Editor’s Note: The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico dominates the headlines as this goes to press, which makes our annual environmental issue a fitting reminder that the call to be an eco patriot grows louder by the day. This year, we found a special group of luminaries whose work in the world somehow makes a positive difference in the environment. From the guy whose “hippie” parents gave him the high spirits he needed to become a titan on the Green landscape to the gal whose fashion designs curb environmental waste, it’s hard not to be inspired. Behold: The Eco Patriots of 2010.
See also: Eleven Steps to Green Living in 2010 and Tips for Greening Your Business (below).
It’s true: JoeBen Bevirt will blow you away. There are so many reasons why—his energy is infectious, he’s brilliant, he wants to help the planet—but the main one, at least, for now, has to do with wind energy. More specifically, harnessing high-altitude wind energy and using it as clean power for the masses. A divine concept, and one Bevirt firmly believes is possible, which makes him one of the most enterprising eco patriots of 2010. But will the concept work? Can high-altitude wind energy actually be collected and used as energy? You bet, says Bevirt, and it’s a risk he’s happy to take when exploring. As a result, he doled out $5 million of his own funds to launch Joby Energy, located in Bonny Doon, an idyllic locale and fitting, really—the man grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains only to later dazzle brainiacs with his high-tech inventions, most notably the adjustable camera tripod titan dubbed Gorrillapod, which has proven to be an invaluable tool, especially in cancer research. With Joby Energy, the 36-year-old entrepreneur and his team of experts have built a prototype resembling a high-tech kite. On the rectangular structure, a number of miniature wind turbines collect energy and transfer it via a long cable to a power grid on the ground. The idea is that the higher altitude winds are stronger, more consistent and, basically, generate more power. How high do the über kites go? About 400 meters, just a tad farther than the height of the Eiffel Tower. Traditional wind turbines typically stand about 100 meters. After Bevirt and his crew finish tests on their current prototype, another model, about 20 times the size of the tester, will be used. Bevirt says that the device can supply power to 3,000 homes—a goal he hopes to reach in two years. We caught up with Bevirt to learn more about the man, his mission and why he’s suddenly so taken by the wind. | Greg Archer
GT: WHEN DID IT HIT YOU—HIGH ALTITUDE WIND ENERGY AS A VIABLE ENERGY RESOURCE?
JoeBen Bevirt: I spent a number of years in China doing business and I had respect for how ambitious and passionate the people were. And yet the population is four times as large as the U.S., so I began to look at the energy consequences of that. I started to ask myself what could we do to generate electricity in a clean and sustainable way without burning coal. In order to do that, we had to compete economically with the cost of coal. We needed a really cheap and a renewable way to produce electricity. I began looking at different sources. I am a kite surfer and I used to go kiting in Chrissy Field under the Golden Gate Bridge. The currents there are incredibly strong. Every day, as the tides come in, you have this huge rush of water through the Golden Gate and a huge amount of water that rushes back out. I was interested in tidal energies and eventually wondered whether we can use tidal energy to generate low-cost electricity. Then I spent a bunch of time looking at ground-based wind turbines, and solar and ocean thermal and a lot of time looking at algae. I basically took a broad-base look at energy technology. I was flying back and forth, internationally to Europe and Asia, and there were enough times where we were flying along and we were going be two hours early, because of tailwind. And I looked on a map on a screen that showed your air speed and your ground speed, and I thought, ‘That’s interesting, we have a 200-mile-an-hour tailwind today.’
SO, IN A WAY, THE IDEAS WERE BORN THERE?
Well, for kite surfing, there is a 20 mph wind. And for tailwind, it’s 10 times as fast and if you cube 10, then all of a sudden, you have got an energy source that is a thousand times more. I mean, those high-altitude winds don’t blow at 200-miles-an-hour all the time, but at that point in time, when I was flying through, it was a tremendous amount of energy and it was enough to spark in my mind that there was something here that needed to be looked at.
WHERE DID YOU LOOK FIRST?
I did research about atmospheric balloons, research that has been happening since the 1940s. We have this incredible database of atmospheric data that shows how powerful winds are around the planet. The more I got into it, the more I thought, ‘Wow, this is interesting.’ I hired a team of engineers. And the more engineers we hired, the more compelling it got. And we hired more. We started building prototypes.
HOW LONG WAS YOUR ‘RESEARCH’ BEFORE THE PROTOTYPES CAME INTO BEING?
