Monday, August 31, 2009

"It's for our Children", Menu labeling, Real Food in Schools

Menu Labeling
Beginning July 1, 2009 California requires sit-down chain restaurants (Denny's, IHOP, Chili's, etc.) to display information about salt, fat, nutrition, reports Roger Sideman (The Mid-County Post, August 28).

Some question the actual affect this law will have on behavior, but Sideman quotes Harry Balzer, a food researcher who has studied American eating habits, who stresses "It is for our children."

Fast food restaurants in California must comply by 2011.  
The last major change in nutrition labeling law (why not nutrition full-disclosure law?) was 19 years ago and is what is used on packaged goods.  Sideman's article also references a NJ lawsuit, a state which does not have restaurnant labeling law,  about excessive salt in a particular meal offered by chain restaurant; reministent of tobacco litigation?

Full article here (see paper version, not yet online)

More on the California menu labeling law SB 1420

Nutritional background, Center for Science in the Public Interest (good newsletter) and the NJ lawsuit.

Real Food in Schools
On Labor Day (Sept 7, 12-1 pm) ,Slow Food Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Education Foundation will hold a picnic "eat-in" at San Lorenzo Park, byo brown bag.  One of 250 such events around California that day is to improve school lunch programs and align national goals with healthy nutiritional guidelines (speakers, petitions, children activities)

Build a Stronger Soquel and Live Oak - workshops

Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency will be hosting community workshops in September on topics related to affordable housing, safe walking and biking, safety, youth activities.   The workshops, seeking Soquel and Live Oak community input,  will be offered on 4 different days and influence redevelopment projects for next 5 years.  More here.

Santa Cruz Restaurant Inspections

Good background article by Catherine Viglienzoni in yesterday's Mecury News about Santa Cruz County's 3 year old program to put restaurant health inspections online.

SCC Environmental Health Services - Consumer Protection Program does the restaurant inspections about twice a year.  Los Angeles gives a letter grade (A, B, C) which must be posted in the restaurant's window, but since most score A there seems to be either grade inflation or LA has extremely clean restaurants.   SCC reports show the type of violation and history.

How difficult would be to grade Santa Cruz restaurants in other categories:   nutrition claims (Is 'frozen desert' really yogurt?), sustainability,  energy efficiency, etc.

SCC Environmental Health Services - Consumer Protection Program, Restaurants

Here's the restaurant inspection list in .pdf format.   
Looks like Zoccoli's, Woodstock, Marianne's Ice Cream and others have had some vermon problems.

Thanks to John Hodges, the county's consumer protection program manager, Robert Smith who manages the websites and the invisible inspectors who have tough job.

Full Mecury article is here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

City of Santa Cruz Greenhouse Gas Emissions (update)

As a followup to this earlier post, I received a nice note from Ross Clark, city of Santa Cruz's climate action coordinator who gave me a few links to city of Santa Cruz greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). He is now in the process of updating the 2005 numbers to 2008.

Santa Cruz city has committed itself to reduce GHG emissions by 30% of 1990's total (by the year 2020). Under Kyoto, which the US did not sign, the country as whole should reduce GHG by 7% of 1990 (by the year 2020).
[Remark1, some people feel California should be a leader in reducing GHG because of relatively mild winters and summers, compared to, say, cold Chicago or steamy New Orleans.
Remark2, China, which refuses to accept any reduction in its GHG, has a stated position that developed countries should reduce GHG by 40% of 1990 by 2020.
Remark3, China + US comprise 40% of world's total GHG emissions.]

City of Santa Cruz Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventor (October 2008, based on 2005) (pdf)

Interesting Sentinel Article (February 12, 2009) Tom Rosewall is a member of Santa Cruz County's Environmental Commission. Anyone know if his software has been adopted?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sustainable Transportation at UCSC Summer Sustainability Lecture Series

More town cyclists than academics attended the final lecture in the 2009 UCSC summer sustainability lecture series on August 25, Sustainable Transportation (Elizabeth Deakin, City & Regional Planning and Urban Design, UC-Berkeley)  [although academics can certainly also be cyclists]

All of the lectures in the series have been excellent, but Ms. Deakin was unusually pragmatic, down-to-earth and filled the lecture with clear examples of how to combine land use with transportation, from her work in Latin America, US (California, Houston) and now China.  Clearly an expert, with  a breadth of topics ranging from GHG, high speed rail, tax models to design of spaces which encourage mass transit use.

