Category Archives: TIP OF THE MONTH BLOG

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.

 

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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.

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

 

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

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