Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Green-waste options mulled for Santa Rosa apartment dwellers

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Most [apartments], perhaps 90 percent, do not yet have a food waste option, Migliore said. But a number of complexes have begun testing organic waste programs, including the Coddingtown Mall Apartments. Some residents had installed their own small compost tumblers on their porches, so there was clearly an interest in providing the service, said Harry Brown, one of the property managers.

When Carlos Calzontzi lived in Chico, he and his wife had a little house with a garden and a compost pile where he would throw most of his kitchen scraps.

It felt good to return those nutrients back to the Earth and fertilize the soil to help grow vegetables for his family.

But when the retired city maintenance worker relocated last year to Santa Rosa to be closer his kids and grandkids, he moved into an apartment complex that at the time had no green-waste disposal option. The Coddingtown Mall Apartments, like most apartment complexes in the county, provided its 230 units with garbage and recycling service, but no bins for organic waste.

So he threw his leftover avocado pits, unused vegetable chunks and bread scraps into the garbage, where they went to the landfill.

“We felt bad because we knew all of that could be used in the garden,” Calzontzi said. “We care about the Earth.”

Organic material makes up about 34 percent of the material that Californians throw into landfills every year, according to a 2014 study by CalRecycle, the state waste management agency.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2014 law meant to improve organic recycling efforts, in part by requiring businesses like restaurants and food processors to have an organic waste program. But multi-family apartment complexes were exempted from the law.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8680335-181/green-waste-options-mulled-for-santa

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

‘Complicated choice’ looms in Sonoma County over next compost operator

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Every week, hundreds of thousands of Sonoma County residents dutifully gather grass clippings from their yards and food scraps from their kitchens, toss them into green bins and then cart them to the curb alongside their garbage and recycling.

Tons of this so-called “green waste” is then hauled, at a cost of $5 million per year, to other counties, where it is chopped up, often mixed with chicken guts, encouraged to rapidly decompose, and then sold as compost.

The process takes place entirely outside Sonoma County — mostly in Mendocino, Napa and Marin counties — ever since Sonoma Compost, the county’s longtime compost operation atop the Central Landfill, was shut down nearly three years ago for wastewater violations.

Now local officials face a complex but crucial decision about the future of composting in Sonoma County, one that will have major implications for the life of the county landfill, the rate of emission of greenhouse gases and the size of people’s garbage bills.

That decision is whether to encourage the construction of a new, modern composting facility here, with costs of $50 million or more, or whether to continue hauling the material to existing facilities elsewhere indefinitely.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8595931-181/complicated-choice-looms-in-sonoma

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Commercial compost operation proposed in Santa Rosa

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County is getting closer to once again having a large-scale commercial composting operation.

Staff at the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, which is responsible for recycling operations in the county, is recommending partnering with Renewable Sonoma in a new composting operation in Santa Rosa.

Renewable Sonoma is owned by Sonoma Compost, the organization that operated a compost yard atop the Sonoma County landfill from 1993 to 2015, when it was shut down over water quality concerns.

Will Bakx, co-owner and CEO of Renewable Sonoma, said the new venture seeks to create a renewable energy and composting facility next to the Laguna Treatment Plant on Llano Road southwest of Santa Rosa.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8462923-181/commercial-compost-operation-proposed-in

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

Recology eyes big boost in composting in Sonoma County

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Carole Carpenter always felt funny about throwing thousands of pounds of used coffee grounds into the garbage.

The manager of the popular Railroad Square café A’Roma Roasters knew the rich brown granules made a great soil fertilizer, a fact she was reminded of whenever customers asked if they could take some home to sprinkle in their gardens.

“It seems like such a waste to just throw them in the garbage,” said Carpenter, who has managed the operation for 20 years.

But with limited kitchen space, no simple way to set the coffee grounds aside for gardeners, and no green bin to dispose of them in, Carpenter just did what was easiest — she told employees to toss them in the dumpster along with all the café’s other food waste.

