just mask the noxious solvents that we use in our households year after year.  Many conventional cleaning products are based on petrochemical VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and create air pollution within your home. Unfortunately, these chemicals build up in your home each time you use these cleaners. As they evaporate, the can make their way into your body and are dangerous to your health, causing dizziness, eye irritation, skin rashes and respiratory problems. I decided long ago that it isn’t worth risking our health and so I set out to find alternative products to make my home sparkle.

Once I started my research, I couldn’t believe how many things could be cleaned with white vinegar. The magical elixir of half vinegar and half water cleans everything in my home from windows to toilets. I even add a little baking soda and grape seed oil to wash apples and other fruit before eating. Kids love the ‘science experiment’ caused mixing these ingredients – just one tablespoon of baking soda added to the water and vinegar provides an entertaining show of foaming bubbles.

So we have windows to refrigerators to countertops covered, but what about the cooktop and oven? You guessed it…vinegar and water for general cleaning and for those stubborn stains – mix half sea salt and baking soda, add water to form a paste, cover the spot and let it sit for ten minutes and then spray with your vinegar mixture to scrub your ‘Comet’ clean. For the most serious gunk, I turn to Bon Ami, the barkeepers’ friend and rated a 10 for health by GoodGuide.com.

Since we’re talking ‘gunk’, nothing is worse in my book than cleaning grout. For most situations, I find if I dampen the area with water and then sprinkle baking soda on the area – followed by a light scrubbing with an old toothbrush, things look as good as new. I read that one part hydrogen peroxide to one part water is great for getting rid of mold. However, only mix what you’ll need for the current application as hydrogen peroxide loses effectiveness when exposed to light, air and water. Explains why it’s sold in brown bottles. Hydrogen peroxide is also a wonderful alternative to bleach. Add a cup to your whites as you would bleach and enjoy the whitening benefits without the issues associated with laundry bleach to you and your clothes. Besides the effects of the chemical off-gassing, and the warnings on major brands that product may cause eye irritation and skin burns, chlorine bleach is harsh on the fibers of your favorite T-shirt shortening its life. While we’re talking about laundry, use laundry soap without NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate) which is an endocrine disruptor and estrogen mimic. In other words, it can mess with your hormones and reproductive functions. Unfortunately, manufacturers’ aren’t required to disclose detailed ingredients and such information to consumers. Once again, I turned to GoodGuide.com and boy was I surprised to find that the brand with the cute snuggly bear fairs the worst!

Here’s a few of my favorite ways to save money and reduce chemicals when cleaning your home:

Air Freshener: Add 10 drops lavender (or other essential oil) and 2 tablespoons baking soda to 2 cups hot water. Pour into spray bottle.  For a whole house freshener, bring 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon to boil and let simmer on the stove top.

Disinfectant:  20-30 drops tea tree extract, 3 tablespoons castile soap and white vinegar. Mix in a 16-ounce sprayer and top with water. “Germs be gone”.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Sprinkle baking soda in toilet, spray with vinegar and scrub

Furniture polish: ½ cup lemon juice, ¾ cup olive oil. Mix and add to spray bottle. Polish with soft cloth.

Dishwashing rinse:  White vinegar. I just pour it straight into the compartment for spot-free glasses and dinnerware.

And while we’re cleaning, there’s one more thing to ‘clean out’ of your routine. Antibacterial soaps and hand-sanitizers. Most of these products rely on Triclosan, which is an active ingredient in pesticides. Triclosan is quickly absorbed into the skin and entering the blood stream is known to cause allergies, hormonal and neurological side effects.  Our dear friend Peggy Yamamoto shares her secret alternative as gifts in lovely blue glass bottles: Mix 3 ounces vodka, ½ teaspoon glycerin, 15 drops tea tree oil, 25 drops lavender oil.

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May is Bike Month

Tip of the Month – May 2015

It’s a celebration of bikes; a reminder to get rolling again; a gateway to riding more often; a time to evangelize the beauty of bikes; and much, much more. Since 1956, May has been recognized as National Bike Month and the League of American Bicyclists has sponsored this celebration of bicycling for decades. National Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day are often cited as the month’s flagship events—but Bike Month is about so much more than just getting to and from the office.

