Ecology Action ‘greened’ Santa Cruz before ‘green’ became a marketer’s dream. Now, with nearly four decades of environmental stewardship, the local giant is paving the way for a brighter—and Blue—future.
In celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970, a group of environmental activists roamed the Golden State, sprinkling Ecology Action groups across it as they went. According to legend, they planted dozens, each with a unique environmental focus. Only two remain today—one is a sustainable farming agency in Willits, California, the other is holding its ground as one of Santa Cruz’s most proficient non-profits. see full feature with Web Exclusive content on Josh Hoy and Wise Solutions …
see also BLUE Notes, Tips, resources and other news to keep the skies blue, the oceans clean and your life environmentally sound and Twenty simple things you can do to live a more sustainable life.
Ecology Action of Santa Cruz (EA) was incorporated in 1979 for the sole purpose of running a recycling yard on 17th Avenue. Nine years earlier, it began as a small recycling effort downtown. “That part is absolutely not a legend,” says Virginia Johnson, EA’s CEO and Executive Director, after musing over what she calls the “urban, Johnny Appleseed legend” of the group’s origins. “The local activist who started Ecology Action in 1970 started it with 50-gallon barrels behind Bookshop Santa Cruz. That is where you went if you wanted to recycle.”
After partnering with local government, EA ran the innovative 17th Avenure recycling yard and eventually spearheaded the movement for curbside recycling, a radically progressive idea in a time when “recycling” was still fresh vernacular. When Johnson arrived at EA in years later, in February of 1995, the group was no longer operating the recycling yard. The three-person staff was, instead, teaching about recycling and composting. “We were all about garbage,” jokes Johnson. But the strictly trash-talk didn’t last long. Soon after Johnson joined EA, the organization began building partnerships with local governments and businesses, and expanding its aid beyond solid waste.
What was then a handful of environmental hopefuls with a $125,000 annual budget is now a 55-person staff with a $14 million yearly budget. Long gone are the days of simply preaching about recycling (although they still do that, too); the organization is involved in dozens of programs all over Northern California, all of which fall into one of their four main categories of service: pollution prevention, transportation, energy efficiency and climate change.
“We didn’t plan to build an environmental dynasty here, we just went about our regular sensibilities to address issues that we saw, and we brought in our business expertise and our passion for the non-profit environment,” says Johnson, seated a her large, dark-wood desk inside her downtown Santa Cruz office. “And then I woke up one day and we had 50 employees.”
The cornerstone of its success is also the core of its values: partnership. Since it first partnered with local government to create the recycling yard in 1979, collaboration has been its primary mode of organization. EA has been involved in innumerable programs and projects, sometimes serving as the visible leader, other times providing behind-the-scenes support. Often its role is as puppeteer— gathering the key stakeholders in any given issue, and bringing them all to together to solve it. According to Johnson, playing mediator is not always easy, but someone’s got to do it.
“Partnering is not something that comes intuitively to most people, organizations and governments,” she says. “You have to strike that balance between understanding that you are bringing new ideas to the table, but also putting your money where your mouth is to assist your local government and partners in making those ideas a reality.”
Although it has expanded its borders well beyond Santa Cruz County lines, EA also owes a lot to the town that allowed it to grow its roots after the first Earth Day almost 40 years ago. Johnson says that the political culture of Santa Cruz made EA, and the high number of other local environmental non-profits, possible.
But the secret ingredient to EA’s success? According to Johnson it is a killer staff with a knack for garnering outside funding and a unstoppable passion for the environment.
“They are innovative, they have no fear, they approach problem solving from a very purist standpoint,” says Johnson, taking a moment to brag about her team. “If there is an environmental problem, they will design a program that addresses it from a grassroots perspective.”
Currently, these staff members are operating programs as varied as Green Businesses, which assists local businesses in becoming certified green businesses, the Multifamily Recycling Program, an effort to implement recycling practices at low-income multifamily housing complexes (the program recently lost significant funding), and Our Water, Our World, which aims to educate households on using alternatives to dangerous pesticides and fertilizers. Read on and learn about four unique EA programs.
No matter how many dozens of projects Ecology Action continues to get behind in this town, it will always be known as “the bike people.” Its name has become synonymous with the semi-annual Bike To Work Week, which has helped the area replace 1,066,976 miles of vehicle travel with bicycle travel since 1999. Piet Canin, the Sustainable Transportation Division Program Director (although his preferred title is “King of Biking”), has watched the event grow exponentially since his sister created it 22 years ago as the crux of her fieldwork as a UC Santa Cruz community studies major. “It’s been on a steady upward climb of about 10 percent each year,” he told GT one week after the Spring 2009 Bike To Work Week wrapped up. The event, which pedalled through town May 12 to 17, was the biggest to date, boasting of over 5,000 participants. Bike To Work has reduced CO2 emissions by 533 tons since 1999.
“We didn’t plan to build an environmental dynasty here, we just went about our regular sensibilities to address issues that we saw, and we brought in our business expertise and our passion for the non-profit environment. And then I woke up one day and we had 50 employees.” — Virginia Johnson, Ecology Action
Founded in 1995, EA’s transportation division is slightly younger than Bike To Work Week, but has since jumpstarted a slue of other programs aimed at reducing single occupancy vehicle trips — a mission they take seriously, considering 45 percent of Santa Cruz’s annual green house gas emissions come from the transportation sector. One of their latest efforts to minimize this impact is Transportation Membership Services, a program in which EA partners with local businesses to encourage their employees to use alternative forms of transportation. Last year alone, 16 businesses and 7,000 employees benefited from this program, whose services include discounted bus passes, bike loans, and an emergency ride home program.