One of her main points is to focus on the first and last mile when planning for mass transit use.   By this she means the mile or so getting from home and the final mile to the office.   If the path from home to transit doesn't cross any large arteries, desolate strips, and people find it inviting to walk or bicycle to transit, then they do so. But add ugly overpasses, wide treeless streets, pedestrian unfriendly sections and  people will opt to take the car the first mile and, once in the car, go all the way to work.  And - crucial -  if transit is 'almost' close to downtown, that's not good enough.

So she considers land use - its design, aesthetic appeal, walkablilty, etc. - as tightly tied to transit, something that makes immediate sense but I never fully connected the dots.  Not too many people like to walk on the nicest sidewalk if it has a  high wall on one side and busy traffic on the other.

Ms. Deakin also stressed the need to work with cities early in the planning.   If city policy is to encourage turning green fields at the end of the line into box stores, then don't expect downtown to thrive.  If you want a vibrant downtown with high transit use be sure to infill downtown, have the right density, and avoid have gaps and 'missing' teeth, all of which may cost more than using green fields..  She showed examples from Fresno (gaps) and the Central Valley cities (she showed the welcoming effects of putting trees in the center of street too wide).  San Jose is a city with too much sprawl to make transit work.

She endorsed California high speed rail but is concerned again that "almost" downtown is not good enough.   The stations and related development, that first/last mile, just all work together.

I paid a lot of attention to her work in Jinan, China.

Blocks in China are very large, perhaps because of ancient circuitous paths and neighborhoods that eventually were fitted into city grids or because the former state-owned enterprises were cities themselves, with schools, housing, daycare (yes) hospitals and the factory all occupying a  large, contiguous plot.  That was good for planners, but modern China is rapidly becoming a commuter centered, with poorer workers being pushed out of downtown and needing to travel to get to work.   With streets built long before cars, there is little parking and (terrible!) now the sidewalk is used.   And, as vehicle traffic increases, ugly overpasses are being built and bicycles are being pushed off the streets.   (I recall a college student in Fuzhou, a city of several million, explain a game she and her used to play when she was little (only 15 years ago?) and rode on the back of his of bike.   There was so few cars you could here it coming long before it arrived.  They had time to discuss if it was a car or truck or bus.   Not today!)

Ms. Deakin's examples, insights and clarity make an extremely valuable resource.  I'll have to ask more about China and she what she's written.

Algae and Santa Cruz

I found Laura Chesky's As Green As It Gets (GTWeekly, August 19, 2009) a fascinating article about potential for harvesting oil from algae in Santa Cruz. .

Here's a very clear explanation of why algae harvesting isn't so easy, by Amada Leigh Haag, who's been covering algae for awhile for several publications.

This morning I spoke with Peter Koht, the city's Economic Development Coordinator.   He cautioned that the timeline in the GTWeekly article might be a little "optimistic" (probably will not start this year) since it takes time for permits and approvals.

But Koht is very excited about the project and considers Jonathan Trent, the NASA scientist, to be quite a visionary, even a "genius" with very sharp ideas.   Google has helped fund the algae project.   Officially, the city has offered to help the AlgaeOMEGA project obtain permits, but not formally endorsed the project.

Not just in Santa Cruz, but I've been hearing about algae research in Watsonville, as well as over the hill.  Will post when I hear.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Planting for Thanksgiving with CASFS; Green Drinks, Greywater


At the UCSC Farm this Saturday, August 30 10am - 1pm, there will be workshop about fall planting:  "Planting for Thanksgiving."   This is run under the umbrella of CASFS ("The Center" - Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UCSC)

CASFS has a "friends" program for community members who want to learn how to be better "stewards of the soil."

Green Drinks, Greywater(now legal)
From Ecology Action:
This month's Green Drinks will showcase grey water and
rainwater catchment systems. Ecology Action¹s Sherry Bryan will be
discussing the latest political developments in residential grey water
regulations within the Monterey Bay area and all of California. In addition,
local businesses will be in attendance to assist with questions on how to
create these systems, and homeowners will offer firsthand advice on living
with these systems.

Join the discussion

Location: Cypress Lounge, 120 Union St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Date and Time: Wednesday, September 2, 5:30pm-7:30pm

This event is free

Appetizers will be provided by Ecology Action

Best Santa Cruz Place for Cookbooks? Basement of UCSC Library!

Best Santa Cruz Place for Cookbooks?   Basement of UCSC Library!

I couldn't help but notice titles like:

next to oblivious students slumped over chemistry lab reports, with books on  infrared spectroscopy, non-communicative algebras, studies of cadmium lying about, probably more typically of what one would expect to find deep in a Science Library at UCSC.

