Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Over 4,200 Amazon workers push for climate change action, including cutting some ties to big oil

Karen Weise, THE NEW YORK TIMES

SEATTLE — Employees at big tech companies have pushed back against their employers for working with the military and law enforcement offices, and demanded better treatment of women and minorities.

Now, thousands of them are also taking on climate change.

This week, more than 4,200 Amazon employees called on the company to rethink how it addresses and contributes to a warming planet. The action is the largest employee-driven movement on climate change to take place in the influential tech industry.

The workers say the company needs to make firm commitments to reduce its carbon footprint across its vast operations, not make piecemeal or vague announcements. And they say that Amazon should stop offering custom cloud-computing services that help the oil and gas industry find and extract more fossil fuels.

The goal for Amazon’s leaders and employees is “that climate change is something they think about whenever a business decision is being made,” said Rajit Iftikhar, a software engineer in Amazon’s retail business. “We want to make Amazon a better company. It is a natural extension of that.”

The letter adds support for a new tactic among activist tech workers: using the stock they receive as compensation to agitate for change. Like other shareholders, they can file a resolution urging a particular corporate change that investors vote on at a company’s annual meeting. Historically, this approach has been used by outside activist investors, not employees.

The Amazon employees signing the letter, who made their names public, are pushing Amazon to approve a shareholder resolution that would force the company to develop a plan to address its carbon footprint. The resolution was filed by more than two dozen current and former employees late last year, and it could come up for a vote next month.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/technology/amazon-climate-change-letter.html

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Straus Family Creamery moo-ving from Marin, hoofing it to Sonoma County

Austin Murphy, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Strolling past his company’s aging creamery in Marshall on Thursday morning, Albert Straus called to mind a pasteurized version of Willy Wonka:

“We’ve got ice cream here, yogurt over there, and there’s the butter room” said the 63-year-old dairy farmer and CEO of Straus Family Creamery. “Our soft-serve ice cream is made in those vats.”

It won’t be for long.

On Monday, construction begins on the company’s new creamery, a $20 million, 70,000-square-foot structure in Rohnert Park. While the Marshall dairy plant produces 16,000 gallons of milk a day, the new one “will have the capacity to almost double that, and do it much more efficiently,” Straus said. That increased capacity is key: the 25-year-old company is expected to double in size over the next seven to 10 years, according to its founder.

With more and more North Bay dairy farmers switching to the production of organic milk in recent years, prices have softened considerably. Despite that glut, Straus Family Creamery has remained profitable, and is moving full speed ahead on its creamery upgrade.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/9434361-181/straus-family-creamery-moo-ving-from

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

For second consecutive year, Sonoma County’s overall health ranking declines

Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Read the full report here and explore rankings by county here

For the second year in a row, Sonoma County’s rank in a key national measure of community health and wellness has declined when compared with other California counties.

According to the 2019 County Health Rankings compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, Sonoma County dropped to No. 8 in overall health outcomes of its residents among the state’s 58 counties, a slip from No. 7 in 2018 and a high of No. 5 in 2017.

The annual health ranking includes a variety of issues, such as premature death, low birth weight, education attainment, income inequality, smoking, obesity, insurance coverage and violent crime, in an attempt to show how health is influenced by where people live, learn, work and play.

This year’s nationwide health rankings report zeroed in on the burden of high housing costs and the effect on people’s health.

The report found that more than 11 percent of households in the United States spend more than half of their monthly income on housing costs.

In Sonoma County, 24 percent of county residents experience at least one of four problems with housing: overcrowding; high housing costs; inadequate kitchen and plumbing.

Read more at

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Jury awards $80 million to Sonoma County man who blamed Roundup for his cancer

Sudhin Thanawala, ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal court jury on Wednesday awarded more than $80 million in damages to a Sonoma County man who blamed Roundup weed killer for his cancer, in a potential milestone case his attorneys say could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits.

Edwin Hardeman proved that Roundup’s design was defective, it lacked sufficient cancer warnings and its manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto, was negligent, the six-person jury in San Francisco found.

It awarded Hardeman more than $5 million in compensation and an additional $75 million in punitive damages. Hardeman, 70, put his arm around his wife, Mary, as the verdict was read and hugged his attorneys.

Monsanto said studies have established that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its widely used weed killer, is safe. The company said it will appeal.

