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

New Year, New Opportunity to Teach Your Kids about Healthy Choices

 

By Valerie Carlson Pressley

 Like many of us, you have made resolutions for 2016 and leading a healthier life is on the top of your list. So, what about nurturing that same idea in the minds of your children? It seems educating adults about the benefits of organic eating and living more healthy is one thing; exposing children to that same information and motivating them is quite another.

Fortunately, kids are sponges for new experiences and convincing arguments. Including your children in activities and discussions about the foods you eat and the reasons behind the earth-friendly choices your family makes may be easier than you think. Here are a few simple ways to engage kids at home and pique their interest in all-things-healthy in the New Year.

  1. Encourage child participation in meal preparation – Children as young as three years old can be big helpers around mealtime. With a rounded or plastic knife, kids can be shown how to slice fruits and vegetables such as watermelon or banana, or can be put in charge of shucking corn or snapping asparagus stalks. Odds are, if they help prepare it, kids may be more apt to eat and enjoy it.

 

Logan
Logan, age 10, carefully slices vegetables for a salad.

  1. Plant a seed, grow a garden – Even if your available gardening space is limited to a kitchen window sill, that is still plenty of room to start an indoor garden and watch the seeds of plant life take root. Planting anything from parsley to sunflower seeds in small pots or containers will do the job – within weeks, they will begin to sprout and demonstrate the power of good soil, consistent watering, sunlight and patience. If you have space in your yard to plant a larger vegetable or flower garden, then there is additional opportunity to teach children about safe pesticides, weed control and the benefits of nutrient-rich composting. Or consider volunteering for The Bounty Garden, a community-service garden in Hap Magee Ranch Park. The Bounty Garden donates organic vegetables to local food pantries that are grown by volunteers. No experience necessary. If interested send an email to thebountygarden@gmail.com.
  1. Get moving and grooving – On rain-free Danville days, it is time to leave the car at home and roll the bikes out of the garage. Not only is bike riding a great family activity, the exercise will make drinking water and eating juicy, refreshing fruit even more satisfying. If you see yourself embracing bike riding on a regular basis, invest in some sturdy bicycle baskets to attach to your child’s handlebars so they can help transport groceries or goodies home from your next outing.

Georgia

Georgia, age 13, loves riding her bike to some of her favorite spots in The Livery and downtown.

  1. Support your local Farmers’ Market – Farmers’ Markets are a treasure trove of locally grown, organic produce, plants, flowers, jam, nuts, honey, fish and meat. They also serve as a fantastic outdoor venue for people watching, connecting with neighbors and enjoying local entertainment. Yet, one of the most valuable features of patronizing your local farmers’ market is exposing your kids to the growers of the food and items being sold. Saunter up to an apple vendor and ask why their apples are superior to the ones you can buy in the store. Undoubtedly, the vendor will eagerly share his/her reasoning, along with a tasty sample to reinforce the point. In that instant, your kids will have just witnessed learning outside of the classroom in its purest form.

As you can see, taking steps towards a more organic, health-infused lifestyle doesn’t have to be monumental to move mountains for children. Some very simple things—buying and discussing the benefits of organic foods, getting kids’ hands dirty in the kitchen and garden, promoting the thrill of exercise over a car’s carbon footprint, and supporting local farmers and their products—will leave a positive imprint on the minds and choices of our children, and hopefully for a lifetime to come.

Wishing you a happy and very healthy 2016! For more sustainable tips, visit SustainableDanville.com or follow us at http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville

Valerie Carlson Pressley is a marketing professional, freelance writer and mother of two in Danville. She can be found riding her turquoise Trek cruiser to the Danville Farmers’ Market on Saturdays with her stash of LOVE reusable bags. Email: vcpressley@gmail.com

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

 

Make this a Bounty Year without having to open your pocket

Happy New Year –

As you probably know, Sustainble Danville Area are major fans of The Bounty Garden in Danville. The Bounty Garden is a service garden in Hap Magee Ranch Park that teaches volunteers of all ages to grow organic vegetables – with all the produce donated to our local food pantries.

Just last year, the garden (a lovely place to visit and an even better place to volunteer), donated over 3,500 pounds of fresh, organic produce to those in need in Contra Costa County.

The Bounty Garden runs on a mimimal budget with only private donations. You can help by joining AMAZON’S SMILE program. It is simple to sign up and costs you nothing.