In 2005, EA proved that one person’s waste is another’s fuel, launching a program that collected grease from local restaurants and converted it into biodiesel fuel. With help from partners including Salinas Tallow hauling company and local biodiesel plant Energy Alternative Solutions, Inc., the program has since collected nearly 10,000 gallons of waste fryer oil and transformed it into 32,000 gallons of B20 biodiesel as a result. The benefits have been multifarious; not only does biodiesel reduce green house gas emissions, it is significantly more sustainable than petroleum diesel, locally-made, and eliminates the fees restaurants usually pay to have their waste oil hauled off. The free weekly service for local restaurants has also been beneficial for the many City and County services and local landfills that now fuel their vehicles with the resulting biofuel. According to Johnson, the program began by addressing the question, “What can we do with used grease?” and ended up resolving several other issues. “The purpose was to demonstrate that there were restaurants that would allow this to happen, that there were really good partners and that locally produced, sustainable diesel fuel is the best way to go about producing biofuel,” she says. “It’s not just a solid waste issue, it’s a transportation issue, it’s a climate issue, and this solves those problems.”
The program is currently stalled due to frozen funding (it was funded by the federal EPA), but is expected to spring back into action soon. If continued for another year, the program will have produced enough biodiesel to fuel a fleet of school buses for an entire school year, or fill the tanks of over 4,000 City recycling trucks.
Livestock and Land
Poop is a problem. The nutrients, pathogens and sediments in livestock manure have become a worrisome pollutant for the region’s watersheds, and, when managed poorly, can be harmful to fisheries, flora and fauna habitats, and even drinking water. In their typical “go get ‘em” fashion, EA spotted the issue and decided it was time to cut the crap. They started the Livestock and Land program in 2001 after receiving a grant from the State Water Resources Control Board, powered by a partnership with Resource Conservation Districts from Loma Prieta County down to San Benito County.
The program trains landowners to set up their livestock yards using Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent polluting watersheds, and divert manure to composting.
“You think, ‘Oh, that makes total sense, how hard can that be?,’” says Johnson of the program’s simple concept. “It’s extremely hard—building that partnership, getting everyone together to say [they] have a common problem and want to agree on some solutions, and figuring out how to work with landowners to encourage them to do the right thing.”
The path to less pollutant livestock poo may not have been smooth, but it certainly proved fruitful. At inception, the program designated 11 livestock yards as demonstration sites for operating with the BMPs; now, there are 513 sites that use one or more of those practices. To put the benefits of this in perspective, when four demonstration sites in Santa Cruz County were evaluated, they were found to have properly managed 49 tons of manure, diverting 210 pounds of nitrogen and preventing 0.9 tons of sediment from entering water sources—successfully reducing poop’s problem factor. livestockandland.org/
55,000 tons—that is the amount by which EA’s Energy Efficiency services have reduced annual C02 emissions since the program’s genesis in 2002. That’s no small number, and yet the program remains one of EA’s least recognized. “It doesn’t get talked about often, but it has been very beneficial for the region,” says Colin Clark, EA’s Climate Group Program Specialist. In the past seven years of consulting businesses on improving their energy efficiency, the program has saved business customers over $23 million in energy costs and given them $16 million in rebates.
These improvements are the outcome of the RightLights program, the heart and soul of the Energy Efficiency division that partners with local businesses to reduce their energy usage and generate more cash flow. RightLights provides businesses with free assessment and proposals about their usage, as well as publicly funded lighting upgrades. In addition to lighting, EA offers services for the hospitality industry that address using more efficient pool pumps, air conditioners and vending machines.
EA encourages everyone, not just businesses, to invest in energy efficient improvements—not only do they significantly lessen environmental impacts, they noticeably stimulate the local economy. According to Johnson, $2.32 enters the local economy for every dollar spent on energy efficiency. “In our county, the two drivers of sales tax are auto sales and gas sales, and for every dollar spent in either of those, your economic multiplier is around $1.70,” she says. “With energy efficiency you get much more bang for your buck.”
In operating their energy efficiency services,
Ross Clark, Green to Greener to Bluer
by Laurel Chesky
Santa Cruz residents’ collective carbon footprint would fit inside a 6- year-old’s sneaker. The average California home burns enough fossil fuel (not counting transportation) to release 4.5 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. The average Santa Cruz home produces about 3.5 tons of the greenhouse gas, according to Ross Clark, the city’s climate change action coordinator, a position created in 2007 to drive the city’s efforts to lower its carbon footprint.
Santa Cruz’s mild weather accounts for some of that savings—our heaters and air-conditioning units (if you have one) don’t have to work too hard to keep us comfortable. But there’s no doubt that Santa Cruzans have put forth a proactive effort to lower their carbon emissions. Between 1996 and 2005, the city of Santa Cruz as a whole reduced its carbon footprint by 11 percent, according to 2008 city report.
