Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags ,

‘It’s not profitable’: Another Sonoma County recycling center closes

Marisa Endicott, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It soon will get even harder to score a bit of extra cash in Sonoma County for turning in bottles and cans.

One of the few remaining recycling redemption sites in the area, Brogard, in Windsor, will end its operation Aug. 26 after 19 years. The scrap metal site at the same location, West Coast Metals, will continue to run.

“We’re not really happy about it because we have been a service to the community for so long,” owner Linda Gardner told me, “but just dollar-wise, we cannot keep open losing money every month.”

This is more bad news for consumers already struggling to recoup the 5- or 10-cent fee on containers as California Refund Value redemption centers and retailers have dwindled in recent years. California has lost almost half its container recycling operations in the past decade.

In Sonoma County, 85% of sites have shuttered in the past decade, and in some other Northern California counties, there are none.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/another-sonoma-county-recycling-center-is-closing-leaving-consumers-with-e/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , ,

Balancing protein in your diet could improve water quality

Kat Kerlin, UC DAVIS NEWS

Eating Too Much Protein Adds to Nitrogen Pollution in U.S. Waters

…when a body takes in more protein than it needs, excess amino acids break it down into nitrogen, which is excreted mostly through urine and released through the wastewater system. This brings additional nitrogen into waterways, which can result in toxic algal blooms, oxygen-starved “dead zones” and polluted drinking water.

Balancing how much protein you eat with the amount your body needs could reduce nitrogen releases to aquatic systems in the U.S. by 12% and overall nitrogen losses to air and water by 4%, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.

Protein consumption in the United States, from both plant and animal sources, ranks among the highest in the world. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, said that if Americans ate protein at recommended amounts, projected nitrogen excretion rates in 2055 would be 27% less than they are today despite population growth.

The study is the first to estimate how much protein consumption contributes to excess nitrogen in the environment through human waste. It also indicates that coastal cities have the largest potential to reduce nitrogen excretions headed for their watersheds.

“It turns out that many of us don’t need as much protein as we eat, and that has repercussions for our health and aquatic ecosystems,” said lead author Maya Almaraz, a research affiliate with the UC Davis Institute of the Environment. “If we could reduce that to an amount appropriate to our health, we could better protect our environmental resources.”

Read more at https://www.ucdavis.edu/climate/news/balancing-protein-your-diet-could-improve-water-quality

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Press Release: Governor Newsom signs legislation cutting harmful plastic pollution to protect communities, oceans and animals

OFFICE OF GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM

New California law requires all packaging to be recyclable or compostable, significantly cutting plastics use

Legislation strengthens state’s recycling system and shifts burden of plastic waste from Californians to the plastics and packaging industry

SACRAMENTO – On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court kneecapped the federal government’s ability to reduce pollution and tackle climate change, California took nation-leading steps to cut plastic pollution and hold the plastics industry accountable for their waste.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 54, requiring all packaging in the state to be recyclable or compostable by 2032, cutting plastic packaging by 25 percent in 10 years and requiring 65 percent of all single-use plastic packaging to be recycled in the same timeframe.

Additionally, the legislation shifts the plastic pollution burden from consumers to the plastics industry by raising $5 billion from industry members over 10 years to assist efforts to cut plastic pollution and support disadvantaged communities hurt most by the damaging effects of plastic waste.

“Our kids deserve a future free of plastic waste and all its dangerous impacts, everything from clogging our oceans to killing animals – contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. No more. California won’t tolerate plastic waste that’s filling our waterways and making it harder to breathe. We’re holding polluters responsible and cutting plastics at the source,” said Governor Newsom.

SB 54 is the most significant overhaul of California’s plastics and packaging recycling policy in history, goes further than any other state on cutting plastics production at the source and continues to build a circular economy that is necessary to combat climate change. A global study in 2018 found that only nine percent of plastics actually get recycled – leaving 91 percent to litter land and oceans.

Read more at https://www.gov.ca.gov/2022/06/30/governor-newsom-signs-legislation-cutting-harmful-plastic-pollution-to-protect-communities-oceans-and-animals/

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , , ,

Sonoma County unveils first-ever proposed well water fees under pioneering California groundwater law

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In a dramatic shift from California’s history of allowing landowners to freely pump and consume water from their own wells, Sonoma County’s rural residents and many others will soon begin paying for the water drawn from beneath their feet.

In the sprawling 81,284-acre Santa Rosa Plain groundwater basin, the proposed regulatory fee for a rural resident is $18 to $25 a year, much lower than the rates in the more sparsely populated Petaluma and Sonoma valleys.