Cookbooks in a science library?  TX in the Library of Congress system, which fits into Science & Engineering Library along with nearby nutrition, health and medical books that environmentalists and sustainable advocates might want to read.  (And this library also has a delightful reading room on the first floor, surrounded by redwoods. )

According to UCSC librarian Elisabeth Remak-Honnef the 300+ books were purchased with  Bruce Aidells Cookery Endowment 

Aidells is a UCSC grad and scientist who decided he was a better cook.  He has now written  11 cookbooks.

Even if you are part of the raw foods movement, you still need to know nutrition and how to do things in the kitchen, which is the purpose of the endowment.    Especially since so many commercially processed foods are in our diet and we don't hand receipes and skills as frequently as previous generations, Aidells wants us to remember how to cook real food and how we did through the ages and different cultures.

Librarian Remak-Honnef encourages the public to view the cookbook exhibit now on display on the ground floor of McHenry (free).  The Aidells cook books will also be moved to the McHenry humanities library when space is available.  (A beautiful new wing is being added to McHenry, home also to UCSC's wonderful. )

If you want to borrow books or use other UCSC services, there is a "Friends of the Library" program for the local community and a real bargin.

If you can't wait, here's more from this wonderful collection:

Unfortunately, I'll be reading one about making beans exciting.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Santa Cruz Green Watch: Mission & Background

This very local blog is an attempt to provide simple, direct, useful information about  very complex issues related to the environment, sustainability and the political process in Santa Cruz, California.

Occasionally, you will see posts/comments about China, where I lived for the past 5 years.

Daily life is so different that I don't think I can explain any of it:
  • Sidewalks for cars, streets for people; 
  • grown children returning from far-away cities to buy a brand new apartments for parents, cash on the table; 
  • a culture of do, but don't speak; 
  • vomiting in the street; spitting on the floor
  • endless hard bargaining; 
  • train stations the size of football fields, but more packed; 
  • discuss the future, never, ever the past; 
  • red envelopes; 
  • 20 minutes to select a watermelon; 
  • a land of 1.3 billion people all quite "clever", who just want "a good life."

Yet there are things we can learn from the Chinese; and things they can learn from us.

When an old building or even an entire city block comes down in China - a frequent event - a group of poorer, usually migrant, workers suddenly appears to salvage, sort, clean anything of possible value, by hand:    bricks. old pipes, toilets, wire, plastic.    They seem to work 24/7, light or dark, rain or shine - it is a business.  It is the same in a village.  Reuse has been a part of Chinese culture for ages.

On the other hand, when I asked a local government official,  fluent in English and a visitor to over 80 countries in his official position,  about the quality of new buildings, he said: "As soon as we finish one building, we have to build another one.  We have to build quickly.    The need is urgent.  We are behind and we must catch up."  Albeit, he omitted mention of the self-interest that many officials have. 

I returned to the US to be simultaneously shocked by parts of our own culture, yet energized by the challenges we as a people and species face.... "We are behind and we must catch up."  Wake up.

The writer has BS in physics (MIT), MS physics (U. Chicago) and MBA (U. Chicago).

Monday, August 24, 2009

eBike in your future and (update) Local Renewable Energy Summer Program at UCSC

Last Friday morning, (August 21) the US and international students participating in UCSC's Local Renewable Energy Summer Program gave their project presentations:

  • Desalination - in California and perhaps Jordan
  • Solar - from Sahara to Europe
  • Rentable electric bikes on UCSC - can't wait!
  • Data centers - solar cooling for Data Centers
  • Airships in LA - yes, it's can be true - hop/skip/jump between airfields around the city
  • Methane in barns - capturing and using it for electricity.

Unfortunately, my favorite, the airships sprinting over LA traffic turned out to be not so feasible  (ex:  time loading/unloading passengers).    That's part of process and these project groups had no amateurs:  1 team had 2 Ph.D students, 3 masters students; some in engineering, 1 in biology and 1 in business; and almost as many countries.  Several teams had taked with venture capitalist, for advice - not with goal of starting a business, and well analyzed for technological, financial, political feasibility.[Reportedly the airship team is now talking to Dept of Defense, but I hope they were joking.]

The projects varied from local to international, from applying technology in new or novel ways (barn methane, airships over LA) , or developing a business plan (solar energy to power energy intensive data centers, eBikes to UCSC)  or changing policy (using California's desal expertise to Jordan's sun and limited water).