So, if you already ride your bike to work, recycle your garbage and buy local, organic produce, what more can you do to save the planet? Just a little bit more, Clark says, and the city is teaching people how to do it. Clark leads an initiative called “30 by 20” in which the city vies to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 percent, based on 1990 levels, by 2020.
Reaching the 30 by 20 goal requires an engaged citizenry. To that end, last year the city began organizing so-dubbed Climate Action Teams to involve residents. The five- to 10-member teams, plucked from neighborhood groups, churches and other organizations, meet four times over six weeks. They calculate their current carbon footprint—including their homes, transportation and purchases—and explore ways to shrink it.
“The idea is that everyone can find a 30 percent reduction in how they use energy and materials in the next 12 years,” Clark says. “Everyone should be able to do so easily and without undermining their livelihood or theirs standard of living.”
To date, eight teams have participated in the program and have found ways to reduce carbon emissions by an average of 1.6 tons annually per participant household – and that’s without making a major investment, such as buying a hybrid car or installing solar panels.
Team members found that shifts as simple as taking shorter showers and washing fewer loads of laundry began to shrivel their carbon footprints. (Heating water and treating wastewater are energy-intensive ventures.) Switching to efficient lightbulbs, steering clear of products with a lot of unnecessary packaging, composting food waste and committing to keeping the car parked one day a week can cumulatively make a big difference.
“As people start to talk about it, they realize that there are simple ways they can reduce,” Clark says. “Everyone that has gone through the program finds new and innovative ways to reduce their energy use.”
The Dirt and Nothing But, Grow a Farmer
by Nick Vernon
Since it’s inception, the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems’ Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture has always had those enrolled in the program sleep on UC Santa Cruz grounds. In the beginning, enrollees slept in teepees and later in tents at the UCSC Farm. However, this summer’s session marks the final session wherein the current sleeping arrangement will be allowed. As such, the CASFS has launched the Grow a Farmer fundraising campaign, in order to gather the estimated $250,000 needed to build permanent tent cabins on site for future apprentices.
“The apprenticeship experience is really about being involved with a piece of land,” says Beth Benjamin, a volunteer for Grow a Farmer and one of the apprenticeships first participants. “Being there when the sun rises and when it goes down. “Hearing the morning doves in the morning and the quail.”
Grow a Farmer has teamed with local restaurants and chefs in Santa Cruz and through out the San Francisco Bay Area to help raise the necessary money. Even a restaurant in Portland, Ore., Pizza Fino, has pledged to hold a fundraising event to help the CASFS program.
According to Benjamin, that is because the apprenticeship produces so many knowledgeable organic agriculturists, who then spread their love and knowledge of growing wholesome, healthy and environmentally responsible produce all around the country.
“It’s very heartwarming to see all the people who have participated,” she says.
Benjamin studied under Alan Chadwick, founder of the UCSC Farm and Garden, and in 1971 founded an agricultural learning center of her own. Camp Joy in Boulder Creek has programs to teach both adults and youth about everything it takes to create and maintain an organic garden—how to plant, when to harvest, as well as pointing out which insects are beneficial and those that are harmful.
She believes that educational programs, such as those offered by Camp Joy and the CASFS are more important now than ever before. The more people know about growing their own food, she says, the more locally grown food will be available, which will cut down on pesticides and fossil fuels used by industrial agriculture.
“Transporting food across the country is unsustainable,” she says. “Smaller scale farming situations should be encouraged.”
Lather. Rinse. Repeat!
The Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center
by Amanda R. Martinez
One weekend in mid-October of 1997, before the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center (MWVCRC) could even open its doors, the need for its emergency services became desperately apparent. A mystery spill off of Sunset and Manresa Beaches sent 500 stranded grebes, loons, common murres, surf scoters and a handful of brown pelicans to the nearly completed center for treatment.
No oil spill was evident, but “we knew that the birds had lost their waterproofing. They had a clear, somewhat greasy product on them,” recalls Dr. Dave Jessup, a wildlife veterinarian and MWVCRC director. UC Santa Cruz students and staff, as well as dozens of local volunteers, even passersby, stepped in to help the center’s 15-person staff. And with that, the MWVCRC was up and running, and not a moment too soon.
According to Jessup, the first step in treatment of oiled wildlife is triage. Morphing into a full-service emergency room for the feathered and furred, MWVCRC separates its patients into those who need to be stabilized and those who are in good enough shape to endure the washing process.
For animals in the first category, time is of the essence. They receive instant food and fluids in the form of a slurry made of fish mash, electrolytes and that dietary staple of senior citizens everywhere, Ensure—which, as Jessup explains, is “a good source of highly soluble protein.” Animals suffering from hypothermia are carefully warmed, their minor injuries mended. In some cases, antibiotics are administered preemptively to head off outbreaks of highly contagious, stress-induced fungal pneumonia.
The washing process, a methodical prescription of washing and rinsing, sounds simple, but is absolutely critical to a seabird’s or otter’s survival. Healthy animals use their plumage and dense fur to trap a thin layer of air that shields their skin from the frigid ocean waters and enables them to float. Oil robs them of this crucial layer. They can’t stay warm. They lose buoyancy, and, eventually, beach themselves.