I spent a couple of years doing a broad-base exploration into energy and then spent a couple of months on my own, scratching my head about whether there would be a way to harness high-altitude wind. And then a couple of months after we started building a team, we found out we were not alone; that people were thinking about this for a long time. There were amazing scientists in the ’70s and ’80s who really mapped out a lot of different solutions. And then there were a lot of other companies and teams around the world working on similar stuff. And that was motivating because all of a sudden, it felt like we were in a race. And it was also heartening, because we worked like crazy and suddenly, we were crazy with company.
WHY WAS THIS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO DO?
I took a broad-base look at what are the challenges the world faces. I have friends that are working in Africa doing AIDS projects. I have folks that are developing water systems in Haiti. I know folks that are building schools. There are so many important challenges where we can positively impact the future of the planet, but I decided that low-cost clean energy was essential to so many of today’s challenges, whether it’s water or food, or war or education. If you could provide clean low-cost electricity, it can transform the future of the planet.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PARENTS. I FOUND IT INTERESTING THAT YOU WERE RAISED ON AN ELECTRICITY-FREE COMMUNE IN THE SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS.
I am incredibly fortunate. I was born and raised along the coast. I was born to incredible parents who just showered me with love and support all through my childhood. They encouraged me and supported me in doing whatever crazy, ambitious thing I wanted to do. My parents were very much leading thinkers. They wanted to grow organic food long before organic food took off. We lived very sustainably and my mom was a pioneer in that area. She recruited a whole group of folks who were graduating from the Farm and Garden program [at UCSC] and so there was this amazing community of young forward-thinking, hard working, loving people that I grew up around, who just showered me with amazing energy. Santa Cruz was an incredibly nurturing and wonderful place for me to grow up. And now it’s my chance to give back and repay this incredible community for everything that it gave to me.
WHAT’S THE SECRET TO YOUR SUCCESS? THIS IS YOUR THIRD VENTURE IN A DECADE, AND YOU USED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF YOUR OWN MONEY TO LAUNCH JOBY ENERGY. SO WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOU SUCCESSFUL?
A lot of it is hard work. There was a bike I wanted when I was in first grade and my dad thought I was crazy because it was $200. But I really wanted it. He suggested I pay for half and he pay for the other half. He put me to work for a dollar an hour. I started out in construction and bought that bike. Then, in fourth grade, there was this mountain bike, before there were ‘mountain’ bikes. It was $514.73, so I went to the store and had them write out the receipt and I put it up on the wall and it was what I had to work toward. I knew exactly how much it was going to be. I worked all summer, got a good tan and big muscles for a fourth grader and saved the money. And relatives chipped in for the other half. It was another reinforcement for me—that basically I could have whatever I wanted if I worked for it. I came from nothing, right? But I learned that there wasn’t anything in the world that I couldn’t have if I just worked for it. So I built this incredibly strong work ethic and I’m always willing to work harder than anybody else. When other kids were watching TV, I was building something, or learning any number of things. I worked all the way through college at an aerospace company and was able to save a bunch of money.
YOU MENTIONED GRAD SCHOOL, TOO?
Well, when I went to grad school, I invested in the stock market. I had saved $50,000 when I was an undergrad and turned that into half-a-million dollars in the late ’90s because it’s really easy to see the tech trends in that growth time. So I saved that money to start my first company.
YOU’VE SAID, TOO, THAT LUCK PLAYS A BIG PART IN YOUR LIFE?
For sure. I think everything from the people I grew up around to the adventures I had, to the schools I’ve been able to attend … to this incredible place we call California and the opportunities that it provides … to each of the moments … it’s so incredibly intellectual. And sometimes you hit the mark and sometimes you don’t. For me, it’s a combination of a lot of luck and hard work and good ethics—all that will go a long way.
WHAT HAS BEEN SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED FROM YOUR PARENTS?
When I was 18, my father told me that I could do anything I wanted; that there was nothing I could not achieve—that all I had to do was come up with a goal, and every morning when I woke up, to think about that goal and eventually, I would get it. And it was an incredibly powerful thing. And it’s true. I’ve seen it played out again and again and again with many people, all over the world. He also told me you have to be careful because it’s such a powerful thing that you want to make sure you choose the right thing.
HOW CAN WE BE BETTER ECO PATRIOTS?