So Celia Furber, the waste zero manager with Recology, the city’s new garbage hauler, and John LaBarge, a Recology waste zero specialist, sat down with Carpenter last week to see if they could find ways to help the eatery keep more food waste out of the landfill.

It turns out that A’Roma Roasters should have been composting its food waste since Jan. 1, 2017. That’s when businesses that create more than 4 cubic yards of organic waste a week were required under AB 1826 to begin diverting it from landfills. Larger producers were required to start a year earlier.

But the city’s previous hauler, The Ratto Group, did not make it easy to set up the service, Furber said.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8106202-181/recology-eyes-big-boost-in

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

Santa Rosa open to new composting operation at Laguna wastewater site

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa is open to a large-scale composting operation on city-owned property near the Laguna Road wastewater treatment plant, an option that could provide curbside garbage customers some monthly savings.
The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency has been looking for a new site for an organic composting facility since a longtime operation atop the Central Landfill west of Cotati was shut down by regulators in 2015 over water pollution concerns.
Since then curbside customers have been paying millions of dollars to have their organic garbage hauled out of the county, an expensive, wasteful process that local officials want to end.
The county waste agency invited composting companies to submit proposals for a new facility in late May. As part of that process Santa Rosa made it known it might be willing to allow such an operation on surplus property north of the treatment plant.
The city interviewed potential operators, reviewed their plans, and winnowed the list to four companies it felt would be the best fit, said Emma Walton, water refuse engineer for the city.
The four finalists were San Diego-based BioMRF, the multinational firm Sacyr, StormFisher, which is headquartered in London, and a Petaluma-based venture called Renewable Sonoma, which appears to have partnered with SCS Engineers in Santa Rosa.
Read more at: Santa Rosa open to new composting operation at Laguna wastewater site

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, WaterTags , , , , , , , ,

Op-Ed: Cap-and-trade funds to support creative rural solutions

Paul Dolan and Renata Brillinger, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Overview from the CALCAN (California Climate and Agriculture Network) website:
Climate Smart Agriculture Programs – The state of California currently has four Climate Smart Agriculture programs that provide resources for California farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon in soils and trees, while providing multiple benefits to agriculture and the environment. The programs are funded with proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade program.
Healthy Soils Initiative – The Healthy Soils Initiative was proposed by Governor Brown in 2015 and received initial funding of $7.5 million in 2016. The Initiative provides funding for farmer and rancher incentives to increase carbon storage in soils and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions through practices that build healthy soil such as compost application, cover crop, reduced tillage, conservation plantings and more. The program will also fund on-farm demonstration projects to provide growers, researchers and other ag professionals strategies for mitigating climate change in agriculture.
State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP) – The program funds growers to improve their irrigation management practices to save water and energy and reduce related greenhouse gas emissions. Eligible project activities include pump upgrades and solar pump installation; conversion to drip or micro irrigation; improved water storage and/or recycling, soil moisture monitoring and irrigation scheduling.
Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP) – The program funds local government projects and permanent easements on agricultural lands at risk of development to prevent sprawl.
Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP) – The program funds dairy digesters and related research to reduce methane emissions from the dairy sector. A portion of the funding will be allocated in 2017 to a new program called the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 398, which extends cap-and-trade, California’s cornerstone climate change program, through 2030. The program requires the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., the oil and gas industry, cement plants, large food processors) to cut their emissions. Without putting a price on carbon, we are unlikely to meet our climate change goals, the most ambitious in the country.
The state Legislature and governor will now debate how to budget billions of dollars in cap-and-trade revenue. In the past three years, California has invested more than $3 billion of cap-and-trade funds in our communities to accelerate the transition toward a clean energy economy. In January, Governor Brown proposed an additional $2.2 billion for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
To date, the money has been invested across California on projects that reduce emissions by weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, improving public transportation, building transit-oriented housing and more. In addition to these urban strategies, the state has also embraced sustainable agricultural solutions to climate change.
Since 2014, nearly $200 million has been granted to farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to store carbon on their land. The country’s first Climate Smart Agriculture programs are demonstrating to the world that farmers and ranchers can be leaders in climate innovation.
Read more at: Close to Home: Cap-and-trade funds need to support creative rural solutions, like those on the North Coast | The Press Democrat