In a nutshell, AmazonSmile gives you the right to donate .5% of your eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. It is the same Amazon you know, the same products, the same prices and the same service. Amazon simply lets you direct the donations earned by your purchases.

To learn more go to http://www.smile.amazon.com or go directly to The Bounty Garden link to sign up and help this wonderful program.

Here’s to an amazing sustainable year.

Sustainable Danville Area

Have A VERY, MERRY GREEN HOLIDAY

SDA Holiday Image 2012

BY KATHLEEN KULL URBAN

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and be overwhelmed with decorating, shopping for the perfect gift, and planning festive dinners and activities. However, having an environmentally friendly holiday season doesn’t have to be hard. Even a few small changes can have a big impact.

Artificial trees provide enjoyment year after year, but the plastic components are toxic to produce. Consider a live tree that you cut down at a local, organic tree farm. It saves on shipping, pollution, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. Potted trees are also a good alternative. They can live outside throughout the year, be brought inside at Christmas time to decorate, and then donated to a school for planting.

Whether you’re driving through a neighborhood or shopping at a mall, festive holidays lights are everywhere. With the high cost of electricity, LED lights can save up to 90% on your electric bill, the LEDs don’t have bulbs and filaments that break, don’t get hot, and they last a long time. Put the lights on only at night and use a timer to save even more money.

Do you still send out holiday cards each year? There are eco-friendly alternatives such as emailing cards, sending postcards (no envelopes), or using smaller cards. Choose pastel colors if possible. Bright red and green paper is hard to recycle. After the holidays, recycle cards by sending them to St Jude’s Ranch for Children. Call 877-977-7572 for details because they do not accept all cards.

When it’s time to shop for gifts, look for ones with minimal packaging or recyclable materials such as cardboard. If the gift requires batteries, buy rechargeable ones. For information about recycling batteries and other hazardous waste, contact the Contra Costa County Household Hazardous Waste Program at 800-750-4096.

Did you know that Americans produce an additional 25% trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve? We’re sending an extra five million tons of garbage to the landfills. There are many earth-friendly alternatives to the plastic toys and gadgets that end up in the trash. A memorable experience can be a lasting treasure: a zoo membership, a cooking class, a massage, dance lessons, performance tickets, or a museum pass. Homemade gifts for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas are especially thoughtful: baked cookies, a story or poem written for the recipient, a knitted scarf, a booklet with your favorite recipes, or a photograph of your family.

What do you give to someone who has “everything?” A socially conscious gift can have a lasting, positive impact. Donating a dairy goat through Heifer International (www.heifer.org) provides milk, cheese, yogurt and butter for a needy family. Help prevent disease in impoverished countries by donating to Project Concern (www.ProjectConcern.org). A loan to Kiva (www.kiva.org) can alleviate poverty by enabling entrepreneurs in poor countries to start a small business. There are many local options too, including honoring the gift recipient with a donation to the Discovery Counseling Center of the San Ramon Valley (http://www.discoveryctr.net) or the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

When it’s time to wrap a gift, choose paper that doesn’t have metal foil or fibers that are not recyclable. Sunday comics, kids’ art, magazine pages, old maps, and fabric remnants make interesting conversation pieces. So do boxes you decorate to reuse next year. Most practical are holiday towels or scarves that serve double duty as a wrapping and a gift. When adding a gift tag, make one out of a recycled holiday card.

Everyone enjoys a delicious holiday meal, but are you guilty of making too much food? Try to be earth friendly and buy local, organic, and fair trade foods, and only what your family will consume. With a variety of composting options available, food scraps don’t need to visit the landfill. Recycle beverage containers such as plastic jugs, paper milk cartons, soda cans, and wine bottles. Wrap leftovers in recyclable aluminum foil rather than plastic wrap.