Bike East Bay went out and asked local bicyclists why they ride. It turns out, we all have different reasons; some of us ride because it’s cheap or because it’s simply the easiest way to get around. Others ride because they believe riding bikes is a way towards strengthening their community’s sustainability and health.

With growing cultural awareness around health and wellness, sustainability and economic savings, bicycling is being seen by new and broader audiences as a simple solution to many complex problems, from reducing obesity rates to increasing mobility options. And while a Saturday ride on the Iron Horse trail demonstrates the growing number of multi-generational bicyclists—the National Household Travel Survey showed that the number of trips made by bicycle in the U.S. more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009.

This year’s Bike to Work Event is scheduled for Thursday, May 14th. Throughout the East Bay, there will be over 100 Energizer Stations to fuel your journey to work, school and about town. The event’s organizers, 511.org and Bike East Bay have a simple webpage to help you find an Energizer Station along your route. Visit https://bikeeastbay.org/energizer for an interactive map of where and when on May 14th, you can pick up your free Bike to Work Day canvas bag and other goodies to make the ride fun. Take the pledge to ride this May at the You Can Bike There website http://www.youcanbikethere.com/ and be entered to win prizes at the end of the month.

Bike commuting is a growing phenomenon with over a 62% rise since 2000. Bicycling is a ‘zero-pollute’ travel option and the Bay Area is the best place in the country to ride a bike to work, school, on errands or to a local restaurant for lunch or dinner. There are thousands of miles of bike paths, lanes and routes and the 511BikeMapper http://gis.mtc.ca.gov/btp/ can help you find them. For longer trips, combine bicycling and public transit and 511.org will guide the way with information about taking bikes on transit http://bicycling.511.org/infrastructure/transit.aspx

Need more reasons to consider riding your bicycle this season? One study showed that the average bike commuter lost 13 lbs. in the first year without changing their diet. While that’s enough to get me ‘back in the saddle’, 511 Contra Costa is rewarding folks who make the change from driving alone to bicycling—or carpooling, taking transit or walking. The Drive Less Commuter Incentive Program provides eligible participants a $50 check. To receive the incentive you must live or work in Contra Costa County, be 18 years of age or older, would otherwise drive alone to work and lastly, complete the brief questionnaire to determine the effectiveness of their program. Want to apply? Visit http://511contracosta.org/commuterprogram/ to get started today.

We want to know what motivates you to ride your bike locally.  Is there anything that would encourage you to use this transit mode more often? We want to hear from you. Send us your pictures from Bike to Work Day and join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea or email at sustainabledanville@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Growing Community…and caring for our place on Earth

