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

Green rebuilding group to host Santa Rosa expo on Feb. 23

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Like many, Sarah and Bruce King watched in horror as the wildfires burned through the North Bay in October, leaving them to wonder how they might aid the recovery when the smoke cleared.

The San Rafael couple have backgrounds in sustainable construction through a two-decade-old nonprofit called Ecological Building Network, or EBNet. So they were uniquely positioned to make an immediate impact. In late October, along with green building consultant Ann Edminster of Pacifica and Sustainable North Bay executive director Oren Wool of Graton, the Kings hosted a small dinner at their home in late October and got to work.

The group formed a new organization, Rebuild Green Coalition, and decided to hold a one-day workshop in December, inviting others with expertise to the table. The idea was to brainstorm ideas for how Sonoma County and other affected areas could tap new technologies and modern home designs that reduce carbon footprint to help communities recover with greater post-fire resiliency.

“It’s one thing to build green, it’s another for how to actually do it,” said Sarah King. “With the wildland-urban interface, which is big up toward the hills, how do we make that more resistant? That’s the name of the game in a lot of areas, especially where the fires took place, and what happened here is equally applicable for Southern California.”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7987771-181/green-rebuilding-group-to-host

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

Want cleaner air? Try using less deodorant

Kendra Pierre-Louis and Hiroko Tabuchi, NEW YORK TIMES

The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution — at levels as high as emissions from today’s cars and trucks.

That’s the surprising finding of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes, paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as motor vehicles do.

The V.O.C.s interact with other particles in the air to create the building blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.

Smog is generally associated with cars, but since the 1970s regulators have pushed automakers to invest in technologies that have substantially reduced V.O.C. emissions from automobiles. So the rising share of air pollution caused by things like pesticides and hair products is partly an effect of cars getting cleaner. But that breathing room has helped scientists see the invisible pollutants that arise from a spray of deodorant or a dollop of body lotion.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/climate/perfume-pollution-smog.html

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

Meet the new crop of urbanites-turned-farmers in Sonoma County

Cynthia Sweeney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

People who endure the stress of city life may dream of a life in the country, but not many take the leap.

Two and half years ago, Lori and Chris Melançon did.

The couple had initially purchased 12 acres of dormant pasture in Sonoma County, as an investment. Then it “called to them” with visions of farming vegetables and raising pigs, goats, and chickens. So they left lucrative jobs in San Francisco, Chris at a startup and Lori at a cancer-focused pharmaceutical company, and started LOLA Sonoma Farms.

“The entrepreneurial thing for us (in the city) started to fade,” said Chris. “In the early stage of this venture we realized the potential on the land and the entrepreneurial spark emerged again. We had the opportunity to take a small part of Sonoma County and show people — just as those who are interested in wine tasting — what it takes to grow sustainable, organic food. To have a lasting impact. And it doesn’t hurt that we’re outside in the fresh air and sunshine.”

Read more at http://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/northbay/sonomacounty/7949227-181/urban-farming-organic-sonoma

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Post-fire health survey now open to North Bay residents

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For more about the UC Davis study, click here

Researchers at UC Davis hope to enlist thousands of Northern California residents in an online survey designed to gather the personal experiences, household circumstances and health effects from devastating wildfires that burned over 245,000 acres in six counties and killed 44 people.

About 140 people signed up in advance to take the survey, which went live Thursday (February 1).

But the push to get the word out is just beginning, with particular focus in hard-hit Sonoma and Napa counties, said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist and director of the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center.

“If you’re living there, you’re living it,” said Hertz-Picciotto, the research leader.

Residents of other affected counties, including Mendocino, which suffered significant losses, are urged to take part, as is anyone else affected by the fire and smoke that plagued the region for weeks beginning Oct. 8.

Researchers said the survey should take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Owner of Journey’s End mobile home park in Santa Rosa won’t rebuild after Tubbs fire

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The fire-ravaged Journey’s End mobile home park will not reopen, but its owner is seeking to partner with a developer to build an apartment complex on the north Santa Rosa property, residents learned this weekend.

The family that owns the 13.5-acre site at Mendocino Avenue and Fountaingrove Parkway is working with nonprofit Burbank Housing to explore the feasibility of redeveloping the property into a mixture of affordable and market-rate apartments, Burbank chief executive officer Larry Florin said Sunday.

“We see this as an opportunity to preserve affordable housing but also to create something more permanent,” Florin said. “There’s a housing crisis, obviously, in Sonoma County.”

The decision not to rebuild throws former residents into another bout of uncertainty, with the hope of someday returning to their economical, tight-knit community now gone.

The mobile home park, a refuge for low-income and senior residents for nearly 60 years, has remained closed since the October wildfires. The Tubbs fire destroyed nearly three quarters of the 160 coaches on the property, killed two of its residents, incinerated its electrical and gas systems and irreparably contaminated the well supplying water to the community.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7972490-181/owner-of-journeys-end-mobile?utm_source=home

Posted on Categories Forests, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Op-Ed: A stark reminder of the importance of controlled burning

Jim Doerksen,  THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

My wife and I live on a beautiful LandPaths property on St. Helena Road in northeast Sonoma County. For more than 50 years, we have managed the property for timber production of about 50 percent Douglas firs and 50 percent redwoods and includes many native heritage specimens of hardwood trees. We have managed this forest to be as fire resistant as possible by pruning lower branches, thinning the trees, and burning brush piles.

One very important issue that seems to have been overlooked is the part played by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. This is the agency that notifies the public when it is a “spare the air day.” The rules and regulations are daunting and virtually impossible to adhere to, especially in forest management.