Sustainable Danville Area wishes our friends and supporters a happy and peaceful holiday season.  Visit us at ww.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea

 

 

Green from a guy’s perspective

November 2015

By Marco Conci, Homaday Eagle Scout, Troop 36

I recently attended the Sustainable Contra Costa County Award dinner and received a copy of “The Better World Shopping Guide” by Ellis Jones. It’s an interesting guide that shows you which companies are most environmentally friendly. I learned that money is power for these companies, so it seems like they get away with more than they should. For example, there’s a major company that makes household chemicals, health care and beatify products. This multimillion dollar company is rated one of the lowest in sustainability. In fact, I read that not only do some of their products—like the threw-away wipes for counters, floors, bathrooms and hands go straight into landfill and they do unnecessary animal testing. And it seems that they spent $46 MM on lobbyists – for what, I wonder? There’s tons of information packed in this little book and on their website www.betterworldshopper.org

A lot of people don’t realize how quickly our planet is going extinct because of human action. I recently learned that some fast food places are known for demolishing rainforests. How you ask?  Well, for example, basic items like making palm oil—which is in many foods and beauty products—is ruining rainforests. Search the World Wildlife Federation and you’ll learn that “uncontrolled clearing of land for conventional palm oil plantations has led to widespread loss of these irreplaceable forests”. So our choices in what we eat not only affects the forests, but is affecting wildlife and the survival of animals such as the tigers, elephants and orangutans.  This may be a bigger issue than we can resolve from Danville, but we can play our part by making good choices in the products we buy. Get to know the food manufacturers you buy your food from. There are definitely a few major food companies that could do a lot better in their environmental practices.

The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it. It’s pretty easy to recycle we just have to make it a habit like remembering to turn off the water when you brush your teeth. Did you know that, by recycling one aluminum can you can save enough energy to listen to a full album on your iPod? And by recycling 100 cans you can light your bedroom for 2 whole weeks!

If we all make small changes, we can make a big difference in how we take care of our earth. If you buy water bottles or cans make sure you recycle them or better yet carry your own reusable water bottle. And know the rules on recycling, such as what item goes in what bin.  A used pizza box can’t go in recycling but it can go in your green bin. There’s some easy rules to learn and recycling is always better than landfill.

Think about recycling when you’re shopping too. It seems that a lot of big name brands from food to electronics have lots of cheap packaging materials that can’t be recycled. These materials, such as Styrofoam are bad for the environment and take forever to decompose. But at the same time there’s many companies that are making an effort to change their packaging and shipping practices.

When you’re buying electronics research the company to check if they’re environmentally responsible. Almost all companies share this information on their website. Chances are there’s little difference in price when you compare companies; and when you’re done with those electronics make sure you recycle them, including the batteries.

As Californians we all know that water is incredibly important. EBMUD’s recent decision to change our water source from a reservoir in Sierras to a Sacramento reservoir is definitely a sign of how bad the drought is. So keep making those showers short, put a bucket in the shower to catch the excess water, turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth and keep watering of plants and landscape to a minimum.

Another easy way to make your carbon footprint smaller is to ride your bike or walk.  We live in a great town with lots of trails so think about riding if your friend’s house or the ballfield is a mile away. That’s less than a 10 minute walk or ride.  So it boils down to choices – which ones are you going to make?

Marco Conci is a sophomore at Monte Vista High School in Danville and an Eagle Scout with Boy Scout Troop 36. In September, Marco received the Rising Star Award from Sustainable Contra Costa County.  Marco is currently in process of selecting another Hornaday Conservation project to pursue.   

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

Please turn off your smog.

Tip of the Month – October 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Recently on a beautiful morning, with a lovely temperature of 68 degrees, I arrived at the dry cleaners at the same time as another car. As I turned off my vehicle and collected my garments, I admired a young father and his two young children—who were reading peacefully in the back seat. The father mirrored my actions, gathering his garments before exiting his car, but, he left one step out – he didn’t turn off his vehicle. Instead, this father left his car idling.

Idling is when a driver leaves the engine running and yet, the vehicle is parked. Every day in the US millions of cars and trucks idle needlessly, sometimes for hours. Certainly there are times when a driver may not be able to avoid running their car engine, such as when stopped at traffic signal or stuck in slow-moving traffic…but honestly, stepping into a store for five or ten minutes is not one of those unavoidable times.

Besides the inexcusable danger of the possibility that one of his precious children might have wandered to the drivers’ seat for any number of reasons and accidently or intentionally thrown the car into gear endangering their lives and others – this father added to unnecessary air pollution that his family and all of us don’t need.

An idling car spews out as much or more unhealthy smog and soot as a moving car. Nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds are the main health-harming pollutants. These pollutants have been linked to asthma, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and cancer. Unfortunately, children and the elderly, along with those with asthma and other chronic health problem are especially susceptible to the dangers of car exhaust.