After the airship went down (no, not in flames, it would use helium), I found the eBikes (electric bikes) practical for right here in Santa Cruz.


With 19,000 car trips a day to campus, full buses and bike racks, everyone knows UCSC needs to improve.   According to an 2008 study, bicycles represent only 3-5% of traffic on campus and the major impediment, of course, is the hill.   Enter electric bikes.

Although tried before, in 2001 or here   the eBike group wants to try a small initial program of 20 bikes, rented by the quarter to UCSC students, as early as spring 2010 - if they get funding.  They estimated needing $10,000-$20,000 for bike purchase, insurance, overhead, repairs and they would also have to solve problems like save storage on campus (batteries and parts are not easy to secure).   Bicycle cages or lockers used by the city of Santa Cruz are not cheap.

Let's hope by 2010, some 20 lucky UCSC students will pay $200+ or so a quarter (plus $4 for each battery recharge) and be cruisng up the hill, with a carbon footprint 97% less than car drivers.

Let's also not overlook a possible brighter side of global change:  the opportunity for young people to work creatively in international, interdisciplinary teams on demanding problems that really can make a difference. 

Videos of all the presentations be available approximately by Labor Day.

Special thanks to Ali Shakouri, Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering, Baskin School of Engineering, UC and his staff and counterparts in Denmark and the US for organizing this.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Preserving Undeveloped Santa Cruz County Land

Santa Cruz County Land Trust is a non-profit which buys and then protects undeveloped local land.

Other counties, such as Santa Clara County, have a conservation district to acquire lands, but Santa Cruz County does not. California Senate bill SB 211, co-written by Assemblyman Bill Monning and State Senator Joe Simitia (Santa Clara), is an attempt to reduce the effort create such a Open Space district in SCC. Any new district still will require voter approval.

Here is an article in Mid-County Post (Capitola, Aptos) about SB 211.

Here is a Santa Cruz Sentinel article from April 12, 2009. And an FAQ from the Land Trust.

Green Curmudgeon will have more to say on this in the future

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rails to Trails (update)

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is about to start a public hearing process on whether they should buy the rail right of way (Watsonville to Davenport, RTC background, Campaign for Sensible Transportation background).

There’s a People Power and Friends of the Rail Trail joint meeting on Thursday, Aug 27 at 7pm to plan the advocacy campaign, at People Power, 703 Pacific Ave., across from Kinko’s parking lot.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

UCSC Campus Food Guide - 4th edition

This little 40 page gem is prepared by the UCSC Food Systems Working Group (FSWG), which has taken on the lead role in bringing sustainable food ("Farm-to-College") to UCSC campus and draws it members from campus, students, farmer organizations.

Some of the topics of the Guide includes the "Farm-to-College" program
  • their guidelines for sustainable food purchasing (local, organic, humanely processed animal products, direct, fair trade, and worker supportive food products)
  • the FSWG, its history, predecessors, obstacles that had to be overcome
  • farmers consortium (MBOFC and ALBA) which UCSC purchases from
  • description of some of the active on- and off- campus organizations (several!)
  • supplemental information on CAS, sustainable seafood, etc.
Don't expect a nutrition guide or restaurant critic guide. Once you get past the acronyms, it is very informative about UCSC's efforts and how UCSC got to sustainable purchases of 30%.

Of course, the guide targets campus and students, but it is a useful for all of us in the community. It also illustrates what can be accomplished in a complex organization and a path to do this. Again, more on UCSC Farm-to-College.

Just to be sure, I'll have to ask a few students how it tastes!

Community TV of Santa Cruz County to air Monning Town Hall Mtg

If you missed the Town Hall meeting on Santa Cruz Metro Buses + related Tax Reform issues (July 30, 2009) Community Television of Santa Cruz County has graciously arranged to broadcast it.
(Thank you!)

The following is the preliminary schedule for airtimes.
Town Hall Meeting with Bill Monning (ID# 8280)
1 hour 23 minutes

Comcast 25/Charter 71

8/26/2009 at 7:00 AM
8/28/2009 at 12:00 AM
8/29/2009 at 7:00 AM
8/31/2009 at 2:00 PM
9/2/2009 at 10:00 AM
9/2/2009 at 9:00 PM
9/3/2009 at 7:30 PM
9/4/2009 at 4:30 PM
9/6/2009 at 11:30 AM

The July 30, 2009 event was organized by the Campaign for Sensible Transportation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Local Renewable Energy Summer Research Program (at UCSC)

For the past 4 weeks, students from Denmark, Iceland and several European countries have joined with students from UCDavis and UCSC for a program of lectures, field trips and final project on the topic of renewable energy.