“We are disappointed with the jury’s decision, but this verdict does not change the weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide that support the safety of our glyphosate-based herbicides and that they are not carcinogenic,” according to a statement from Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year.

Hardeman said he used Roundup products to treat poison oak, overgrowth and weeds on his North Bay property for years. The same jury previously found that Roundup was a substantial factor in Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9438003-181/jury-awards-80-million-to?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Santa Rosa council members reluctant to support Bay Area plan for affordable housing

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

CASA Compact website

Santa Rosa council members are looking sideways at a $37.5 billion plan to ease the Bay Area’s intractable housing crisis, voicing their reluctance to subsidize housing development in other areas when the city is seeking to resolve its own dire shortage.

The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday gave a chilly reception to a set of 10 reforms known as the CASA compact. It came less than two weeks after a panel of eight local elected officials announced its opposition over the regional plan to boost affordable housing — and about two months after the Rohnert Park City Council booted one of its own, Jake Mackenzie, from two notable posts for publicly backing it.

City representatives and planning officials have touted recent local efforts to attract new housing, such as increasing how many units can be built per acre, changing local ordinances to stimulate the building of secondary homes, slashing certain development fees and lifting limits on downtown building heights.

Gov. Gavin Newsom held up Santa Rosa’s housing efforts as a paradigm of “local governments that do what’s right” in his February State of the State address.

Santa Rosa already has done or is trying to take all the measures outlined in the CASA compact, Councilman Chris Rogers said. The city shouldn’t foot the bill so other Bay Area cities can play catch-up, and especially not in the wake of Santa Rosa voters rejecting a $124 million housing bond, he said.

“We’re asking the public to help fund things we are already doing in places that have not taken this as seriously,” Rogers said.

While some of the regional plan’s policies might work for San Jose or San Francisco, he said they might not make sense for towns like Cotati or Sausalito.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9416431-181/santa-rosa-council-members-reluctant

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Jury finds Roundup weed killer a major factor in Sonoma County man’s cancer

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Roundup weed killer was a substantial factor in a Sonoma County man’s cancer, a jury determined Tuesday in the first phase of a trial that attorneys said could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits.

The unanimous verdict by the six-person jury in federal court in San Francisco came in a lawsuit filed against Roundup’s manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto. Edwin Hardeman, 70, was the second plaintiff to go to trial out of thousands around the country who claim the weed killer causes cancer.

Monsanto says studies have established that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is safe.

A San Francisco jury in August awarded another man $289 million after determining Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A judge later slashed the award to $78 million, and Monsanto has appealed.

Hardeman’s trial is before a different judge and may be more significant. U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed Hardeman’s case and two others “bellwether trials.”

The outcome of such cases can help attorneys decide whether to keep fighting similar lawsuits or settle them. Legal experts said a jury verdict in favor of Hardeman and the other test plaintiffs would give their attorneys a strong bargaining position in any settlement talks for the remaining cases before Chhabria.

The judge had split Hardeman’s trial into two phases. Hardeman’s attorneys first had to convince jurors that using Roundup was a significant factor in his cancer before they could make arguments for damages.

The trial will now proceed to the second phase to determine whether the company is liable and if so, for how much.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9409513-181/jury-roundup-weed-killer-major?ref=moststory

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , ,

Could a green new deal benefit the North Bay?

Robert Girling & Chris Yalonis, THE SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

Sustainability Enterprise Conference 2019

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN: northbaysec.org
Please join educational, business, government, and community leaders for the 14th Annual Sustainable Enterprise Conference on April 5 at Sonoma State University. This year we will gather transformational and engaged leaders from the North Bay counties to discuss pathways to Economic, Social, and Environmental Resilience.

Link to the Green New Deal Policy

There is a good bit of talk about a Green New Deal (GND), a plan to address climate change by directing federal dollars to restructure the economy, protect us from further disasters, create high paying jobs and reduce social inequities.

Among the goals of the GND are to move America to 100% clean and renewable energy. We are already leaders in this arena with Sonoma Clean Power and Marin Clean Energy providing much of the region’s energy.