Idling cars also emit carbon dioxide (CO2) which is a main heat-trapping gas leading to global warming. Each day, Americans waste approximately 3.8 million gallons of gasoline idling their cars. To offset emissions in our community, we would have to cover the entire land mass of our city each and every year with new trees.

Besides polluting our air and wasting gas, idling is also a poor practice for modern automotive engines. Many have a misconception that idling is beneficial for our car engines, but this outdated habit actually harms the car, our wallets and the environment.

Here’s four ways to be idle free:

Turn off the ignition when you’re waiting for more than 10 seconds. Just idling for 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine. Car experts share that if you idle longer than 10 seconds both you and your car engine are better off if you turn your vehicle off and then restart it when ready to move.

Warm up your engine by driving it, not by idling. Modern cars require only a few seconds of idling time before they can be driven safely, even in winter. The best way to warm up a car is to ease into your drive and not revving the engine. In fact, the engine warms twice as quickly when driven verses standing still.

Warm up your car’s interior by driving. Driving is also the best way to get your car’s heating system to deliver warm air faster. Remember when you sit in an idling car you are breathing in dirty exhaust fumes that leak into the car’s interior cabin. Is the warmth of sitting there worth damage to your health – or the health of your children?

Take care of your car engine.  Restarting your car frequently is not hard on the engine, nor will it provide undo wear to your battery. The opposite is true – engine idling forces it to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that can degrade the engine’s performance and reduce mileage.

By understanding the effects of idling and reducing the times you do so can improve your car’s performance, save you gas money and most importantly – keep the air clean for those we love.

Want to learn more about reducing pollution, waste and preserving our environment? Follow us at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville or visit us at www.sustainabledanville.com

 

 

 

 

 

Dollars for Turf and Toilets

Tip of the Month – September 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville

The California Department of Water Resources has announced new rebates to help replace old, inefficient toilets and lawns with water-saving alternatives.Besides the $100 rebate to replace one toilet per household, the bigger rebate is $2 per square foot for lawn replacement, up to $2,000 per household. www.SaveOurWaterRebates.com.

Now is an opportune time to replace your water-thirsty lawn because if the weather forecasts are right, we should soon receive El Nino soaking rains. My husband and I converted our front and backyard lawns in response to the 2008-09 EBMUD emergency requesting a 20% reduction in water use by residential customers. We stopped watering our lawns¾and plants¾with the idea that anything that couldn’t make it on once a month watering would be replaced.

front yard

There are many classes and free resources about drought tolerant plants including seasonal sales from The Garden at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek and the Horticulture Program at Diablo Valley College. I worked with Chris Finch, a drought tolerant plant expert that helped write the publication, Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry climates of the San Francisco Bay Region  to identify plants that appealed to me and would work in our community’s climate. EBMUD also has a resource list of local nurseries, demonstration gardens, classes and events, and books where you can learn about and view native plants.  Additionally, some local nurseries will design a lawn conversion planting plan for a fee and then rebate the fee as credit toward plants purchased. (Click here to investigate East Bay nurseries that offer significant “Tear Out Your Lawn” challenge discounts and free consultations.)

After laying a new path of Kentucky Blue Stone pavers, we tapped off our sprinklers that would later be converted to drip irrigation.  During the month, our neighbors and friends saved newspapers and cardboard to use for sheet mulching. This is an important step

in the conversion process because the sheet mulch kills the lawn and suppresses further weed growth while improving soil nutrients and structure and encouraging favorable microbial activity.  Sheet mulching is a wonderful labor saver because it spares you the hard work of actually tearing out the lawn.  However, if your lawn is full of tree roots you may have to do some additional digging or rototilling to rid the area of roots before you can lay down an effective mulch covering.  (Click here to learn more tips for sheet mulching success.)

 

cardboard

 

Once we had our plant layout, we knew exactly where we needed water, so we converted our sprinklers to drip irrigation. This weekend project was accomplished with a trip to the local hardware store that offers a screw-on octopus replacement to sprinkler heads that make it easy to connect tubing and drippers.

pathway Once the sheet mulching was done, we covered it with 5 inches of compost. I was able to plant over 60 plants in one afternoon and because I used 4-inch sized pots and there was no need to dig into the cardboard/newspaper. While I was doubtful the plants would fill our yard, Chris assured me that they would be full-sized by spring. But she was right. I encourage you to visit lawn conversion page to see more pictures and learn more about the process.

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News