The global population has to be cognizant of the impact we have on ecosystem. We have this planet that has been irrevocably transformed by the presence of humans. It is an incredibly special and unique spot in the universe. It’s one-of-a-kind and we only get this one chance to be good stewards of it. So each action that we take, we want to be very cognizant of the choices we make, and to make intelligent decisions about how we live our lives and the impact we have on this very precious world.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU’VE LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF LATELY?
I think it’s a very humbling question. I think … it’s about the limitations of my mind. It used to be that information was the main thing that limited scientists. Today, with the Internet, there is far more information that one human mind can hope to process and comprehend, and it’s coming out at an ever-increasing rate. It’s a real challenge to our minds. The human mind and sensory system is really becoming the bottle to our ability to move things forward. I see the next 30-50 years being a really interesting time. I wish frequently I could process more and comprehend more. For more information, visit jobyenergy.com.
Mr. Green Genes
Those that sport “Kill Your Television” bumper stickers obviously haven’t seen the award-winning environmental show Eco-Review. Aired weekly on Community Television of Santa Cruz County, Eco-Review provides accurate and useable information about environmental issues that affect Santa Cruz County, Calif., the country and the world. With a panel of specialists on hand to answer questions from callers, Eco-Review is a reliable resource for the environmental issues that intimately affect our daily lives.
“I consider it a journal of environmental issues that are relative to Santa Cruz County residents,” says Tom Harvey, who began producing the show back in the late 1990s and now co-produces with Kathy D’Angelo. Although Harvey has a background in marketing and public relations, he realized when he was working with an environmental group on logging issues in Santa Cruz County that there was a need for an outlet where local citizens could voice their opinions on environmental issues that directly affected them. “I went to Community Television and I took classes in filming,” Harvey explains. “The show’s origin was that we were trying to find a pulpit for presenting environmental issues from an environmental perspective. We have nationally recognized activists in our community that have really made an impact on how we see sustainability.”
The panel of specialists that appear on the show each week can range from those in education and the business sector to backyard activists. Even celebrities have been known to make guest appearances. Recently, Daryl Hannah was featured on the Eco-Review episode that focused on the auto industry and our world’s dependence on fossil fuels. “Karl Ryan from Professional Touch Auto Body in Scotts Valley was on the program in March and converted Daryl’s car to run on alcohol fuel,” Harvey shares. “She was really impressed with how accessible alcohol fuel could be. He also did a green body on her car—repainted it with soy-based paints and water-based paints. There is really a gradual awakening that this resource is going to be a lot more comprehensive in its applications,” he surmises.
Since Community Television recently began streaming the show online, Eco-Review has gained a national following. “We have people calling in from as far away as Florida and Wisconsin,” says Harvey. “We are delighted that Community Television has been able to open this up to a much broader audience. People really get excited when they can access how we are addressing these issues here in Santa Cruz,” he says. Perhaps in part due to its newfound nationwide audience, Eco-Review recently won the WAVE (Western Alliance of Video Entertainment) Award in the category of the best talk program.
Despite Santa Cruz being a Mecca of environmentalism, Harvey feels that we still have a long way to go in the green arena. “The biggest environmental issue in my mind in Santa Cruz is complacency,” he explains. “Out of everywhere you go in the country, Santa Cruz is perceived as the bellwether for environmental thinking, but in some ways we don’t see the rubber meet the road. There is sort of an arrogance because we already think we know the answers, but we don’t.” With a different hot-button topic being covered on Eco-Review each month, sooner or later we will have all the information we need to live perfectly green lives—but whether we act on that information is what will truly make a difference. | Leslie Patrick
Be a Better Eco Patriot. Here’s How:
Do something for the planet and others today.
Plant a garden (even a flower pot of herbs if you live in an apartment).
Actively practice water conservation. Try rainwater catchment and don’t use plastic bottles.
Stop using petroleum-based products, including gas. Putting just 30 percent alcohol fuel in our cars cuts our addition to OPEC completely.
Interact with the Eco-Review. It is all about our environment and us.
Find out more about 30 by 20 and Climate Action Teams at 30×20.org. Eco-Review airs at 6 p.m. every Tuesday on Community Television of Santa Cruz County. The fourth Tuesday of every month is a live show featuring guest panelists answering questions from callers. For more information visit communitytv.org.
Oftentimes environmental friendliness and fashion do not mix. Sure, some designers are getting savvy to the new trend in organic and earth-friendly apparel and accessories, but finding stylish pieces in this category is generally the exception rather than the rule.