But there is still much to be done. Think for a moment about the thousands of gasoline-powered vehicles clogging our freeways each day. Nearly 60% of North Bay emissions are from the transportation sector. Think also about the possibility of placing solar panels on thousands of roofs and using the energy to power our cars. Consider the opportunities that might be provided by electric and autonomous vehicles as well as technologies to reduce commuting. Consider how solar and wind energy, designing and building smart cities and smart roads could reduce the threat of fire and flood and improve the quality of our lives.

Read more at: https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/could-a-green-new-deal-benefit-the-north-bay-sustainable-enterprise-conference-2019

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As costs skyrocket, more U.S. cities stop recycling

Michael Corkery, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Recycling, for decades an almost reflexive effort by American households and businesses to reduce waste and help the environment, is collapsing in many parts of the country.

Philadelphia is now burning about half of its 1.5 million residents’ recycling material in an incinerator that converts waste to energy. In Memphis, the international airport still has recycling bins around the terminals, but every collected can, bottle and newspaper is sent to a landfill. And last month, officials in the central Florida city of Deltona faced the reality that, despite their best efforts to recycle, their curbside program was not working and suspended it.

Those are just three of the hundreds of towns and cities across the country that have canceled recycling programs, limited the types of material they accepted or agreed to huge price increases.

“We are in a crisis moment in the recycling movement right now,” said Fiona Ma, the treasurer of California, where recycling costs have increased in some cities.

Prompting this nationwide reckoning is China, which until January 2018 had been a big buyer of recyclable material collected in the United States. That stopped when Chinese officials determined that too much trash was mixed in with recyclable materials like cardboard and certain plastics. After that, Thailand and India started to accept more imported scrap, but even they are imposing new restrictions.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/16/business/local-recycling-costs.html

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Construction fees on ‘granny units’ challenge builders in Sonoma County

Martin Espinosa, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County builder Orrin Thiessen walked up a narrow, unfinished staircase and with pride began describing the 550-square-foot granny units being built as part of his Green Valley Village housing development in downtown Graton.

The small dwellings now are little more than an array of 2-inch by 6-inch wood framing studs and plywood floors and walls. The compact design of each includes a kitchen, living area, bathroom, bedroom and laundry closet.

“It’s got everything you need,” Thiessen said, standing in the living room, holding his arms out.

The construction of these slight apartments in Sonoma County is considered a key part of helping to ease the housing affordability crunch. But building them, he said, simply isn’t financially viable, especially in rural parts of the county where smaller sewer districts charge heftier connection fees and rates.

Local cities and towns have been rushing to reduce impact fees and restrictions to encourage construction of these so-called granny units, prompted by changes in state laws and the devastating 2017 wildfires. For example, Santa Rosa sharply reduced its impact fees for these smaller housing units, also known as secondary homes, and are starting to see significant response from builders and homeowners.

In some cases, other municipalities are charging 50 percent or even 33 percent of the regular hookup fee for sewer connections. Homeowners and builders say each incremental fee reduction helps bring down the overall cost of construction of the smaller homes.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/9354306-181/although-theres-a-push-to

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

How federal disaster money favors the rich

Rebecca Hersher & Robert Benincasa, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO

The federal government spends billions of dollars annually helping communities rebuild and prevent future damage. But an NPR investigation has found that across the country, white Americans and those with more wealth often receive more federal dollars after a disaster than do minorities and those with less wealth. Federal aid isn’t necessarily allocated to those who need it most; it’s allocated according to cost-benefit calculations meant to minimize taxpayer risk.

If they had known, they never would have bought the house on Bayou Glen Road. Sure, it was a beautiful lot, tucked in a bend of the creek, backyard woodsy and wild, the neighbors friendly and the street quiet. A little piece of nature just 20 minutes from downtown Houston. It was exactly what John and Heather Papadopoulos — recently married, hoping to start a family — were looking for in 2007. They didn’t think much about the creek that ran along their yard, aside from appreciating the birds it attracted to the neighborhood.

Across town, the Evans family was similarly indifferent to the wooded bayous that cut through their neighborhood. Janice Perry-Evans chose the house she rented because it was conveniently located near the local high school, which made it easy for her two boys to get to class and home from football practice. Her commute to the post office wasn’t far either. Plus, at $800 per month, the rent was affordable. By 2017, the family had lived there for four years, and didn’t have any plans to move.

And then, in August of that year, both homes were destroyed. Both families had to start over from nothing. But today, one family is financially stable. The other is facing bankruptcy.

Read more at https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich