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

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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

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.

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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