Santa Cruz transplant and eco-enthusiast Lauren Junker is changing the face of recycled fashion with her line of bags and accessories made from old bicycle tubes and tires. “I saw a woman one day who had a purse made out of an old truck inner tube,” the resourceful businesswoman says. “I thought, ‘Oh, I could make something cooler than that.’” From there, Junker collected old bicycle inner tubes and created her first prototype—thus Totally Tubular Design was born.
Since she started the company with her husband Scott in 2006, Junker estimates that she has sold upwards of 1,200 pieces. Her current collection includes sleek messenger bags, clutch purses, wallets and bracelets, but she is always experimenting with new ideas. “The designs kind of evolve as I run out of things,” she explains. “It’s cool because it makes for a really unique product.”
Inspired both by the desire to repurpose what some would call trash and to create a functional product, Junker uses not only bicycle inner tubes, but tires, old car upholstery and other found objects. Her process is simple. She washes the inner tubes, cuts out the patterns in the rubber, and then stitches them together using her heavy-duty sewing machine. “The bags are made with my hands, which really makes the product that much cooler,” she says. “And they are made in Santa Cruz, by some chick in her garage.”
Although her background is in education, not fashion or design, Junker has always been creative and interested in making things out of found objects. “It is so much fun,” she gushes. “It really makes me happy. I feel like I am just playing in my garage, but now it’s finally a business and it buys groceries.” | Leslie Patrick
Totally Tubular bags and accessories can be found locally at Artisan’s Gallery, 1368 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; The Spokesman Bicycles, 231 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz; and The Bike Trip, 1001 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. For more information visit totallytubebags.com.
It’s hard work saving the planet, but somebody’s got to do it. One person that is seriously making a go of it is David Blume, local environmental activist and author of the book “Alcohol Can Be A Gas!” “In a nutshell, alcohol is liquid solar energy,” Blume explains. Through his book, collaboration with local and national environmental agencies and by plain old word of mouth, this enterprising individual is determined to change the way people think not only about the fuel we use in our cars, but about the way we use energy on a global scale.
Blume’s book explores how the world would be a drastically different place were people to begin using alcohol as fuel. “Alcohol reverses global warming, air pollution would cease to exist in cities and wealth would be redistributed,” he says. Blume isn’t a soapbox environmentalist—he actually practices what he preaches. “I’ve been driving on alcohol in my Ford Ranger for 130,000 miles. You can make alcohol fuel for about 30 cents a gallon. With the tax credits, for every gallon of fuel you make you get a total of 55 cents so you actually make money. The oil companies want to make sure that we never hear about this.”
Not only is it inexpensive and easy (it’s pretty much like making beer,” Blume says) to make or buy alcohol fuel, the scientist explains that most cars can actually run on up to 50 percent alcohol already—it’s simply that most people don’t know that fact, don’t know where to purchase the fuel or don’t know how to make the fuel for themselves.
Another reason Blume is an advocate for alcohol fuel is that the chances of oil spills like the recent Gulf disaster could be drastically reduced. “I predicted a month ago that the spill would round the corner of Florida and eventually wash up on the shores of Washington D.C.,” Blume says. “Methane hydrate is a huge scary issue around the planet for ecologists. If the natural gas comes up and something lights it off, it explodes. That’s why the rig went down. Why are we doing this if we can just make alcohol? No one worries if you have a case of vodka sitting around the house.”
To put the oil scenario into perspective, Blume gives the following statistics: “Only 30 percent of our oil comes from the Middle East, and only 7 percent comes from deep water drilling. That’s a 37 percent drop in our oil consumption and we don’t have to do anything except create more alcohol.”
In fact, Blume is so fired up about the alcohol fuel movement that he has recently started a company called Blume Distillation. Based in Santa Cruz, the company will be a major manufacturer of the fuel that will help to preserve the planet for generations to come. | Leslie Patrick
For more information about alcohol fuel visit blumedistillation.com.
Here’s a parenting tip: if you don’t want your son to grow up to be a renowned green architect, don’t let him hang around with boat builders. That’s probably the lesson Mitch Slade’s mother learned when, at 17 years old, the California native headed up to Washington to work with a boat-building guild and came home with a head full of their sustainable building ideas. Today he’s the head of the Ben Lomond green building and design company EcoStruction. The company recently completed a home for a client in Atherton that has the highest LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification in California and the second highest in the nation. “The owner called me—willing to go all out,” Slade says. “He wanted it as green as we could make it. He gave us an open invitation to come and do our thing.”