Tip of the Month – April 2015

giant ball

BY CYNTHIA RUZZI

I can’t believe it was just five years ago, I was searching for local recommendations for sustainable living for my family.  It was then talking with friends Darlene Gayler and Tracy Bauer that we were inspired to start Sustainable Danville Area (www.sustainabledanville.com) to encourage sustainable practices by facilitating eco-educational programs in the Danville Area.  We have expanded–and contracted–with treasured volunteers and brilliant interns joining us along the way. Most importantly, we have made cherished life-long friends like Cindy Egan, San Ramon Valley High School’s Environmental Science Teacher. We are not the ‘Green Police’; instead we’re a local group interested in exploring and learning how to live and work sustainably in our community. We balance what matters most to us (our families) with our responsibility to care for the future of this beautiful place that we call home. We definitely don’t have all the answers, but along the way we have found great resources, made wonderful connections and learned from our mistakes – hopefully making it easier for our neighbors who want to jump aboard.
We are fulfilled by the community of people (students, teachers, parents, business owners, civic leaders and you) that have demonstrated their interest in supporting our efforts by making Every Choice Count!  We are buoyed by the growth of consciousness that has sprung up amongst us – people who understand the importance of freeing their bodies, their homes and their yards from chemicals and pesticides. While I wouldn’t call our ‘job’ done – since I always prefer a friend’s recommendation over something on the Internet – we are excited that there is a wealth of reliable information for those that are curious about learning more.
We are grateful for civic leaders that have voted to ban single-use plastic bags in our community, offer residents the ability to recycle all their kitchen food scraps in their curbside waste bins, added bicycle parking facilities in popular downtown locations, installed a centralized climate controlled irrigation system and even rely on solar panels to fuel the work they do every day to protect our community for the future.  Most importantly, we are happy to call ourselves residents of Alamo, Danville, Diablo and Blackhawk. Every time we receive an email (sustainabledanville@gmail.com) or comment on Facebook (www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea) sharing a green practice that you or your family has adopted it fills our hearts with hope.
This April, we celebrate our fifth ‘birthday’ and Earth Day 2015. The Town of Danville, The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area will present the 5th Annual Earth Day Event on Sunday, April 19th 11am – 2pm on the Town Green in front of the Danville Library. Rain will be an additional blessing as we have activities planned for the library and community center as well. The Town of Danville Earth Day event is a free, fun and informative affair for residents and visitors of all ages interested in green building, sustainable landscape design, solar power and home energy efficient products, waste reduction and recycling, water conservation, hybrid and electrical vehicles and much more! Fun for everyone in the family has been scheduled at this zero-waste event which includes live music featuring Rio James, American Idol Tyler Stimpson and Zakir Siddiqui. Kids activities include a petting zoo, ‘Peanuts…Naturally! An Ecofestival’, a giant Earth ball and much, much more.
 San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club (E2) will be manning the bike valet to make it easy for you and your family to ride your bicycles to the event.  Yes, this works just like a coat check. You check in your bikes for free, enjoy the event and pick up your bikes by 2pm. We can always use environmentally enthusiastic volunteers 16 years and up for the Earth Day event. Please visit www.danville.ca.gov/volunteer if you haven’t volunteered with the Town before.  For more information email jmason@danville.ca.gov or call 925-314-3478. It will not be a party without you, so mark your calendars for April 19th  and please come celebrate with us.

 

 

 

 

 

ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS

Sustainable Danville Area Tip of the Month – February 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek doctor certainly got that right!  ‘Art is long and life is short’.  Art influences how we see the world and it gives us a means to express ourselves when words cannot.  The impression a piece of art makes on the viewer can outlive the ability to recall the artists’ name.  Finding a simple drawing stored long ago can flood you with treasured memories – especially if the artist was your child. Giving recognition to a child’s artwork can build one confidence equal to scoring the winning homerun in a champion little league game.  I’m at least as proud of my trophy from a city-wide art contest in the third grade, as I am of my Best Girl Athlete medal from seventh grade.

As parents and educators we know how essential art is to teaching and encouraging our children.  Since art is such a vital part of raising healthy children, shouldn’t we consider making sure that their art is created with art supplies that are healthy for them too?

Art supplies often contain toxins and pollutants that are both harmful to a child’s health and the environment.  Many art supplies contain toxic chemicals (PBTs) that can accumulate in the environment when they are made, used or discarded.  These PBTs can also accumulate in your child and cause illnesses such as headaches, breathing problems, nausea and possibly worse.

A great way to prevent possible negative effects of art supplies is to make sure you and your child’s school purchase only sustainable, non-toxic art supplies.  Look for the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) seal of approval to make sure your art supplies are safe for the environment and your child. A guide to reading and understanding art supply labels can be found at the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition website: http://www.cehn.org/files/Art%20supplies_2_14_11(6).pdf 

With plenty of cold winter nights for indoor family activities, it’s a perfect time to consider some environmentally friendly ways to spruce up your family art projects.

°       Recycled Materials

Juniors’ masterpiece will last just as long and look just as good on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper as it would on virgin paper.

°       Natural Ingredients

Who doesn’t love coloring?  But traditional crayons are made from a non-renewable petroleum byproduct, paraffin wax.  Look for crayons made from soy bean oil.  Not only are they non-toxic, but they’re bio-degradable too.  Looking to channel the Italian street artist within?  Organic chalk with all natural ingredients is totally safe for small children.  They can decorate away without you worrying about them putting their hands or the chalk in their mouth.  Eco-friendly colored pencils are my ‘tool of the trade’ and I use sustainably harvested wood ones like the ones found at Stubby Pencil Studio www.stubbypencilstudio.com.  Manufactured from California cedar wood and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to have originated from environmentally well-managed forests they draw great cartoon aliens, flowers, trees and dinosaurs.