In the 44,846-acre Sonoma Valley basin, the fee would be $48 to $80 a year, and in the 46,661-acre Petaluma Valley basin, it would be $115 to $200 a year.

The residential fees are based on an assumption that rural residents typically pump a half-acre foot of well water a year. Most homes do not have water meters and none will be installed under the fee program.

Large groundwater water users — including ranches, cities, water districts and businesses — would pay fees based on the volume of water drawn from their wells.

Fees in the Santa Rosa basin would be $35 to $50 per acre foot, in Sonoma Valley $95 to $160 per acre foot and in Petaluma Valley $230 to $400 per acre foot.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-unveils-first-ever-proposed-well-water-fees-under-pioneering/

Posted on Categories Forests, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

For 70 years, a Mendocino forest has been used to promote logging. Is it time to change its mission?

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

MENDOCINO COAST — Even in the fading light of dusk, a 200-foot-tall redwood known as the “Mama Tree” is an exalted presence.

Her imposing height and girth show she has been on earth far longer than anyone who might find comfort in her shade.

Near her base, a downed log serves as an altar, displaying stones, a seashell, pictures, a pink crystal triangle and a bird’s lost feather — talismans left by visitors who travel along a well-used trail nearby.

In Mama Tree’s branches, 65 feet above ground, a tented wooden platform occupied by a variety of committed protesters last year is vacant, waiting, a long banner hanging just below it.

“Save and Protect Jackson State,” it says. “The Forest of the People.”

For more than a year, this spot in the sprawling Jackson Demonstration State Forest has become a rallying point in an intensifying battle over the future of the nearly 50,000-acre expanse of public land, an area nearly twice as large as the city of San Francisco.

The forest, which extends east from the central Mendocino Coast about 100 miles northwest of Santa Rosa, was set aside seven decades ago to extol the virtues of responsible logging.

Now, however, activists say it’s time to rethink its purpose. Each massive redwood that is cut down can no longer absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere and becomes one less weapon in the battle against climate change.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/for-70-years-jackson-state-forest-has-been-used-to-promote-logging-is-it/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Bay Area ranchers open their own mobile meat processing plant, filling key gap for local industry

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Bay Area livestock ranchers, including 24 in Sonoma County, are welcoming this week’s opening of their own slaughterhouse that fills a critical gap created more than two years ago.

The $1.2 million mobile processing plant, with a gleaming white 36-foot-long trailer purchased and set up at an area ranch by the 39-member Bay Area Ranchers Co-op, puts farmers producing beef cattle, pig, goat and sheep meat in control of their industry.

“It’s a big game changer in our food system,” said Duskie Estes, co-owner of the Black Pig Meat Co. and a co-op board member. “We are opening up the business place for small-scale animal husbandry.”

The co-op “exists solely for the benefit of the ranchers themselves who now have a guaranteed place to process their animals,” said Vince Trotter, sustainable ag coordinator at the Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, who helped the co-op get started.

“This is for ranchers who want to sell meat under their own label,” he said, noting that farmers will no longer need to share their revenue with a commercial slaughterhouse.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/bay-area-ranchers-open-their-own-mobile-meat-processing-plant-filling-key/

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

Is there hope of finding middle ground on California’s rooftop solar policy?

Jeff St. John, CANARY MEDIA

Utility regulators are under heavy pressure to change their net-metering proposal — but there’s little agreement on what should result.

The Sierra Club’s new compromise proposal also addresses the issue of the roughly 1.3 million customers who already have rooftop solar. Current policy allows these customers to remain on their preexisting net-metering rates — both the original net-metering regime and the ​“NEM 2.0” regime put in place in 2016 — for 20 years after they installed their systems.

The battle over how to update the policies on compensation for rooftop solar systems in California has only grown more heated in recent weeks. A few groups have proposed new compromises, but the two camps are still far from agreement. Meanwhile, California regulators have postponed their decision on the issue, so the debate will rage on for the time being.

The California Public Utilities Commission’s proposal last month to slash the value of energy exported to the power grid from future rooftop solar systems and impose monthly fees on customers who install them has sparked a massive public and political backlash.