To restore an animal’s “waterproofing,” MWVCRC staff use warm, fresh water mixed with 2.5 to four percent of the same stuff cooks use to rid their pans of stubborn bacon grease—Dawn dishwashing liquid. The solution is massaged into the animal’s coat “very intensely” and then rinsed again and again, until water, initially dark brown, runs clear. “There’s definitely an art as well as a science to this,” says Jessup, hinting at several tricks MWVCRC staff use to distinguish pristine from befouled fur and feathers. “People who have experience washing wildlife are invaluable.”
If you’re wondering how the otters tolerate this bath, the answer is: they don’t have to. “Otters we have to anesthetize to do everything,” says Jessup, chuckling a bit at the prospect of a conscious otter receiving treatment. “They’d tear us apart. Unless an otter is really sick, they will attempt to bite you anytime you get close. And you can’t grab them by the back of the head like you would a cat because they can roll around almost 180 degrees in their skin.” Birds, on the other hand, while they don’t like the washing, will tough it out, no sedation necessary. They can, however, die of stress, so the onus is on MWVCRC staff to be expedient.
But resuscitating the Bay’s wildlife is only half the challenge for MWVCRC staff. The cause of a stranding event often requires some sleuthing. When a few hundred cormorants turned up dead or oiled between 2004 and 2006, the culprit was later revealed to be the cement ship that resides off Aptos’ coast. Divers discovered a rotted hull that had exposed a tank of old oil, which they then emptied. Most challenging, however, was deciphering the source of an oil spill-like event in November of 2007 that caused 10 percent of the Bay’s fulmar population to crash on one beach within a three-day period. Jessup and his crew eventually traced the cause to a microsporing protein, produced by a massive red tide of algae. The protein, although nontoxic, mimicked a minor oil spill, stealing the seabirds’ waterproofing. Jessup, who published a paper describing the protein in PLoS ONE last February, believes it may have been responsible for the MWVCRC’s inaugural event—a mystery that has yet to be solved.
If there’s one thing Jessup stresses about the MWVCRC’s ability to carry out its mission, it’s the fact that the center is one of 25 oil-response organizations in California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network that all rely on the collective expertise of the network’s scientists, researchers and veterinarians. “If you’re looking for local green organizations,” says Jessup, rattling off the UCSC Long Marine Lab, Monterey Bay Aquarium and SPCA of Monterey County, “these guys are great.”
A Two-Wheeler Straight From the Soil
Bike designer Craig Calfee
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Local bicycle designer Craig Calfee has taken that proverb to heart, swapping out “fish” for bikes made out of one of the planet’s most renewable resources and “a man’s ability to feed himself” for the ability of entire communities in developing countries to pull themselves out of poverty.
Calfee, best known as a pioneer of the industry-revolutionizing carbon fiber frame, first hit on the idea to bend bamboo into a frame thanks to his dog, Luna. “We used to play this game where she would grab the stick and hold on really tightly,” Calfee recalls. “You could swing her around and she would often break it.”
When Luna, part pit bull, failed to do more than leave a couple of minor teeth marks in a bamboo stem, Calfee was impressed. He remembers thinking: “Hey, I should build a bike out of this stuff.” Calfee debuted his first bamboo bike at the Interbike Expo in Las Vegas in 1996, where the novelty cycle was little more than a marketing stunt. But festering in Calfee’s subconscious was a set of three observations he made during a sojourn to Africa in 1984; he noticed the people there could really use bicycles, they needed jobs and they were literally surrounded by bamboo. “It was one of those moments when you decide to take an idea to where it would have the most impact,” says Calfee.
When it comes to sustainable building materials, bamboo is king. The world’s fastest growing plant, it can grow more than a foot per day. But as a bike frame material, the prolific stalks also have advantages that put most metals to shame; it’s tough as steel, yet flexible, it doesn’t rust and it’s superior vibration dampening qualities make for a super smooth ride.
In 2007, Calfee joined forces with the Earth Institute at Columbia University to create Bamboosero, a project dedicated to establishing bike shops in developing countries. The shops require no electricity or power tools, fiber for wrapping the frame is made from sisal, another abundant local plant, and Calfee oversees a lot of the training personally. The biggest challenge has been setting up a supply chain for the pedals, handlebars, cranks and gears, which still need to be imported.
In countries where women spend hours a day, walking several miles to collect water and firewood, owning a bike means an exponential upgrade in quality of life. Families gain access to work, school, markets and improved health care. “We have a few bikes being used by farmers,” says Calfee. “They’ve increased their income by 50 percent.”
Currently, there are shops in Ghana and Zambia with more scheduled to open this summer. Calfee’s goal is to meet the growing U.S. demand for the bikes with frames built in Bamboosero shops and assembled stateside. A portion of the proceeds will then be used to establish microfinancing plans that will allow families in developing countries to purchase bikes built locally.
To learn more or purchase a bamboo bike, visit: bamboosero.com or calfeedesign.com.
To watch a video of three guys (total weight: 600 lbs) testing the strength capacity of a bamboo bike .
