Category Archives: Danville CA

Share the Love

Tip of the Month – February 2017

By Cynthia Ruzzi

Can’t say I’m much for Valentine’s Day; at least not since the days of making hand-made cards in school for mom and dad – and the boy across the aisle. However, in a winter that has been ‘this-trying’, stressing us in so many ways; it’s time to share a little love. Now, I’m not talking about the kind that comes from a heart-shaped cardboard box – I’m talking serious, thoughtful effort for those you love and for those that need your love. I encourage you to embrace ideals from movements like “Pass it Forward”, “Random Act of Kindness”, “One Warm Coat” and the “Free Hugs Project”.

Locally, I am inspired by individuals like Amelia and Heidi Abramson and their small band of volunteers that run The Bounty Garden https://thebountygarden.wordpress.com/ teaching others in Hap Magee Park to grow organic vegetables that are donated to local food banks or Anna Chan aka “The Lemon Lady” who walking her toddler saw lemons going to waste on a neighbor’s tree and started a foundation to collect such fruit for those in need and of course, Siamack Sioshansi, Founder of The Urban Farmers who has helped neighbors, schools and spiritual groups coordinate fruit harvests from here to Solano welcoming everyone through their online calendar.

Got too many things going on to commit to a coordinated effort? Try something spontaneous and delicious. How ‘bout random deliveries of packaged goodies delivered to a few in your neighborhood? Here’s a simple recipe for homemade granola bars that may find their way to your doorstep on February 14th.

Dark Chocolate – Coconut Granola Bars

Ingredients – Makes about 20 2 inch squares (Choose Organic if you can)

  • 2 Cups Rolled Oats
  •  ½ Cup Raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ Cup Coconut Oil
  • ¾ Cup Smashed Pecans or Almonds
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 Cup Coconut Flakes
  • 1/3 Cup Agave
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted dark chocolate

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread oats on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 20 mins. Remove the oats and turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Carefully transfer to a bowl and toss with the coconut oil. Add the coconut flakes, raisins, nuts, cinnamon, salt vanilla and agave and give it a good mixing.

Return the mixture to the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Spread to about ¼ inch thick using the back of a tablespoon to press down a little as you go. Don’t worry about it being exact. Bake at 300 degrees until golden brown – about 18 minutes in my convection oven. Remove pan and let cool completely. Melt chocolate in microwave or over double boiler (set one pot over another that has a cup of simmering boiled water) and use a tablespoon to slowly drizzle chocolate over the top of the bars.

Once completely cooled and hardened, cut the bars into 2 inch pieces and store in containers or bags for your delivery. Keep the crumbles for your own yogurt topping.  Decorate the bags with hearts and lace for a nostalgic trip back to elementary school or make it a project for your little ones. To protect those with allergies please include a copy of the ingredients or recipe so they will know what has been included. Along with this consider including a handwritten note telling the recipient what you love or admire about them. Make it fun and sign it with your version of ‘secret admirer’ …perhaps ‘love and peace, your neighbor’.  Now you’re ready to share the love with your yummy doorstep bundles.

 

Getting to Zero Waste

Tip of the Month – April 2016

By Cynthia Ruzzi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:

http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html

 

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

8x11_2016_Earth_Day

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

 

Inside Cosmetics

Tip of the Month

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 at http://www.sustainabledanville.com.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:

http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html

It’s Time for a Picnic

Sustainable Danville Area Tip of the Month – April 2013

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Just two days past Spring Equinox and Mother Nature has spring fever.  The poppies are flourishing along with so many other colorful blooms and even after what has proven to be our driest winter, our hills are green.  The sun is warm and my concentration is so poor; I had to ask for a deadline extension for submitting this month’s tip of the month.  This month’s column has more than just one Sustainable Tip of the Month, but it’s a picnic – a smorgasbord of ‘Where to Find Sustainable Tips’.

