Every Choice Counts

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President

A little over four years ago three women were introduced in a local coffee shop.  Coming from different regions of the country, bringing different experiences and perspectives, together they agreed that ‘Every Choice Counts’.  So, on Earth Day 2010 they invited others to come together to talk about what is special about our community and how to preserve it. And on that first evening, neighbors and community leaders launched Sustainable Danville Area.

Similarly, seven years ago a man used his position to alert the public to the changes we were facing from carbon pollution.  Perhaps his message got missed by some because he was a politician or perhaps it was too perilous of a message for some to face.  But over time there has been a change of heart, an acceptance that perhaps we can live a little more lightly on the Earth and preserve what we have for our children.

Maybe, like me you are enjoying our lovely spring air and cherish the difference from the gloomy, dry, polluted winter days. Perhaps you’re ‘banking’ your children’s and grandchildren’s future and you want to make sure they will have the outdoors that we call our ‘backyard’ to enjoy years from now. Whatever your reason, more of us are remembering to bring re-useable grocery bags, forgo the plastic water bottle and we’re even using public transportation more today than any time since the 1950’s.

Perhaps the energy efficient appliances that grace our kitchen, laundry and TV room are a technological advantage over yesteryear, but our sustainable practices are not new. A past chairman of the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce shared the following story that emphasizes just that:

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.” That’s right; they didn’t have the green thing in her day.

 Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.  But they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

 Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line – wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. But the woman was right; they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

 They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. But they didn’t have the green thing back then.

 Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint. But then ……. they didn’t have the green thing back then!

We may not have had ‘the green thing’ back then, but we lived our lives with integrity for the Earth and our resources. We made ‘Every Choice Count’. To celebrate Earth Day this spring, perhaps you and your family will adopt a few of these practices for a day or a month and see that living lightly really isn’t inconvenient at all.

Please join Sustainable Danville Area at these April events and for more details, please visit us atwww.sustainabledanville.com or http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea

Is your child a ‘Kid-casso’?  Danville and Alamo K-12 students are invited to participate in 4th Annual Earth Day Student Art Contest and have their art displayed in the Town of Danville Community Center on April 19th. Deadline April 5th.

Along, with the San Ramon Valley High School E2 Club, we’ll host The Climate Reality Project, a multi-media update on ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ on Tuesday, April 8th at 7:00pm at SRVHS Performing Arts Center 501 Danville Avenue.

Pack your picnic or purchase lunch and snacks al fresco from La Boulange Bakery and Café while enjoying live music and playing with our Giant Earth Ball!  The 4th Annual Earth Day Event hosted by the Town of Danville, Sustainable Danville Area and the Danville Library presents fun for everyone on the Town Green in front of the Community Center and at the Danville Library at 400 Front Street. Saturday, April 19th 11am – 3pm.



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


Tip of the month – april 2012

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek doctor certainly got that right!  ‘Art is long and life is short’.  Art influences how we see the world and it gives us a means to express ourselves when words cannot.  Certainly the impression a piece of art makes on the viewer can outlive the ability to recall the artists’ name.  Yet finding a simple drawing you stored long ago, can flood you with treasured memories of the artist if it was your child. Giving recognition to a child’s artwork can build life confidence equal to scoring the winning homerun in a champion little league game.  I’m at least as proud of my trophy from a city-wide art contest in the third grade, as I am of my Best Girl Athlete medal from seventh grade.

As parents and educators we know how essential art is to teaching and encouraging our children.  Since art is such a vital part of raising healthy children, shouldn’t we consider making sure the art supplies our children use to create their art is healthy for them too?

Art supplies often contain toxins and pollutants that are both harmful to a child’s health and the environment.  Many art supplies contain toxic chemicals (PBTs) that can accumulate in the environment when they are made, used or discarded.  These PBTs can also accumulate in your child and cause illnesses such as headaches, breathing problems, nausea and possibly worse.

A great way to prevent possible negative effects of art supplies is to make sure you and your school purchase only sustainable, non-toxic art supplies.  Look for the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) seal of approval to make sure your art supplies are safe for the environment and your child. A guide to reading and understanding art supply labels can be found at the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition website: http://www.cehn.org/files/Art%20supplies_2_14_11(6).pdf 

With Spring Break just around the corner, now’s a perfect time to consider some environmentally friendly ways to spruce up your family art projects.

°       Recycled Materials

Juniors’ masterpiece will last just as long and look just as good on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper as it would on virgin paper.

°       Natural Ingredients

Who doesn’t love coloring?  But traditional crayons are made from a non-renewable petroleum byproduct, paraffin wax.  Look for crayons made from soy bean oil.  Not only are they non-toxic, but they’re bio-degradable too.  Looking to channel the Italian street artist within?  Organic chalk with all natural ingredients is totally safe for small children.  They can decorate away without you worrying about them putting their hands or the chalk in their mouth.  Eco-friendly colored pencils are my ‘tool of the trade’ and I use sustainably harvested wood ones like the ones found at Stubby Pencil Studio www.stubbypencilstudio.com.  Manufactured from California cedar wood and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to have originated from environmentally well-managed forests they draw great cartoon aliens, flowers, trees and dinosaurs.

°          Make Your Own Supplies

You’re never too old to enjoy a day of finger painting!  It’s simple to mix up a batch on your own.  Form a smooth paste with a cup of white flour (not self-rising) and 8 tablespoons of water.  Separate small portions into muffin tins and add organic food coloring to get the color you want.  Thin to a pudding consistency with additional water and you’re ready to create a Picasso.

Fancy yourself more of a Monet?  Create watercolors by mixing 4 tablespoons of baking soda with 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  Allow the mixture to rest until the fizzling stops.   Then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and ½ tablespoon of corn syrup.  Mix until crumbly and divide in a muffin tin.  Add about 10 drops organic food coloring to each cup.  Paint away,  mixing individual colors together to create a wide palette for your masterpiece.

Our recipes wouldn’t be complete without offering one for eco-friendly play dough.  Mix 1 cup white flour (not self-rising) with ½ cup of table salt in a bowl.  Gradually add 1/3 cup water while kneading the mixture until it reaches a dough consistency.  It should not be sticky.  To tint the dough, add organic food coloring as the dough is mixed to create various shades.  Store in the refrigerator in a well sealed container, but like all play dough  – it will eventually harden.

Danville and Alamo K-12 students are invited to participate in the Town of Danville 2012 Earth Day Art Poster Contest with the environmental theme of “Our World, Our Community”.  All the students’ art work will be displayed at the Town of Danville Village Art Theatre Gallery on Friday, April 20th 11-5pm as part of the town’s Earth Day Celebration.

A reception honoring our artists will be held at 4pm.  Prizes will be awarded to finalists in each of the following grade categories: Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12.  For complete instructions, please visit http://sustainabledanville.com/2012-earth-day-student-art-poster-contest/.  All art work must be submitted by entry deadline: 4pm April 17th.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News