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

The drought fighting farmer

Todd Oppenheimer, CRAFTSMANSHIP MAGAZINE
Updated August 2017
One Spring afternoon in 2014, on a small vegetable farm that Paul Kaiser runs in a particularly chilly valley in Sebastopol, California, a group of agriculture specialists gathered around a four-foot steel pole. The experts had come to test the depth and quality of Kaiser’s top-soil, and one of them, a veteran farmer from the Central Valley named Tom Willey, leaned on the pole to push it into the dirt as far as he could. On a typical farm, the pole comes to a stop against infertile hard-pan in less than a foot. But in Kaiser’s field, the pole’s entire length slid into the ground, and Willey almost fell over. “Wow, that’s incredible,” he said, wondering if he’d hit a gopher hole. The whole group burst out laughing. “Do it again! Do it again!” said Jeff Mitchell, a longtime professor of agriculture at the University of California at Davis.
The group successfully repeated the exercise, over and over—for fun, for photo ops, and to be sure that Kaiser really had accomplished the various feats he talks about, which he does almost incessantly these days. It’s not the easiest sell. Kaiser, an ebullient former woodworker who was only 40 when I first visited, farms a mere eight acres, and harvests fewer than three of them. Nonetheless, his methods are at the forefront of a farming movement that is so new (at least in the U.S.), and so built for a climate-changed world of diminishing rains, that it opens up gargantuan possibilities. One might call this methodology sustainability on steroids, because it can generate substantial profits. Last year, Kaiser’s Sonoma County farm grossed more than $100,000 an acre, which is 10 times the average per-acre income of comparable California farms. This includes Sonoma’s legendary vineyards, which have been overtaking farmland for decades, largely because wine grapes have become much more lucrative these days than food, at least the way most farmers grow it.
Kaiser and his wife, Elizabeth, manage all of this without plowing an inch of their ground, without doing any weeding, and without using any sprays—either chemical or organic. And while most farmers, even on model organic farms, constantly tinker with various fertilizer cocktails, Kaiser concentrates on just one: a pile of rotten food and plants, commonly known as compost, and lots of it. Kaiser then adds this compost to a rare blend of farming practices, both old and new, all aimed at returning dirt to the richest, most fertile seedbed possible. “It’s unique,” Mitchell told me after his visit. “I’ve never seen anything approaching that kind of thing.”
Read more at: The Drought Fighter – Craftsmanship Magazine

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Sonoma County officials seek to resurrect regional green waste composting operation

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The search for a new home for composting Sonoma County’s green waste is moving forward as officials seek to finally end the costly practice of shipping green-bin material off to neighboring counties.Within several years, the county may again have a single main facility — or several smaller ones — to process grass clippings, food scraps and other green waste, which has been sent by truck to other counties for the past year and a half since the former central site shut down amid a lawsuit over water pollution concerns.
It is not yet clear exactly what form a renewed regional compost operation — long a disputed county matter — would take. But the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is advancing plans to bring in a private operator to handle the green waste from local cities, with a request for development proposals likely going out later this spring.And the waste agency — which is on the cusp of securing a new lifeline from local governments — is looking to learn from its past troubles by shifting as much responsibility as possible onto the shoulders of the new private operator.
“Essentially, we’re just the customer at this point,” said Patrick Carter, the waste agency’s executive director. “We’re committing a flow of green waste to a private company on private land, where they assume all of the liabilities for making sure that it is in compliance and operating correctly, in exchange for us committing our flow for 10-plus years. It’s a different model.”
Sonoma Compost Co. processed green waste at the county’s central landfill west of Cotati from 1993 until October 2015, when its closure was triggered by a Clean Water Act lawsuit.
The county began sending green waste to sites in Ukiah, Napa, Novato and Vacaville for disposal, a practice that now costs more than $4.7 million annually, according to Carter.
Read more at: Sonoma County officials seek to resurrect regional green waste composting operation | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Single-bin recycling frustrates California’s goal to divert trash from landfills

James Dunn, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

As single-stream recycling evolved, “people got more and more confused,” Salyers said. “They would throw things in that weren’t” recyclable. “We’re trying to tell them what they can put in their blue cans.”