 

°          Make Your Own Supplies

You’re never too old to enjoy a day of finger painting!  It’s simple to mix up a batch on your own.  Form a smooth paste with a cup of white flour (not self-rising) and 8 tablespoons of water.  Separate small portions into muffin tins and add organic food coloring to get the color you want.  Thin to a pudding consistency with additional water and you’re ready to create a Picasso.

Fancy yourself more of a Monet?  Create watercolors by mixing 4 tablespoons of baking soda with 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  Allow the mixture to rest until the fizzling stops.   Then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and ½ tablespoon of corn syrup.  Mix until crumbly and divide in a muffin tin.  Add about 10 drops organic food coloring to each cup.  Paint away, mixing individual colors together to create a wide palette for your masterpiece.

Our recipes wouldn’t be complete without offering one for eco-friendly play dough.  Mix 1 cup white flour (not self-rising) with ½ cup of table salt in a bowl.  Gradually add 1/3 cup water while kneading the mixture until it reaches a dough consistency.  It should not be sticky.  To tint the dough, add organic food coloring as the dough is mixed to create various shades.  Store in the refrigerator in a well-sealed container, but like all play dough – it will eventually harden.

And now you’re ready for masterpieces.  Send us a picture at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville or email us at sustainabledanville@gmail.com

 

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today/Alamo Today News http://www.yourmonthlypaper.com/archives.html

The Four Most Important Resolutions You Can Make for 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

As I write this, we are in the midst of the wettest December in the Bay Area in history and the California drought has been downgraded from ‘exceptional’ to ‘severe’. Admiring the green hills that surround our homes, it’s hard to believe that all this water hasn’t replenished our resources for the year and beyond. The choice of descriptor says it all – we are still in a severe drought meaning we’re in grave, harsh, dreadful, terrible, seriously bad shape.  But the New Year is all about making resolutions, so I encourage you to make 2015 the year you value water for what it is – with only 1% drinkable water world-wide, its liquid gold.  So the number one most important resolution for 2015 – use water wisely.  Last month, we provided a list of ways to be less water wasteful inside and outside the home, but here’s one more way.

Central San is offering free recycled water for residential customers. While it’s not safe for drinking and shouldn’t run off into our storm drains, it can be used to water lawn, landscaping and gardens to save our precious drinking water. Recycled water has been used for years in our area to water parks, school ball fields and golf courses and now, like the Dublin San Ramon Services District, we can use free, recycled water to keep our gardens green.  For more information about the residential recycled water filling station, please call 800-646-1431.

It wouldn’t be a resolution list, if I didn’t include an item about health.  The second most important resolution for 2015 – eat organic, local whole food. US residents spent on average $2,273, or about 6.4 percent of their annual consumer expenditures according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA).  That is less than any of the 83 other countries for which the USDA tracks data.  Considering this statistic, isn’t it time to invest just a little more to protect your family’s health from harmful pesticides and questionable chemicals in the food you serve them – not to mention avoiding genetically modified food (GMOs) which have been banned in over 60 countries worldwide.  And choosing organic, local whole food, not only saves transportation dollars, protects you from pesticides, but allows you to capture maximum nutrition – since fruits and vegetables lose nutritional value as they age or are processed.

With respect to the continuing hunger problem in the US – and Contra Costa County – visit www.thebountygarden.org and learn how you can help get organic, local, whole food to those in need. The Bounty Garden is a 100% non-profit program committed to providing a source of fresh vegetables to the local Food Banks of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.  The program brings together community volunteers in a fun and friendly environment to grow for this purpose and is a great activity for the entire family.

The third most important resolution for 2015 – lose the plastic. Here’s a New Year’s challenge. Pick an average day for you and your family and see if you can get through it without touching anything made of plastic. Can you do it?  Most of us have heard about the importance of being ‘BPA-free’ (referring to the chemical identified as a disruptor to growth development in infants, children and even adults), but do we really know what other chemicals used in plastics are doing to us? Relying more on organic, local, whole food will reduce packing materials – especially if you bring your own re-usable bags, but I bet you can do more.  Look for alternatives like glass and steel for food storage and please, lose the drinking straw. Take the challenge and you’ll see there is a myriad of opportunity to replace the plastics in your life.