Easy Riders Rick Graves and his Clutch Couriers
by Linda Koffm
As a young boy growing up in New Zealand, Rick Graves used to ride to school on the back of his older brother’s bike, holding on for dear life as his brother would tear down gravelly roads in an attempt to knock off the pint-sized passenger. At the age of 10 his family moved to Santa Cruz and, now, with those early recreational bike days and a stint as a professional bike messenger in New York City under his belt, the 39-year-old is the one tearing down local roads on two wheels. Transplanting the cut-throat tradition of the Big Apple’s urban bike messenger system to Santa Cruz since starting Clutch Couriers in 2006, Graves helms a model green business that’s seeing the rewards of putting the pedal to the pavement.
Initially a one-man operation founded with a $1,000 investment and operating out of Graves’ home, Clutch Couriers has grown into a six-person crew that can service businesses, personal deliveries and legal filing from Monterey to over the hill, and also provides in-house print jobs. Aside from the occasional use of his Honda Civic Hybrid (for access to the furthest spots), the company has built itself up by going back to the basics: high quality delivery at a low cost via bicycles. The ultimate low-emissions approach that also means less parking hassles, less mechanical maintenance and less insurance fees, the company’s overhead is also less so that the price for the consumer is cheaper. It’s not just a green alternative, Graves says, it’s the best alternative.
“I don’t know how many times you’ve been sitting in traffic and watched a bicyclist pass you, but if you really want something across town quickly that’s the way to go,” he states, sitting in bike attire in his new but modest River Street office, band posters printed on 100 percent recycled paper laid out on the floor ready to be plastered around the county by his team, his phone ringing non-stop. “Whether it’s for increasing the efficiency of your business or for the environment, it’s the best option for social change and it’s also the best option for good business.”
With a clientele you’re unlikely to find mingling in the same room, Clutch Couriers caters to the flyering needs of the Museum of Art and History, the Watsonville Brown Berets, Santa Cruz’s Hell’s Angels, Moe’s Alley and Temple Beth El, to name a few. Major daily accounts include handling the full-service banking for a local raw-foods company, delivering the mail for the Nonprofit Insurance Alliance of California and the Santa Cruz Metro Transit District, along with constant court filings from top Bay Area law firms. Establishing a route between Santa Cruz and Watsonville since last April, Clutch Couriers has hooked up the two regions so that commerce can now go back and forth in a sustainable way. In addition, Graves is a certified process server and notary. Just because he’s on a bike doesn’t mean he can’t answer the call of the white-collared conservatives.
“Ultimate change for the planet is going to come from the business community, because those are the people making what we consume and what we put out into the environment,” he says of his inclination to work for lawyers and corporate clients just as much as your local grandma sending cookies or your local rock band advertising a gig. “If you’re only promoting yourself to like-minded individuals, you’re not expanding your reach into conservative markets and you’re doing the environment a disservice.”
Covering important ground philosophically and physically, Graves rides up to 60 miles on his bike each day, and together his team racks up approximately 700 miles each week. His commitment to exceed customer expectations and prove that you can make a career out of something that’s a win-win situation for everyone and the environment, is what keeps his wheels turning.
The other reason he toils past you in traffic each day? Good old-fashioned fun.
“The personal aspect to it is, I won’t lie, it’s absolutely the most fun physical labor I’ve ever done and that’s why I’ve been addicted to it and worked so hard at it for over 15 years,” Graves explains matter-of-factly. He then muses in a softened tone, “At the end of the day, doing what you love just adds to your soul.”
Learn more about Clutch Couriers at clutchcouriers.com or 466-0560.
Eco-Teach Students teaching students
by Linda Koffman
“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
One eco-minded after school program in Watsonville is not only acknowledging that the youth will direct the future, it’s empowering them to do so now, by placing high school students at the head of the class—as teachers.
Enabling the next generation to lead the one after it, the Pajaro Valley School District’s Eco-Teach program transforms Pajaro Valley High students into job-trained, effective teachers of a green curriculum. With two adult facilitators training 10 high school students how to teach green lessons to 150 elementary students each semester, Eco-Teach is a multi-tier mentorship program operating five days each week. Offering not only personal growth, confidence and knowledge to its high schoolers, for some, Eco-Teach is their first paying job experience in which they can earn minimum wage for instructing their own classrooms.
While first- through sixth-graders are enlightened by green-themed games and discussions, high school participants are enlightened to the potentials of college and a green economy. Opening up dialogue about fair trade and social justice in addition to the traditional focus on the four Rs, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse and Rot, program coordinator Tawn Kennedy says that Eco-Teach emphasizes how being green is, indeed, applicable and essential to low-income demographics by examining Van Jones’ idea of green pathways out of poverty.
“We try to teach about careers that not only nurture the earth but are also careers for development, advancement and making a living wage,” Kennedy says.
In addition to their time in the classroom learning how to be an instructor and then putting those skills to work with the younger students, high schoolers are taken on trips to bring them beyond their normal field of vision. Excursions include kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough, visits to the beach as well as to the UC Santa Cruz campus. Plus, guest speakers have been brought in from the Watsonville Brown Berets and the Community Agroecology Network to lend their personal insights.
“We really need programs that educate students to become more ecologically literate,” Kennedy says. “Whether it’s about their bioregion or practical things like alternative energy and how to install solar panels, which can lead to a career, we need to prepare them for a shift in everyday lifestyle.”
