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Sebastopol bans Styrofoam food containers amid growing alarm about single-use plastics

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sebastopol is forging ahead with a ban on polystyrene foam food and beverage containers, taking the lead in Sonoma County amid a nationwide concern about single-use plastics and a mounting global crisis over consumer waste.

The new ordinance, the first of its kind in Sonoma County, prohibits the sale or use of disposable cups, burger boxes, clamshell containers and even cheap ice chests made of expanded polystyrene in Sebastopol come Nov. 19. The regulation is based on a model intended for adoption around the county.

Among numerous other provisions, the wide-ranging measure also requires vendors to ditch single-use containers, bowls, plates, cups, straws, stirrers, utensils, napkins and other products of any material when viable compostable or recyclable alternatives are commercially available. Customers who want to-go condiments, cup lids, cutlery or straws will have to ask for them, as well.

The ordinance encourages food providers to credit customers 25 cents for bringing their own reusable to-go containers and charge a takeout fee up to 10 cents to defray the costs associated with cups, lids, straws or utensils.

The ordinance also governs packaging for prepared foods. Blown polystyrene egg cartons and food and meat trays are exempt.

The Sebastopol City Council adopted the model ordinance in March but delayed its enforcement to allow restaurants and vendors to use up any remaining foam stock they might have on hand and to give the rest of Sonoma County time to catch up.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9715098-181/sebastopol-bans-styrofoam-food-containers

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags , , , ,

Cannabis and the environment

Heather Bailey, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS

In an industry that wants to be seen as green, what are the real impacts? The answer is, no one knows for sure.

When you hear anti-cannabis groups complain about the impacts of legal cultivation, one concern that is often expressed is the impact on natural resources and the environment caused by growing cannabis. But how significant are those impacts, and what do they consist of? The answer is, it’s hard to say.

The research on impacts is limited and has been done almost exclusively on illegal grows. The fact they were illegal limited funding for research, limited what grows could be studied and creates significant questions as to whether the research findings can be predictive of the impacts from legal operations.

Sonoma County cannabis ordinances for legal cultivation have a strong environmental protection component, including pages of regulations about water and watersheds alone.

But are they enough? Research into environmental impacts of legal operations are in their infancy, so it may take time and research to determine best practices.

Read more at http://www.sonomawest.com/cannabis-and-the-environment/article_e1566fb4-a249-11e8-b62e-bfe48d93d62c.html

Posted on Categories Air, WaterTags , , , ,

UC Davis study to focus on post-Sonoma County fire pollution

Mary Callahan, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Anyone who endured the October firestorms remembers the choking smoke followed by weeks of air that was acrid and irritating, while the surrounding world felt toxic after wildfires laid waste to 137 square miles of Sonoma County.
A research team from UC Davis now hopes to find out what, if any, potential health hazards may have resulted from the incineration of more than 5,100 homes and all they contained: cleaning products, paints, pesticides, electronics packed with rare earth elements, synthetic building materials, fuels.
The two-year investigation will focus on components in the smoke as the fires burned, as well as those left in the air and ash once the flames had roared through.
Researchers also plan to test the post-fire environment for any new chemicals that may have resulted from the transformation of existing materials under extremely high-temperature, low-oxygen conditions.
Read more at http://napavalleyregister.com/news/state-and-regional/uc-davis-study-to-focus-on-post-sonoma-county-fire/article_e45b2afc-df92-5280-84ae-b24382c5f1f6.html

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , , , , , ,

U.S. EPA to oversee toxics cleanup after fires in Sonoma and Napa counties 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Federal and state agencies are already planning post-fire cleanup in seven Northern California counties, including Sonoma, outlining long-term efforts likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars but performed at no expense to residential property owners, officials said Tuesday.
In Sonoma and Napa counties, where more than 100,000 acres have burned, the chore looms so large the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will manage the first phase, which involves removal of toxic materials from thousands of fire-scorched properties.
That includes batteries, paint, solvents, flammable liquids, electronic waste and any materials that contain asbestos.
“We know people are already back at their homes, wondering what to do next,” said Lance Klug, a spokesman for California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, known as CalRecycle. The agency typically handles the second phase, involving the removal of non-toxic waste — scraping away ash, concrete, metal and contaminated soil — in fire-affected counties, but CalRecycle’s role in the North Bay cleanup has not been determined, said Klug.
Details on the sprawling two-part cleanup are forthcoming and will be widely publicized, he said.
When that work is completed, homeowners will receive a certificate indicating their property has been cleaned and is eligible for local building permits, he said.
Read more at: U.S. EPA to oversee toxics cleanup after fires in Sonoma and Napa counties | The Press Democrat –

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

Many 2016 Emerald Cup winners disqualified for pesticides 

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Emerald Cup has brought an audience of tens of thousands to the Sonoma County fairgrounds each of the last four years, and the contest’s environmental focus sets it apart from other cannabis competitions.
But this year, pesticides upended many of the winners of the three-day marijuana festival in December known for its focus on organic and sustainable outdoor farming.
About 25 percent of 263 samples in the concentrates categories submitted from producers across the state were disqualified, mostly because they tested positive for pesticides, according to the event’s official laboratory, Santa Cruz-based SC Labs.
The issue wasn’t uncovered until after the Dec. 11-13 contest due to a late crush of entries plus internal miscommunication about deadlines, said Emerald Cup founder Tim Blake. Blake said he was troubled by the discovery and has apologized to contestants.
“We were dumbfounded that we’d see this (pesticide use) at that level,” Blake said. “We’re going to have to be very careful about that in the future.”
Read more at: Many 2016 Emerald Cup winners disqualified for pesticides | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , Leave a comment on On planet in distress, a papal call to action

On planet in distress, a papal call to action

Laurie Goodstein & Justin Gillis, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Pope Francis has written the first papal encyclical focused solely on the environment, attempting to reframe care of the earth as a moral and spiritual concern, and not just a matter of politics, science and economics. In the document, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” he argues that the environment is in crisis – cities to oceans, forests to farmland. He emphasizes that the poor are most affected by damage from what he describes as economic systems that favor the wealthy, and political systems that lack the courage to look beyond short-term rewards. But the encyclical is addressed to everyone on the planet. Its 184 pages are an urgent, accessible call to action, making a case that all is interconnected, including the solutions to the grave environmental crisis.
Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si”  View the Full Document 
Read more at: On Planet in Distress, a Papal Call to Action – The New York Times

Posted on Categories WaterTags , Leave a comment on Sewage from ruptured pipe reaches Russian River

Sewage from ruptured pipe reaches Russian River

Sean Scully, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A ruptured sewer main is spewing out as much as 40,000 gallons per hour in Guerneville and at least some of the untreated waste has reached the Russian River, the Sonoma County Water Agency said.

The pipe ruptured around 12:20 p.m. at the corner of Beach and Orchard avenues. Repairs are expected to last through the night.

It’s not clear how much of the waste is reaching the river, but the agency said the majority is being recovered and pumped into tanker trucks for safe treatment elsewhere.

Drinking water supplies are not threatened, but the Sweetwater Springs Water District, which supplies water to the area, was asking customers to reduce consumption to slow the flow of the sewage, the agency said.

via Sewage from ruptured pipe reaches Russian River | The Press Democrat.