For almost three years, we have shared tips on everything from the benefits of biking, local food, sustainable landscaping to home energy diets, eco-travel, raising chickens and eco-friendly art supplies.  These articles are still available to you online from Danville Today News/Alamo Today News and on the Sustainable Danville Area website

Often, I’m asked to describe what sustainable living is and simply it’s ‘making choices that allow our resources to continue to be available for our children and their children’, ‘living as though there’s no Planet B’ and remembering that ‘Planet Earth is the only one with chocolate’.  With this in mind and in honor of Earth Day, celebrated worldwide on April 22nd by hundreds of millions of people in over 184 countries, here are some of our favorite places for information and tips to care for our corner of this wonderful planet.

Gardening:  Hands down the Contra Costa Master Gardeners have it ‘going on’. These trained volunteers are residents of local communities that provide University of California research-based horticultural information to the citizens of California. Besides engaging local lectures, their website is filled with tips for school gardens, edible gardens and drought and native landscaping.

Composting & Recycling:  Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority offers terrific information on where to recycle just about anything.  You’ll also find a calendar for composting workshops, including worm composting too.

PG&E:   Saving energy in your home is not just good for the planet, it’s good for your pocketbook. PG&E has great tools to track your electric and gas usage online and they make it easy to do a self-audit of your home energy to find and prevent energy loss.

Environmental Working Group  This powerhouse site is our ‘go-to’ place for everything from their cosmetic database, the Dirty Dozen list (which recommends the best fruits and vegetables to buy organic to avoid pesticides) and guides on sunscreens, home cleaners and other daily products.

Earth Day EventWant more?  Well then, Picnic on the Green! The Town of Danville, The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area present the 3rd Annual Town of Danville Earth Day Event on Saturday, April 20th 12pm – 4pm on the Town Green, in  the Danville Library, at the community center and the Village Theatre Art Gallery.

The Town of Danville Earth Day event is a free, fun and informative way for residents and visitors of all ages to learn about green building, sustainable landscape design, solar power, home energy efficient products, waste reduction, recycling, water conservation, hybrid and electrical vehicles and much more!

Pack your picnic or purchase lunch and snacks al fresco from La Boulange Bakery while enjoying music from local band, Other People’s Money.  Play with our Giant Earth Ball, visit with hybrid/electric car and electric bicycle owners and participate in popular hands-on activities at interactive booths, including:

  •  Get ready to experience nature with Peanuts…Naturally! Fun, creative environmental crafts and activity stations presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
  • Plant a seed to start your summer vegetable garden with The Bounty Garden and Urban Farmers.
  • Explore the Wonderful World of Worms and Composting for Busy People.
  • Make an Earth Day pledge to reduce, re-use or recycle. See how Every Choice Counts and help the Earth Day Tree grow!  Everyone who adds a ‘leaf pledge’ will be entered into an hourly raffle to win a “Get Your Green On” reusable book bag.
  • Afternoon speaker series will help you Green Your Home, Replace your Lawn with Drought Tolerant Plants and Enjoying Local, Organic Foods for a Healthy Planet.
  • Be inspired at Story Time with special tales and eco-friendly ideas to celebrate the Earth all year.
  • Measure your carbon footprint.Discover if solar energy is right for your home?
  • Be dazzled by art from local students at the Earth Day Student Art Show in the Village Theatre Art Gallery. (Students: click here for  details to enter contest before 4/5/13)
  • Try new veggies from Community Supported Agriculture Farms – Full Belly Farms & Doorstep Farmers.

Students from San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are hosting free bicycle parking for the event, so please consider two wheels or your feet as parking is limited for the event.  Hope to see you there!

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

MOW NO MORE

tip of the month – august 2012

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President

My family has always been grateful for the ‘dog day afternoons’ of August.  Sure to be filled with hot, sunny skies its’ time to leave lawn chores behind and head to the beach.  For years, we made sure to lighten our burden by following prudent grass growing techniques to make our escape easier and less guilt ridden.