The finished home is modestly sized by Atherton standards, but its many green innovations stand out. There’s solar-assisted radiant heating and hot water, a 10,000-gallon rainwater catchment system, all native plant landscaping, recycled tiles and countertops, recycled denim insulation, a photovoltaic solar electric system that will result in zero gas and electricity bills, and dozens of other innovations, all for what Slade says is “mid-range for the cost of building in this town.” The homes he’s built in Santa Cruz are also, as he puts it, “median price for any normal home. They’re getting a better home too—high efficiency and lower bills to operate.”
Since founding EcoStruction in 1994, Slade has been building sustainable homes like this for clients from Santa Barbara to Napa. He views his career as a calling as much as it is a livelihood. “My entire crew is hand-picked,” he says, “They’re trained from apprentices, and stay with me for five to 10 years.” He describes EcoStruction as “a personal evolution,” saying, “we believe in what we do.”
Though he’s encouraged that green building practices have become more commonplace, Slade still worries about the phenomenon of “green-washing,” both locally and nationally. “I definitely see companies putting the word ‘green’ in front of their practices. I think a lot of that is just fluff and dander and wanting to secure business.” But he believes that the country’s stretched economic circumstances will force a truer move to more sustainable building methods.
“It’s forcing a change to new practices and opening up people’s minds,” he says.
Slade also has simple tips for how each of us can become kinder to the environment in our day-to-day lives. “Taking care of the house you have right now is almost a better battle than trying to build a whole new one,” he says. “If we made all buildings more efficient, that would tackle a lot of our problems.”
He suggests ensuring that insulation in your attic and ceilings is tight and structurally sound, as well as making sure all windows, are also well-sealed and insulated. “If every house took advantage of insulation and windows think how much energy we’d save, how many hundreds and thousands of kilowatt hours and cubic feet of gas,” he says.
He also recommends using a rainwater catchment barrel and installing a gray water system to run off washing machine water into a home garden. The costs for all these small suggestions are negligible in comparison to the benefits, he says. “Small changes collectively can make a huge difference.” | Anna Merlan
Learn more at eco-struction.com.
Cabrillo College Green Steppers
Cabrillo College spent just over $1.2 million on energy in 2009. In this time of budgetary shortfalls, that’s money that the Cabrillo Climate Initiative Task Force (CITF) would like to see applied to education, “rather than just keeping the lights on,” says Michelle Merrill, an anthropology professor at Cabrillo and a member of CITF. CITF’s new “GreenSteps” program aims to reduce Cabrillo’s carbon footprint and save the college money at the same time.
CITF launched GreenSteps, an energy conservation and sustainability program, earlier this year to get faculty, staff, students and the community thinking about their energy usage—and making some changes. One of GreenSteps’ goals is pretty ambitious: by the end of 2011-12, reduce campus energy consumption by 15 percent below 2000-01 levels. To do this, they’re focusing on the little things that can make a big difference—turning off lights and machines that aren’t in use and “basically, changing habits,” says CITF co-chair Judy Cassada. “It’s teaching old dogs, like me, new tricks.”
Since changing people’s habits is no easy task, part of GreenSteps’ plan is to affix reminders—the GreenSteps logo—everywhere they can. “We’re going to put it on everything—all the equipment and monitors, computers, copiers, [etc.] so that people like me who have a hard time changing habits will look at it and think, ‘oh, I’ve got to turn that off,’” Cassada says.
In addition to reducing Cabrillo’s carbon footprint and energy expenditures, GreenSteps also intends to provide information about energy usage and climate change to the greater community, says Merrill.
“The community that we serve is Santa Cruz County and I think there’s a lot of support for sustainability, particularly for providing education for sustainability—for teaching people the tools they need to do things that will improve sustainability in the future,” she adds. Other groups on campus fit into Cabrillo’s sustainability ideal, most notably the Bicycle Co-Op.
“As an educator, the thing that excites me the most is being able to transform Cabrillo into a place where not only can you hear about these things in the classroom, but you can see more sustainable practices and ideas being implemented and modeled by the place that you’re going for an eduction. “The school itself is teaching.” | Melinda Clark
Learn more at cabrillo.edu/~kgroppi/cabrillogreensteps.org and cabrillo.edu/associations/bike.