To volunteer, donate or learn more about Eco-Teach, contact Tawn Kennedy at [email protected]
Tips, resources and other news to keep the skies blue,
the oceans clean and your life environmentally sound
El Plastiko: Our ocean has become a garbage patch, slowly filling with bits and pieces of the wonder material of the 1950s. Plastic outweighs plankton in many places. Animals like turtles and albatross eat it. It clogs our beaches and finds its way up the food chain back to us. But much of the problem is avoidable. Now. The trillion new plastic bags and billions of plastic bottles we use each year have cheap/free reusable/biodegradable alternatives. Let’s get on it. And let’s get it out. aDayWithoutPlastic.org.
Shrimp Suck: The No. 1 seafood in the United States is shrimp. Most of our shrimp comes to us from far, far away. It’s caught using nets that drag the sea floor and catch mostly non-shrimp, like sharks, sea turtles, young fish and invertebrates. Shrimp farms produce most of the shrimp we consume. Generally, they are no better as they’re built where there once were mangrove and important wetlands, pollute coastal waters with antibiotics and feces not to mention the cost to communities and human rights issues. Then said shrimp are flown on a jet, half-way across the planet, to appear all garlicky and fried in your all-you-can-eat buffet. Be choosey when you eat seafood, particularly if you eat shrimp. The most sustainable choices cost a little more, but it’s worth it. You don’t want to be part of wrecking the ocean, for a shrimp. ShrimpSuck.org.
Ocean Warming: The ocean is our buffer and our planetary air conditioner. The global ocean temperature doesn’t change fast, but when it does, it can cause trouble. A warming ocean, even an increase of two degrees, caused by CO2 emissions, while nicer to surf and swim in, means coral bleaching, storminess, ocean acidification, sea level rise and associated problemas grandes for coastal residents. Global warming is ocean warming at the core and the ocean tribe needs to lead the way to clean energy. Now. StopOceanWarming.org.
BYO: The solution to the ocean plastic plague is in your hands. The folks at Save Our Shores created BYOGear.org to make it easy to do right and reduce the amount of plastic waste in your life drastically. Bring your own shopping bag, bottle or cup. Throw in some utensils and when you have to take out, bring your own box. It’s pretty easy to go a day without disposable plastic. Make it a habit. Tell your friends, your neighbors, and your local restaurants. It’s not just about recycling anymore. See saveourshores.org.
The Big Blue: Less than 1 percent of our ocean is formally protected. Time to change that. Here in California, we are leading the way by creating a network of protected marine areas that safeguard the most important spots for everyone. Forever. So the ocean can start to rebuild and restore. Check it out at: oceanconservancy.org/ca.
WOD ’09: This year, the United Nations finally recognized June 8 as World Ocean Day. Many of us have been celebrating it for a while, but it’s nice to have the stamp of those folks in New York at the UN. Celebrate WOD ‘09 at Ocean Revolution 5 with The Mother Hips and Hot Buttered Rum at the Catalyst on June 5. It’s a plain old music and dance jam, no heavy eco-stuff. Just ocean love. WorldOceanDay.org.
LIVBLUE: If green is the new black, blue is the new green. Blue is the color of our planet and the sky. Blue is clean. Blue is progressive. Blue is hopeful. Blue is calm. Consume clear skies, clean waves and live music. Live like you love the ocean. LIVBLUE.org.
Can you hear me now? We generally think of the vast ocean as a mostly dark, mostly quiet place. Not so. Our activities have changed that: ships, motors, drills, pings, sonar blasts are making ever larger swaths of the seas unbearable for the critters who use sound to navigate, fund food and find a mate. OCR.org.
Sex in the Sea: Fish do it, turtles do it, whales do it. Barnacle reproduction may be the most impressive of all. It’s ocean sex week over at Deep Sea News and we can hardly keep our wetsuits on. Glide on over there and take a peek. It’s hard to resist such blog entries as “Sleezy” sponge sexuality,” “The Sand Dollar Love Shack,” “Got Gonad?” and “Let’s get it on … and on … and on …” You’ll learn something new, that’s for sure. And you may not even get wet. DeepSeaNews.com.
Ocean Heroes: Here in Santa Cruz, we live amongst a cadre of saintly salty types who have quietly dedicated their lives to the care of our world’s ocean. Scientists, activists, organizers, surfers, politicians, moms and dads, engineers, kids and businesspeople all working for our blue marble. You know them. Maybe you’re one of them. There are thousands. Thank you. OceanChampions.org.
Mind and Ocean: Close your eyes (after you read this). Imagine the ocean. Think of the sound, the smell, waves pounding the shore, the vast blueness, the ocean lullaby takes you deep into REM sleep. The view of an ocean is worth exponentially more than that of, say, a wall. Why is that? What does the ocean do inside our heads? We can’t quantify the value, so we willingly empty our pockets to have some of it. Because we really do need the ocean. The real ocean. This is your mind. This is your mind on the ocean. Any questions?
Wallace J. Nichols (blog: wallacejnichols.org )
Twenty simple things you can do to live a more sustainable life.
RECYCLE Avoid adding to the landfill by recycling everything you can.
REUSE Start with re-usable grocery bags. Local grocery stores like New Leaf Community Markets and Staff of Life sell them now and home stores sell them in designer colors and patterns (BOE, Chefworks, Bunny’s, and many others in downtown Santa Cruz.) Start thinking about other things you can reuse.