As we enter the fifth year of Sustainable Danville Area, our 100% non-profit invites you to participate in our activities.  In fact, please hold the date for the Town of Danville Earth Day Festival 2015 on Sunday, April 19th from 11am – 2pm.   Join us as a volunteer, you don’t have to be an environmental expert – most of us aren’t. You simply have to care about people and the planet- and maintaining an Earth that will not only sustain us today, but many generations beyond.  Learn more at www.sustainabledanville.com or visit us at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea

Oh and the fourth most import resolution for 2015 – make every choice count.

 

 

 

Tis The Season to do a Green Audit

By Loren McDonald, Sustainable Danville Area

As 2014 nears an end, many of us will use the holiday season to reflect on the past year and plan life activities for 2015. As part of these planning efforts, it is important to do an audit or self-assessment to take stock of what we did in the past year and identify where there are opportunities to improve or make changes in the coming year.

With sustainability becoming an area of concern for many people, including reducing water and energy usage and costs, consider conducting a “green” audit along with your financial and budgeting exercises. A simple review of your family’s use of water, energy, transportation and purchasing and practices including food consumption, gardening and recycling can uncover several opportunities to both reduce your impact on the planet, and put dollars back in your pocket.

The following are among several areas to include in your “green audit,” which can provide a foundation for your 2015 personal sustainability plan:

Water Bill/Usage: Start by reviewing your water bills from the past two years. The average single-family home in the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) used 135 gallons of water per person per day in 2013. How does your usage compare? Look for spikes in usage that could signal a leak in your irrigation system.

Toilets: Check the age and gallons used per flush in each of your toilets. Replacing older toilets, that typically use 3.5-5 or more gallons per flush, with new, efficient toilets that use 1.28 or 1.6 gallons per flush can save 10-25 gallons per toilet per day.

Shower Heads: How many of your shower heads are the low-flow type? Have you timed yourself and family members on the duration of showers?   What about baths? Are any family members taking baths when a shower would suffice?

 Electricity, Gas and Appliances: Review your electricity and gas bills and look for spikes during the cold winter and hot summer months. What temperature is your thermostat and water heater set at? Is it time to upgrade your old clothes washer, dryer or dishwasher? Do you have an old inefficient refrigerator in the garage where you keep beverages?

Light bulbs: Replacing older light bulbs with newer energy-efficient bulbs, such as LEDs, is one of the easiest ways to reduce your household energy usage and save money over the long term. How many of your incandescent and fluorescent bulbs make sense to replace?

Insulation/Leaks: Potential energy savings from eliminating air leaks can range from 5% to 30% according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Consider a professional home energy audit, but at minimum inspect inside and outside your home for all visible air leaks.

 Food: Do you buy from local food sources when possible, such as those at the Danville Farmer’s Market? How often are you eating beef and is it grass-fed and locally raised? Are you over buying and then throwing out foods your family doesn’t eat. Are you buying organic foods when possible?

Reuse, Recycling and Bags: Have you switched to using rechargeable batteries in household devices? Do you have a compost bin for food scraps and other organic material? Are you recycling as much as you can? Do you take plastic bags, batteries, printer cartridges and light bulbs to local recycling and collection points – or just toss stuff in the garbage? Assess what percentage of recyclable items your family is actually putting into your bin. Are you using reusable bags for groceries?

Chemicals and Fertilizers: Are you still using harmful chemicals inside and outside your home, whether to clean toilets or kill slugs and weeds? How many of your cleaning products can be replaced with commercial non-toxic products, and homemade cleaners using alternatives like vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice.

Outside the home, are there opportunities to replace chemical-based fertilizers with organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion and compost? What about using alternatives to pesticides including coffee grounds, vinegar and non-toxic commercial solutions.

Transportation/Autos:  Assess how often your cars must be used at the same time? How many miles is each car driven and what are your monthly fuels costs? Use this information to analyze whether you can potentially give up one car or switch to an electric or plug-in hybrid car. Make sure your audit includes opportunities to use public transportation such as BART, car sharing services and those bicycles gathering dust in your garage.

Reviewing the areas above will provide you and your family a foundation for understanding what opportunities you have to lessen your impact on the planet and save money through lower water, energy and auto fuel bills. Gather your audit findings and in January’s column, we’ll outline a process to help you prioritize and plan your personal sustainability actions for 2015.   Visit us at www.sustainabledanville.com or www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville.com