Long ago we stopped using synthetic fertilizers because they are a threat to the bay as they wash down storm drains. Of the 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem and others are toxic to birds, bees and humans, htttp://beyondpesticides.org/lawn/factsheets/30health.pdf .   Additionally, these chemicals are formulated to stimulate a lot of grass growth quickly, demanding more water and even more mowing! Using organic products and grass clippings that work with the soil and feed the lawn slowly over the season makes for less work.  Every spring until after Labor Day, we’d set our lawnmower blade higher to leave our grass at least 3 inches long after each ‘haircut’. The taller grass shaded the surface of the soil preventing crabgrass and other weed seeds from taking root, helped conserve water and thus, encouraged deep root growth to allow our lawn to become more drought-tolerant.

When my youngest son shared EPA statistics learned in his high school AP Environmental Science class about gas powered lawnmowers representing 5% of the US air pollution before 1997, we had our excuse to look for alternatives.  Unregulated for emissions until the late 1990’s, gas powered garden equipment emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide – in other words pollution in your backyard. In fact, the EPA states that a new gas powered lawn mower produces enough air pollution in one hour as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour. http://www.epa.gov/air/community/details/yardequip_addl_info.html

The solution seemed apparent after a trip to the local hardware store where my husband ‘oohed’ over the latest ‘push’ mowers that definitely are not your father’s lawnmower.  Touting high-grade plastics, lightweight metals, precision blades that rarely need sharpening and promising the cutting of grass cleanly and evenly, we were almost there.   And then, the water emergency of 2009 hit us.  EBMUD penalized any resident that didn’t cut their water usage by twenty percent.  Given that we were already using an on-demand water heater, a high efficiency washer and dryer and a foot peddle that controls the water faucet in the kitchen sink to turn off the water when not needed, it was up to our garden to give up ‘it’s drink’.  This only made sense since more than 30 percent of all urban fresh water is used for watering lawns.  Imagine how much is wasted because of inappropriate timing, dosage or misdirected sprinklers.  I went outside and explained the situation to the grass and plants, “Look guys it’s been lovely, but you either flourish on once a week watering or be composted”.  More than half the garden made it, including my favorite rose bush, now entering its 32th year of precious yellow blooms.  However, I needed replacement for the other half of plants and the ‘California Golden’ lawn.  Luckily that’s when I came across an EBMUD program to convert my garden grass to a native plant landscape.

The EBMUD rebate program (extended to December 31, 2012) provides up to $500 dollars to help transform your lawn into water permeable and drought-resistant landscape.  Converting our front and back lawns through the EBMUD program was very simple.  The first step is to measure the lawn area you want to convert than complete the application form which can be found online at https://www.ebmud.com/for-customers/water-conservation-rebates-and-services/watersmart-residential-lawn-conversion.

The best time to start the physical work of the project is mid-to-late September since new plants will benefit from the approaching winter dominancy and rains.  However, August is the perfect time to start the design process by familiarizing yourself with drought tolerant plants that will thrive in your microclimate.  A wonderful resource is EBMUD publication Plant and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region.  EBMUD also has a resource list of bay area nurseries, demonstration gardens, classes and books where you can learn about and view native plants.

As part of the lawn conversion program, an EBMUD representative will meet with you both pre and post-conversion.  The representative shared great resources and explained that using the process of sheet mulching would spare us the hard work of tearing out the lawn.  Sheet mulching is a layered mulching system that suppresses weeds and in the case of a lawn conversion, grass.  This process also made it possible to plant over 60 small plants in the front yard in one afternoon – alone.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Death of My Lawnmower: One Homeowners’ Journey to Replacing Our Lawn, visit https://sustainabledanville.wordpress.com/save-water-and-energy-with-a-lawn-conversion/.   And if you’re not quite envying our mow-free weekends, then consider this watering guide for water smart tips for landscape: http://www.ebmud.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/WateringGuide_0.pdf

Remember to visit us at www.sustainabledanville.com and on Facebook for more tips, information and upcoming events, like:

Kathy Kramer of Bringing Back the Natives has organized a series of fall events including two workshops on how to sheet mulch your lawn and install native gardens.  Dates: September 16 in Livermore and October 21 in Lafayette and Concord.

Read more at the Bringing Back the Natives website.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News