Thousands of people have joined protests organized by the solar industry to demonstrate against the proposal over the past month, and polling indicates a hefty majority of California residents oppose it. Major political figures including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) have publicly blasted the plan, painting it as a threat to the state’s push to decarbonize its electricity supply. Actors Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo have joined the fray on Twitter.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) said earlier this month that ​“changes need to be made” to the current CPUC proposal, but he didn’t offer specific fixes and said he won’t interfere in the commission’s decision-making process. Since December, two of the commission’s five members have departed and been replaced by Newsom appointees, including new commission President Alice Reynolds, a former senior adviser to Newsom’s administration.

Read more at https://www.canarymedia.com/articles/solar/is-there-hope-of-finding-middle-ground-on-californias-rooftop-solar-policy

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

County moves ahead with preliminary plan for Sonoma Developmental Center, but likely with less housing

Phil Barber, PRESS DEMOCRAT

More than three hours into the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors’ discussion Tuesday on the future of the 930-acre Sonoma Developmental Center property in Glen Ellen, supervisor Susan Gorin cut to the chase, advocating a reduction of proposed housing units from the 900-1,000 range to between 450 and 700.

There were few tangible outcomes beyond that.

County staff stressed repeatedly that Tuesday’s agenda item would not lead to a vote. Instead, the lengthy conversation would serve as what Permit Sonoma Planning Manager Brian Oh referred to as an interim checkpoint.

“What we have presented today is a framework for the project description that would go into the environmental impact report,” Oh said. “We have started on broad concepts based on feedback that we’re hearing from the community.”

But judging by the comments that followed Oh’s presentation Tuesday, Sonoma Valley residents do not believe the county is being responsive to that feedback.

Speaker after speaker called for a scaled-down footprint, additional time to study wildlife impacts, more public transportation and bike lanes, services for people with disabilities, and a greater concentration of affordable housing.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/county-moves-ahead-with-preliminary-plan-for-sonoma-developmental-center-b/

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

Op-Ed: Heart of Sonoma Valley at risk of urbanization?

Teri Shore, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

The future of the 945-acre expanse of open space lands and historic campus in the heart of Sonoma Valley at the former Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), also known as Eldridge (next to Glen Ellen), remains uncertain after public hearings on county plans to create a new town. The plans are widely opposed due to the size and scale of the proposed development. The abandoned campus is surrounded by open space, agricultural lands and voter-approved community separator greenbelts.

At the end of 2021, Sonoma County planners released three similar variations of urban-style development on the historic campus that features 1,000 homes, a new hotel, restaurants, and commercial and office space, and a new road. The draft plans were intended as the foundation for developing a county SDC Specific Plan that will get environmental review.

The plans were widely opposed by environmentalists, housing advocates, labor, community groups and the public at large. Hundreds of letters were lodged with the county and state. The Sonoma City Council and Sonoma Valley’s two county-appointed Municipal Advisory Councils, and the public opposed the plans and made recommendations. Many are also asking that the land remain in public hands and not be sold to a developer.

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/opinion-heart-of-sonoma-valley-at-risk-of-urbanization/

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags ,

Those holiday gift returns may end up in a landfill

Paige Bennett, ECOWATCH

It happens to everyone — the holidays roll around, and your great aunt, your co-worker, or your second cousin gets you a gift that is thoughtful, but not quite your style. Even with the tags intact and the packaging in good shape, that gift may not go back to sit on a store shelf after you’ve returned it. Instead, many gift returns end up in a landfill.

Last year, the National Retail Federation forecasted that in 2021, retail sales in the U.S. would exceed $4.4 trillion. With the pandemic raging on, many people spent more time shopping online, perhaps trying to achieve an Insta-worthy kitchen or to try out trendy new fashions for which they saw targeted ads. Holiday shopping ramped up, too, as people rushed to buy in fear of delayed shipping or supply chain issues.

But much of those purchases were returned. Hitendra Chaturvedi, a supply chain management expert and professor at Arizona State University estimated that returns for 2021 would reach around $500 billion, even higher than the National Retail Federation’s findings from 2020 that returns reached $428 billion. Chaturvedi also told NPR reporter Alina Selyukh that many returns likely go to landfills.

That’s not always the case. Some clothing retailers, particularly higher end clothing shops, may dry clean and resell returned items. Electronics may be clearanced and sold at a special “open box” or “used” price, as is the case at many major retailers like Best Buy and Amazon. But even so, many returns are tossed out.

As reported by NPR, retailers are estimated to throw away about 25% of returns. In 2020, returns solutions company Optoro said returns likely led to about 5.8 billion pounds of landfill waste in just one year. As if those returns going to the trash wasn’t enough, the shipping of those returns also contributed to 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Read more at https://www.ecowatch.com/holiday-gift-returns-landfill.html