This is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to the air quality district in June 2016 in which we expressed our concern that air quality district standards were having an adverse effect on forestry cleanup “and will probably result in a mass uncontrollable fire” in Sonoma County.

“Not enough is being done about cleaning up all the brush and dying and fallen trees. To make matters worse, we have had a huge outbreak of bark beetle and sudden oak death. To add insult to injury, PG&E, in its great wisdom, has cut thousands of trees under the transmission lines and has left them to decay or burn.”

The analysis post-fire from CalFire agrees with our opinion as being correct. The fires have done a thorough job of cleaning up the forest floor, but frequent fires are necessary to prevent build-up of tree debris, weeds and brush.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/7972381-181/close-to-home-a-stark

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

Garden Docs: Insecticides that are bad news for bees and butterflies

Joan T. of Santa Rosa asks: I was at a nursery the other day, and I had a rose fertilizer/systemic product in my cart. As I was walking through the nursery, a woman approached and asked me if I knew anything about the product, such as what it affects bees and other beneficial insects. I was puzzled and said I did not. After she told me about the concerns with this product, I was surprised, and put it back.

Can you please tell us what certain insecticides do to our bees and beneficial insects and what we should avoid buying?

Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that have been, and are being used by gardeners, farmers and professional landscapers. They are supposed to protect plants from sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects. Neonicotinoids are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant, and are spread throughout all parts of the plant, including the nectar and pollen.

Unfortunately, bees, butterflies, and other flower-visiting insects are harmed by them and have been identified as a factor in overall pollinator declines. These systemic insecticides cause entire plants, including pollen and fruit, to become toxic to pollinators. They also are slow to break down in the environment. A large and growing body of independent science links neonicotinoids to catastrophic bee declines.

What is extremely alarming is that these products are readily available at garden centers and nurseries and sold to the home gardener, although the state of California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation has imposed a freeze on any new applications for products containing neonicotinoids while the issue is under study. The moratorium comes just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration, began considering dramatically expanding use of the highly toxic neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on more than 165 million acres of farmland in the United States.

Before purchasing plants, ask your local nursery or garden center if they have been treated with neonicotinoids. You can also check the label for information about how the plant has been treated.

Read more for a list of products containing Neonicotinoids that you might see at nurseries and garden centers: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/7932506-181/garden-docs-insecticides-that-are

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , ,

Dangers of rat poison: It kills more than rats!

Dr. Michael Trapani, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

When we put these poisons out into the environment, they don’t stay where we put them. Wherever they wind up, they are likely to persist for a long, long time. Non-target animals, like that gorgeous owl or eagle we’re all so thrilled to see, readily become unintended victims of our efforts to control problem rodent populations. In our quest to control rats, poisons should be our last choice, not our first.

Rats as PETS: Taken as individuals, rats are pretty decent creatures. Human-raised, humane-bred rats, that is. It’s hard to find a cleaner, smarter, more outgoing pet for a young child than a common domestic rat. They enjoy being handled, are happy to hang out in a coat pocket for hours, and gleefully share a kid’s peanut butter sandwich at lunch time. Ya gotta love ‘em.

Rats as PESTS: Not so much though, when their wild relatives are scraping around inside the wall of your bedroom, breeding in your pantry, or chewing through the wiring harness of your new car. A professional exterminator may charge $400 to $500 just for the initial home visit to identify the type of rat, its means of entry, and the extent of damage they have created. Automobile repair costs have been reported at several thousands of dollars to repair rodent damage. It’s no surprise that people commonly use readily available, over-the-counter rodent poisons to eliminate rat populations. These seemingly safe products are cheap and available in almost all hardware stores, and even supermarkets.

Read more at http://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/dangers-of-rat-poison-the-family-pet-by-dr-michael-trapani-february-2018

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Altamira project gets go-ahead

“Striving to better,” William Shakespeare warns in “King Lear,” “oft we mar what’s well.”

An undercurrent of that sentiment pervaded the Sonoma City Council meeting Jan. 29, when city officials denied an appeal of a controversial affordable housing proposal – paving the way for construction of a 48-unit low-income development at the south end of Broadway, and dashing the hopes of project critics who argued it was too big, too dense and too out of character with surrounding neighborhoods.

As skeptics reminded the crowd multiple times at the Monday meeting – it would be the densest housing development in the history of Sonoma.

As if, during a housing crisis, that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Opponents of the project urged the council to do its “due diligence” and order an environmental impact report on the proposal in order to better vet potential parking, traffic and noise implications — studies which city staff had already conducted, but whose conclusions were unsatisfactory to project opponents.

The council, while acknowledging the understandable concerns of the neighbors over a project of this size in their neck of the woods, made little haste in refuting the appeal and, in the words of Councilmember Gary Edwards, getting “shovels in the ground” on this small fraction of a much-needed infusion of affordable housing stock in the Valley.

Read more at http://www.sonomanews.com/opinion/7945368-181/jason-walsh-altamira-project-gets?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Petaluma apartment project passes key hurdle

A proposal for a 184-unit rental apartment complex in the heart of Petaluma won the approval of the Petaluma Planning Commission Tuesday, a critical first step in moving the long-stalled project forward as the city faces a grim housing crisis.

After three years of seeking community input and altering plans based on feedback from citizens and city officials, representatives from Stockton-based A.G. Spanos Companies now face a yet-to-be-scheduled city council hearing for additional approvals, including granting access across a city-owned parcel for a road that’s part of the North River Apartment project at the intersection of Petaluma Boulevard North and Oak Street.

Read more at http://www.petaluma360.com/news/7912963-181/petaluma-apartment-project-passes-key