COMPOST! It’s not hard, and it works. Vegetable waste in your garbage releases methane gas from land fills into the atmosphere. There are a number of products on the market, but my favorite is the rotating composter. Add all your yard cuttings, old flower arrangements, and cooking scraps (no meat) and make fresh soil every 27 days. Egg shells, coffee grounds and tea leaves are especially great for composting. compostore.com/originalct.html
GROW YOUR OWN Growing food is fun, educational and immensely gratifying. Growing vegetables is possible all year round in Santa Cruz. Reduce your food bill, and enjoy the benefits of your labor.
NATURAL PEST CONTROL Find out about it—things like soap-based sprays. The whole garden will be healthier and so will the environment.
SWITCH out the majority of your light bulbs to CFL’s (compact fluorescents). You will be very pleasantly surprised at the difference in your energy bill.
TURN OUT THE LIGHTS! When you leave a room, flip the switch. It makes a big difference.
PULL THE PLUG Unplugging appliances when not in use saves more energy than you think.
CONSERVE WATER Try using sensor faucets in the bathroom. There are very attractive ones on the market, and they will afford a tremendous water savings. They are especially useful in a ‘secondary’ bath, like a powder bath, where lots of hand washing goes on. If you keep a bucket (again, an attractive one in designer colors is my favorite—mine is hot pink from General Feed) in your shower; you can nearly fill it before the hot water comes on. Use the water for containers or other plants outside. You will be doing this every day, so it’s surprising how efficient it is—and you won’t be wasting hose water outside.
MAKE YOUR OWN FILTERED WATER Subscribe to a water service, or invest in a reverse osmosis system so you can fill with your own water. Brita makes a nice system that lives in a water pitcher in your fridge. The return is quick, and you aren’t filling the environment with more plastic (petroleum) bottles we are now stockpiling.
PLANT A DROUGHT RESISTANT GARDEN This is easier and more aesthetically pleasing than you can imagine. Removing a lawn is ambitious, but when you look around there are many, many gardens in our community now that have done just that, and with beautiful results. The people at The Garden Company and Far West Nursery in Santa Cruz are particularly helpful and have a nice supply of plants.
GET A STAINLESS COFFEE CUP instead of using paper and plastic at your local café. You will save whole forests, and most cafes give you a discount for bringing your own cup.
USE GREEN CLEANING PRODUCTS to avoid putting pollutants and chemicals into the water system. Products like Method and Seventh Generation smell good and clean well for a healthy house. Green Space in Santa Cruz (greenspacecompany.com) is an ideal spot to nab any number of eco-friendly products and supplies.
WEATHERSTRIP AND CAULK AIR GAPS to make your home more temperature and energy efficient.
USE ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES
WALK AND RIDE YOUR BIKE The journey is so much more pleasant, and you get a health benefit, too.
BUY LOCAL We are fortunate to have several fabulous farmer’s markets every week, and great local natural food stores that make it their business to provide us with local goods. You are supporting local growers and vendors and vastly reducing the carbon footprint created by imported produce and other goods.
USE HEALTHY PRODUCTS FOR HOME IMPROVEMENT Green Space is a great local resource for this. There are many products on the market now such as low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and wall coverings, safe adhesives, rapidly renewable materials for flooring and cabinetry. If you are involved in a more ambitious project, there are contractors, designers and architects who are invested in green design and ready to help you. Your local chapter (Monterey Branch) of USGBC is helpful with resources. usgbc-ncc.org.
EDUCATE YOURSELF There are so many resources for us to practice and enjoy sustainable living. The more you find out about ways to live green, the more attractive and beneficial it becomes. Santa Cruz is blessed with many, many extraordinary people making sustainable practice and living happen. NextSpace in Santa Cruz is a hotbed of resources and people you want to get to know. oclc.org/nextspace/default.htm.
ENJOY THE (BLUE)GREEN REVOLUTION. Living (blue) green is about living better and the joy of knowing you are healthier and happier. It’s doing everything you already do, just doing it better. Living (blue)green is living better. Every little change and effort makes a big difference. Santa Cruz County is an inspiring place to be right now. Enjoy.
Lorri Kershner (Learn more at lkershnerdesign.com .)
Web exclusive Content:
Belt it Out
by Leslie Patrick
When artist and UC Santa Cruz alum Josh Hoy began his artistic career as a sculptor after he was “struck by lightning” while staring at the glorious beauty of French sculpture, he never imagined that his career would eventually merge with fashion. But fate has a sly way of intruding on our plans. Make no mistake, Hoy still sculpts, but he now supplements his art with a line of bronze belt buckles that have been spotted gracing the svelte bodies of celebrities including Sting, Leonardo DiCaprio and Harrison Ford.
Hoy never intended to become a designer, but the economics of being an artist nudged him in that direction. “I might spend $10,000 and a year in my life creating a sculpture and it might take three years to sell,” Hoy says. “The inconsistency of it makes it tough in terms of sustainability in one’s own life.” At first he made them as gifts, but eventually strangers began to call him asking where they could get their hands on one of his belts. “It’s been interesting to see the momentum it has,” Hoy continues. “It’s been a very organic experience.”