Recycling sounds like an ideal solution to reduce mountains of trash. Facing business and legal issues, local recycling efforts are also plagued by technical and market problems.
Trash typically contains nearly two-thirds of its weight in organic material that could be composted or glass, metal, plastic or paper that can be recycled. Nearly 25 years ago, California passed law to divert recyclable material out of garbage. Some of that effort worked, but recyclables separated by businesses and consumers into blue bins often contain trash that contaminates the good stuff, reducing its value in markets for used plastic, glass, metal and paper.
Sonoma County’s trash volume dropped from 375,000 tons in 2007 to 263,000 tons in 2014, still nearly half a billion pounds. At that rate of more than 1,000 pounds per person per year, the 1.3 million people in Sonoma, Solano, Marin and Napa counties toss away more than 1.3 billion pounds of stuff a year.
The Ratto Group, owned by James Ratto, does trash pickup and recycling in Sonoma County with subsidiary companies that sprawl across the region under its North Bay Corporation: Redwood Empire Disposal in Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa Recycling and Collection, Petaluma Refuse and Recycling, Rohnert Park Disposal, Windsor Refuse and Recycling, and Novato Disposal.
Marin Sanitary Service, operated by the Garbarino family, operates from headquarters in San Rafael. Napa Recycling and Waste and Napa County Recycling and Waste serve that county. Sister company Upper Valley Disposal and Recycling serves Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Garaventa Enterprises serves Solano County.
An audit by R3 Consulting Group for the city of Santa Rosa presented last year alleged that Ratto’s company did not meet minimum levels of a 45 percent diversion of recyclables, and operated trucks and a recycling facility that fell short of acceptable standards.
The city contract with Ratto expires at the end of 2017 and brought the company about $27 million a year.
“The company’s two material recovery facilities are approximately 15 years old, antiquated, and are not able to process the incoming recyclable materials to current industry standards,” the R3 report said. “There is no effective means for metering the incoming materials,” and “we observed numerous rats in the facility,” far more than staff observed in comparable facilities.
One facility was ordered closed, and Ratto Group faces potential fines that could reach $14 million.
Read more at: Single-bin recycling frustrates California’s goal to divert trash from landfills | The North Bay Business Journal

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

Santa Rosa buying Petaluma hay ranch as treated waste disposal site

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa is buying a Petaluma pasture to make sure it has enough places to put people’s processed poop.
The city is close to acquiring a 235-acre Lakeville Highway hay ranch so it can use the property to spread a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process known as biosolids.
The approximately $2 million deal, which was advanced by the Board of Public Utilities Thursday, highlights the pressures the city faces in finding affordable ways to recycle waste in an era of increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
Santa Rosa recycles its wastewater to irrigate crops and produce geothermal energy at The Geysers, the latter solution costing the city $205 million to build while earning engineering and sustainability awards.
But less known by the general public is what happens to the 26,000 tons of thick black sludge that remains behind annually after the main treatment processes are complete.
That’s enough to “fill the entire playing field of AT&T Park eight feet deep every year,” said Mike Prinz, director of subregional operations for Santa Rosa Water.
More than a third of it is mixed with green waste like chopped up leaves and grass clippings to make high-quality compost, most of which is sold to local farms, vineyards and landscaping companies.
A far cheaper option has long been to apply the nutrient-rich material, which has the consistency of wet coffee grounds, directly to farmland as fertilizer.
Because the waste goes through an extra 21-day digestion process to capture methane to power the Llano Road treatment plant, it has far fewer pathogens and odors than the byproducts of other treatment plants.
Nevertheless, there are strict rules about how it can be applied, including that it be disked into the soil, set back from creeks and public access restricted after application.
Read more at: Santa Rosa buying Petaluma hay ranch as treated waste disposal site | The Press Democrat