The cafeteria tray. It’s an object many of us took for granted in our school days: carrying it to the food station, loading it up with our choices, and later scraping the uneaten remains into the garbage. But standard as the rectangular piece of plastic may be, it’s also a contributing factor to massive food waste—or so was the case at UC Santa Cruz.
After conducting an experiment with tray-less days at the campus dining halls, UCSC Dining Services found that the students produced 32 percent less food waste when they dined without trays, compared to days when they dined with them. The school’s dining halls are now completely tray-less. This eco accomplishment is just one example of the ideas sprouting from the UCSC Waste Prevention Campaign, a student group committed to helping UCSC reach the UC-wide deadline to be waste free by 2020.
“We definitely are on the cutting edge of waste prevention,” says Campaign Coordinator Kenneth Licea, who, along with another coordinator and four student interns, oversees student-initiated projects aimed at reducing waste.
“The goal of waste prevention isn’t just dealing with recycling, but also changing people’s behavior,” he says. “I like to think of it as a three-tier system: recycling is a good choice, reusing is a better choice and the best choice is reducing as much as possible—not relying on materials as much as we do right now.”
In addition to education and outreach, the campaign is pushing for all student-organized events to be 100 percent waste free (through a combination of recycling, composting, having participants bring their own tableware, etc., and they recently helped instate Meatless Dining Hall Days. “It’s not necessarily advocating for a vegetarian diet, however it’s informing students about the meat industry and how much energy is produced by raising the livestock and the slaughter and the transportation,” says Licea.
They are also working with ground services to change the labeling on garbage cans so that they say “Landfill” instead of “Trash.” The hope is that the more blunt labeling will encourage people to divert as much waste as possible from entering landfills. “When people throw things into the trash they think it’s an imaginary space where whatever they throw away just disappears,” says Licea. “But if you put ‘Landfill,’ it gives them an image of where their trash is going to end up.”
Student determination has been met by enthusiastic cooperation from Dining Services—Director Candy Berlin in particular, who has been a key advocate for campus sustainability. The results have been encouraging, to say the least. But even though the school currently has a 53 percent waste diversion rate, according to Licea, he says they still have a long way to go before UCSC can call itself a zero waste campus. “There is a lot of work to be done, but I definitely think it’s something we can accomplish,” he says. | Elizabeth Limbach
Eleven Steps to Green Living in 2010
Grow your own food in your own garden. This is a spectacular year to grow food, whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner. Santa Cruz has great resources for sustainable gardening.
Ecology Action has information on everything from vegetable growing to Sustainable Minifarming: growbiointensive.org/
The Garden Company in Santa Cruz has great organic starter plants for vegetables and flowers, as well as compost, fertilizers and a friendly, informed staff.
An important component to living green: the practice of reuse and renewal through composting table scraps and garden cuttings. Composting is simple and rewarding. It reduces landfill and provides nutrients for your garden and containers. There are many compost containers and methods, but the basic practice remains quite simple. Coffee filters, paper bags, tea bags, and many other unexpected items make great compost. Take note of Santa Cruz County Department of Public Works’ suggestions at compostsantacruzcounty.org./
Most of us do this, but many of us could do much more. Read the recycling information provided by the city, and learn which products really don’t get recycled (most of the plastic containers that produce is packaged in, for instance) and try to avoid using them. Put dead flower arrangements and vegetable cuttings from cooking into your green bin if you don’t compost at home. Think about some of the items mentioned above—they can go in a green bin, too. Try to be conscious of how much goes into our landfill that really doesn’t need to. Learn more about recycling and waste reduction at cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=1327.
All of us can reuse more than we do. And what a great way to economize in a tough economy. Instead of paper napkins and towels, use cloth napkins and dish towels. Bamboo picnic plates are now readily available almost anywhere (Greenspace for one, but there are many others). Reuse plastic utensils again and again—there are very sturdy ones available now. Try buying in bulk—items such as honey and olive oil—where you can use the same clean jar again and again. Investing in bins for your cupboard allows you to buy everything from pasta and rice to cereal and snacks and reuse containers again and again.
Buy Fresh, Buy Local
We have outstanding farmers markets in Santa Cruz. We also have many resources for fresh food. Fresh food is healthy and, for the most part, unpackaged. Take a reusable bag to the market, and load up on the bountiful produce available to us, especially this time of year. Finding locally grown food in this area isn’t difficult. Supporting the local economy helps lower our carbon footprint, while boosting our sense of community. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and New Leaf, among others, sell reusable bags.
