Compost Happens

 BY CYNTHIA RUZZI

When you chuck the greasy pizza box, pounds of used paper napkins, chicken bones or apple peels – where does it go? In too many cases it’s going in your garbage and ultimately, it winds up in one of our overused landfills.  Every year, Americans waste tons of food, making it the number one material taking up landfill space – even more than plastic or paper waste. The cost to us all is that this produces methane gas, a harmful pollutant that contributes to smog and breathing issues.

But since 2015, Danville, Alamo, Blackhawk and Diablo residents have been moving away from their methane addiction to a “Compost Happens” attitude. With the help of RecycleSmart’s residential food scrap program, customers can divert their food waste from landfill to composting locations. To make it simpler to collect food scraps at your home, customers can request a free food scraps pail by calling Republic Services at (925) 685-4711. Each plastic container has a tight sealing lid and handle. You can store the container in your kitchen to collect food waste and soiled paper material and then empty it weekly into your organics bin – the green cart also used for yard clippings.

Here are some helpful tips for recycling food scraps at your home:

  • Still get a paper newspaper? Line the container to help absorb liquids. Dispose the liner with the food scraps and start fresh the following week.
  • If you choose to use a bag to line the container, please use compostable ones and not biodegradable bags. Look for “Compostable: BPI-Meets ASTM 6400 Standard” on the
  • Don’t like the smell? Empty scraps into a container and freeze them before emptying them directly your organics bin. It also reduces the messiness of wet food scrap materials.
  • Yard trimming are a great way to mask any odors in your organics bin – just bury the food scraps under a layer of clippings.
  • For those members of our household, that are too lazy to lift the container lid…I also have a small utensil drying rack (available on Amazon or at your local kitchen supply store) that hooks over the inside rim of my kitchen waste pail and catches apple cores and other snack waste. At the end of the day, I empty this collection into the container under the kitchen sink.
  • Pizza boxes and other soiled paper products go directly into the organics bin instead of contaminating the recycled paper container.

While it might be easier to dump everything into a garbage pail or into the sink disposal; I’m happy to do my part to reduce the 96% of food waste that the EPA estimates is clogging our landfills and contributing to air pollution. The only thing I feel badly about is that I’m stealing nutrients from my garden, so I save autumn leaves for my plants.

Autumn leaf drop provides plenty of material to give composting a great start! Composting will transform leaves and other yard waste into a high-quality soil amendment that will invigorate my landscaping. It is far more energy efficient to compost yard waste right in our own backyard then carting it off to a landfill. When we compost, we are simply replicating a natural process that is going on all around us. Soils are continually replenished by nutrient-rich dead grasses and leaves as they decompose on their own.

Many residents assume it is too much work to do their own composting. Nothing could be further from the truth! Typically composting requires less than 15 minutes of time every two weeks and will yield finished compost in as little as four months.

Here is a simple, low-effort method for composting using a compost bin. When building a compost pile, use equal amounts of fresh yard waste (high nitrogen content) and old, dry yard waste (high carbon content). Mix these materials together as they go into your bin, and add water. Once composting has started, the material in your bin will begin to get warm or even hot! This is a positive sign that aerobic decomposition has started. Turn or agitate the composting yard waste once every ten to fourteen days to maintain faster decomposition. The water content should be moist, not wet. Go ahead and add fresh yard waste when needed. After a few months, most of what has been added will look like dark brown, fluffy soil. This indicates that the composting process is done and the finished compost is ready to be distributed around your yard.

For more information on composting, visit RecyleSmart.org/composting. You’ll find great resources, including videos and a list of workshop events. Their next Composting for Busy People is Saturday, November 5th 10 -11:30am at Sloat Garden Center. Reservations are required, but participation is free. Call (925) 906-1801 or visit their website.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:

http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html

 

Keeping our storm drains free from pollution

By Marco Conci, Eagle Scout, Troop 36

I recently had the opportunity to work with the Town of Danville’s Clean Water Program Coordinator, Chris McCann and 12 Boy Scouts from Troop 36 to replace curb markers above storm drains.

Dumping anything into storm drains is not just wrong, it’s illegal. Storm water is often considered a nuisance because it mobilizes pollutants such as motor oil and trash. Pollutants such as oil, paint, pesticides, fertilizers, and soaps contaminate storm water and cause harm to our ecosystem. This affects ocean water quality and marine life.

Storm drain marking is an established method to increase community awareness about non-point source pollution. The Town of Danville has an established program to replace the storm drain markers and increase community awareness to educate the public not to dump pollution into our streets and waterways.

Unlike the water that flows down the drains inside your home which goes to sewage treatment facilities, the storm drain system is completely separate; water in the storm drain receive no treatment or filtering process. This means that any pollution that gets washed into the storm drains go directly to our creeks here in Danville and ultimately the Bay.

We can all do our part to keep storm water clean. So what can we do to make it better? There are a lot of things:

Keep trash and chemicals off the streets.  That means picking up litter when you see it, even if it’s not your own, and avoiding the use of harsh chemicals.

Make sure your car is in good working order so that the oil and gas doesn’t drip onto the pavement and eventually into the drain.

Pick up after your dog. You don’t want to swim in its waste the next time you go to the beach!

Be a community advocate.  Report full or clogged storm drains to your department of public works.

Here’s some other simple do’s and don’ts:

Don’t wash your car at home because the soapy suds join a polluted mix of grime, metals, petroleum products and chemicals that flow into the street, then into the drain which flow into our creeks and eventually the bay and ocean. Do take your car to a commercial location that has a drain that flows into a treatment facility where the water is cleaned before it is released.

Don’t water garden and lawns with the sprinklers running too long or spraying too far, the extra water can carry pollutants like fertilizers and animal waste into the drain. Do adjust your sprinklers so they work properly and only water areas that need it.

Don’t hose your concrete paths because the water can pick up other trash that flow into the drain.

Do use a broom (which is also a wise choice during our drought).

Here’s some other good storm water management ideas to consider.

In cities with lots of concrete, 75% of the rainwater runs into the sewer instead of being absorbed by the ground as it would in a natural environment. Counter this by using rain barrels to divert water from storm drains therefore, reducing pollutants.  Or use rain chains to direct water to your garden using water wisely and keeping it out of our storm drains—saving you money and helping with the drought.

Our State and regional water board support projects that include low impact development designs that capture water where it falls. For example, in new developments or in re-landscaping using trees and plants near sidewalks and roads work to soak up water into the ground to feed living things, instead of having the water roll of the pavement into the street and drains.

By keeping water on your property and preventing runoff, you’ll be doing your favorite beach a favor too. The less water that gets into our storm drain system, the cleaner our beaches stay.

As part of my project, we distributed flyers to houses throughout my neighborhood to educate the public on storm drain awareness. On the flyer, I asked Danville residents to pledge not to misuse the storm drain system with pollutant, such as pouring toxic materials in their streets that would flow to the storm drain.  You can show your commitment to our community, environment, wildlife, and bay clean and healthy by signing this online pledge: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/444/692/655

If you sign before September 15th, 2016 you will have a chance to win a Starbucks gift card.

 

drains to creek

For more information check out some of these sources:

http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/stormwater/

http://www.cccleanwater.org/prevent-pollution/safe-disposal-recycling/

http://www.cleanwaterways.org/residents/

Marco Conci, a gold palm Eagle Scout with Troop 36, is a Junior at Monte Vista High School. He is working toward his Hornaday Silver Award, which he will earn after completing four conservation projects.

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

 

Image

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

8x11_2016_Earth_Day