In addition to being a beautiful and sustainable piece of wearable art, Hoy’s belts help save the ocean. “My brother J Nichols who lives in Davenport started Ocean Revolution,” Hoy adds. “One of my buckles has a wave from a 13th century Japanese design, and 10 percent of the sales of the wave buckle will go to benefit Ocean Revolution. It’s all about what we can do to nourish the planet that nourishes us.”
In addition to his belts, Hoy also crafts leather cuffs and pendants using natural materials such as abalone, turquoise and mother of pearl. He believes in sustainable design and creating something that you can grow old with. “Building something that lasts and that is heirloom quality is conservation. It fits my model of how it should be,” Hoy says.
His creations can be found locally at Cameron Marks boutique in Santa Cruz, by calling 949-222-6668, or by visiting Hoy’s website at joshuabchoy.com.
Wise Solutions Cleans Up
by Samantha Thompson
There’s a reason it’s called ‘Wise Solutions.’ The innovative Santa Cruz County-based green company, helmed by scientist and businessman Jeremiah Ridenour, offers ‘wise’ lubricant ‘solutions’ to businesses. With a sharp corner on the local market in this green niche, Ridenour and his eight-person team have created green products that are making a dramatic impact on the local and far-reaching landscape by way of eliminating toxic waste streams—both in water and on land. For example, Wise Solutions’ products can be used as cleaning supplies at a winery or dairy, as healthy herbicide alternatives for farmers, or as a cleanser for a boat, and the list goes on and on. The spectrum of usage for any of the company’s myriad products is huge. On the company’s website, it explains that, “WISE represents a solution to a problem that isn’t widely understood—a significant volume of lubricants and cleaning products are ‘lost’ to the environment every year representing a threat to ecosystems and thus to all living things. WISE not only decreases risks and liabilities through improved worker, citizen and environmental health and safety, but also delivers an effective vehicle for pollution prevention, environmental protection, support for rural farming, and sustainable economic growth.”
Sounds like a mouthful, but it’s really not. Think of it this way: Any business uses hordes of cleaning supplies, lubricants, etc., to keep things running. Waste from those products, and those products themselves, often get washed down the sink and eventually can end up not only being hazardous to whomever is using the products, but eventually to aquatic life as well. The products Wise Solutions offers can eliminate these hazards.
Green Careers Gets Local Youth Geared Up for Green Jobs
Local high school students were honored last Friday, May 22 in a graduation celebration at Greenspace put on by the Santa Cruz Regional Occupation Program (SCROP). The ceremony recognized the students for their environmental work with nearly 45 local businesses, which were also honored for their contributions to the program. Businesses like Rapid Refill Ink, Santa Cruz Green Builders and many others have provided support for the students in the form of internships, field trips, curriculum and donations. The program, created by ROP Green Careers instructor Annette Jackson, is geared toward giving students the right tools, training, and information they would need to go into green occupations. Despite the program’s success in preparing young students for possible future careers with green businesses, recent budget cuts could mean the end of the program by next year; though there is hope that local support for this educational program will keep it up and running.
Green Motors Revs It Up
The future of the automobile is going green and Green Motors has already made the conversion. Driving green does not only save the environment it also saves money. With gas prices that seem to be on the indefinite rise it maybe time to put down the gas pump and try something new. Green Motors features an inventory of hybrid and electric cars and trucks, scooters, and bio diesel cars and trucks. Green Motors also carries svo/wvo conversion kits, which allow for a vehicle to be run off of waste vegetable oil. Driving a vehicle powered off of waste vegetable oil allows for your local fast joint’s deep friar to become the new gas station. All of the vehicles at Green Motors are intended for the drivers to reduce their carbon footprint and participate in a more sustainable method of transportation. @ 1823 Soquel Ave Suite B, Santa Cruz. Call 247-3159 for information. | Jacob Herz
Beach clean-ups, advocating for the protection of sensitive marine environments, educating the public on what seafood is most sustainable to eat and clean boating initiatives are just a few of the issues that Sanctuary Stewards participates in. Sanctuary Stewards are the citizen volunteers of Save Our Shores. Save Our Shores was founded in 1978 as a grassroots organization to fight against the expansion of off shore drilling off of the coast of California. Sanctuary Stewards courses started in 1995 to educate the public about the importance of marine protection and promote events such as Earth Day. Beach cleanups conducted by Save Our Shores have taken place on 39 beaches in Santa Cruz County and have collected over 10,000 pounds of trash from the beaches and marine habitats. Learn more at 345 Lake Avenue, Santa Cruz, or call 462-5660. | JK
Going Green Keeps Things Blue at Cabrillo College
Students, Faculty and Staff at Cabrillo College are receiving new incentives to go green. They can make a pledge to use alternative forms of transportation such as riding their bike, walking, carpooling or taking public transportation to Cabrillo College and have the opportunity to win prizes. If not a winner using alternative transportation allows for participants to lower their carbon foot-print, save money and get a lot of exercise. The Cabrillo bike Co-op is also now open so that you could either volunteer to learn how to fix up bikes or bring in an old bike to get it working again. | JK
Sustainable Building Expo 411
Featured at the Sustainable Building expo, will be information on how to create energy efficient and low waste buildings. Attending the expo. will be a wide companies that specialize in running and designing sustainable buildings. The expo will also feature a series of seminars on energy and water conservation, LEED building certification and building with green materials. @ Santa Clara Convention Center June 3 & 4 (free)