Get a Water Bottle
Plastic water bottles are a petroleum product, and, while Americans are recycling more of them than ever, there are still more than 40 million that go into landfills every year. Tons of plastic bottles are burned for fuel in underdeveloped countries, sending toxic waste into the atmosphere. Investing in a water filter system for your home or workplace is relatively inexpensive, and you can take advantage of reusable water bottles. The money you save by not buying bottled water will surprise you. The Food Bin, Whole Foods and Bugaboo sell attractive, reusable water bottles. They are easy to carry and eliminate the need for plastic bottles. If you can, invest in a filtering system and fill up at home.
Start Walking and Riding
We live in a beautiful city, and walking and cycling are a great way to get exercise, save fuel, keep the air cleaner, and enjoy our surroundings. Could you ride to work one day a week? To the farmers’ market? Think about a car-free day of the week, especially on weekends. Imagine if we all did it.
Even though we are having an unusually wet year, water conservation is a primary green practice all year round, every year. Keeping a bucket in the shower or tub, and near the kitchen sink, to fill when you are waiting for hot water, is a big resource. You will be able to water all your containers this way if you use your buckets daily. General Feed has great buckets in snazzy colors. Taking it a step further, you can purchase sensor faucets for a powder bath or laundry sink. Sensor faucets are attractive and very efficient.
Many of us are attempting to go paperless in the workplace. Think about it at home, too. Paper towels can be replaced with cloth ones. Do we really need disposable cleaning cloths? Think about how many trees we are using for these and other ‘convenience’ items that we really don’t need. Try using blackboards or whiteboards to replace Post-Its, and think before you print! Of course, always recycle all used paper, after it can no longer be reused for some other reason.
Going solar is becoming much more affordable, but for most of us it is still not quite within reach or feasibility. Still, there are many ways to save energy each day. Fluorescent replacement bulbs can be used in a multitude of places—the porch light and other exterior lights, the powder bath, the laundry room, and any room where bright task lighting isn’t required. Sensors are great for kitchen lighting, entryways, driveways, stairways, and many other applications. Sensors are relatively easy to install and enormously efficient. LEDs (light-emitting diode) are on the way, and the strides being made are enormous. Watch for LED general illumination within the next five years.
There are many resources for educating ourselves about healthier, more sustainable living. Earth911.com has a wealth of information on everything from effective recycling to eco-vacations.
LOHAS.com (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) puts a focus on sustainable business and living. Ecology Action, right in our own back yard, has resources for growing food, composting, recycling, energy efficiency and more: ecologyaction.org. | Lorri Kershner
Lorri Kershner is owner of L.Kershner Design (lkershnerdesign.com).
Tips for Greening Your Business
Get Certified as a Green Business. Ensuring your business is operating in an environmentally sound way is a key first step in becoming an Eco Patriot. This free program offered by your local public agencies can help your business and promote your good work. Technical experts are available at no charge to advise you on the latest available rebates to help your business save money, save time and increase business. (See montereybaygreenbusiness.org.)
Source materials and services from Certified Green Businesses in California. Make sure hard-earned small business dollars are not supporting businesses that pollute or waste resources. (See greenbusinessca.org.)
Buy Local/Buy American. Localizing our economy (from the city scale to the international scale) makes our region more self-reliant. How does this make you an Eco Patriot? Less transportation of materials = reduced greenhouse gas pollution.
Support your employees to reduce their commutes. Ecology Action’s Transportation Membership program can help by promoting biking, busing, walking and telecommuting options for your staff. (See ecoact.org/programs/transportation/index.htm.)
(Extra Credit!) Consider how you can recast your business model. Do you currently sell something that your customers could perhaps rent/lease instead of purchase? Can you provide services instead of manufactured stuff to help your customers achieve their goals? Can you help your customers collaborate to reduce packaging and shipping? Assess your business’ most negative impacts on the environment (what you are buying, where it is coming from, etc.) and look for alternatives. This can open up new growth opportunities and put you in a leadership position in the marketplace. Climate impact calculators, like coolclimate.berkeley.edu/?q=business-calculator, are one way to identify priorities. Your good work could earn you a California Cool Business Award at coolcalifornia.org/small-business. Learn more at ecoact.org.