Last evening at Ecology Action's "Green Drinks", several students gave us a glimpse of their team projects. They are young, articulate (in a 2nd language!) , focused and clear eyed. We need to listen to what they have to say and we'll have an opportunity to do this Friday morning at UCSC. Here are some of their wide ranging projects:

  • Desalination - in Jordan and California
  • Solar - from Sahara to Europe
  • Rentable electric bikes on UCSC - can't wait!
  • Data centers - backup electricity stored in molten salts!
  • Airships in LA - yes, it's can be true - hop/skip/jump between airfields around the city
  • Methane in barns - capturing and using it
Special thanks to Ali Shakouri, Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering, Baskin School of Engineering, UC and his staff and counterparts in Denmark and the US for organizing this.

Ross Clark (or here) City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Coordinator, also spoke about 31% reduction in residential green house gas emissions since 1990 levels, but stopped short of discussing in detail other segments of Santa Cruz's efforts, including transportation, which he later acknowledged has been no better than California's overall increases of 1.5%, in response to a question.

I know Mr. Clark is a good guy, but as a political leader we must look to him for straight facts, good or bad, and an honest assessment of what must be done and the WILL- not just optimism. Hope to hear more of his plans soon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Canning, sustainability at Safeway, bottles

Happened to be near the new Safeway on west side today and saw the demolistion of the old store. Asked a couple of people what will be built, and most thought or hoped it be more parking. Parking. Anyone know?

Here's some information about the new store from Safeway's alternative energy page:

Santa Cruz Store (map)
Opening in the summer of 2009, Safeway’s Santa Cruz, California, store will shape the future of green in retail grocery. Being built from the ground up with sustainability in mind, this store is proof that sustainable innovation at Safeway knows no limits. Company developers chose an urban brownfield with ample access to public transportation... rest is here
("ample" ?)

Only the #42 (Bonnie Doon, trice a day, outbound only) and #3 (Natural Bridges, no weekend service) Metro buses stop here, so I wondered if the green Mission Street Safeway should be paying traffic mitigation/congestion fees to the city. Since the west side has been undergoing commercial and retail development, it would be nice to have more public transit and limited sprawl.

Since healthy pickling and preserving is high on my "to do" list, my eye then caught a sign at Ace Hardware next to Safeway about preserves, canning etc. Ace had a few shelves with all the jars, lids, gadgets, boiling pots and even pectin to get started. Pectin comes in different forms and its use is subject to discussion, so I held off for advice from a pro.

My bus was coming so I need to rush off anyway.

Plastic Bottles

On another trip, to the east side, I visited Staff of Life where I chatted with a staff member about bulk foods and the number of plastic bags I use. I explained the real problem was I was lazy and hated to label all the bags each time. I showed him my, um, water bottle - a 2008 Beet/carrot juice plastic #2 bottle. The store had no problem if I washed it out, got the "tare" weight and used it for bulk items which I promptly did. In fact, I also bought a $2.50 funnel at the store and now the old water bottle now is filled with rye berries, yum.

Not going to save the planet this way, but I feel less guilty and feel I can now organize my life around bulk purchases: the diet coke will hold protein power, the grapefruit bottle will hold loose tea - all nicely labeled, numbered easy to store, refill (with the funnel).

Americans recycle 14% of plastic bottle, leaving 86% for landfill - but this I will cover in another entry.

By the way, Staff of Life will be building a new store in the empty lot across Soquel, which will have more seating for in-store eating.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


On September 25, 2009 the Monterey Bay International Trade Association (MBITA), with have its 2nd Annual Green Trade Network Summit at the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz. More background here and agenda/speakers here.

The MBITA is a business group promoting international commerce with Monterey Bay businesses. At this conference looks like there will discussion for SME about green and innovative ideas for sustainable cities, for example: eco-cities, biomass, financing green, green jobs. Looks like an exciting day. Early bird cost is $80.

Anyone attend last year?

The Glorious Gas Tax

Jessica Lussenhop's "The Glorious Gas Tax" (, August 12, 2009) should have beeen required reading for July 30, 2009 Metro Town Hall with Assemblyman Bill Monning.

After Rick Longinotti's presentation on Santa Cruz Metro bus funding, the remainder of the evening focused on tax reform. Keeley seemed to argue that the commission he heads to advise the governor would propose at least 3 features:

  • state income tax would become more regressive then it is now
  • state sales tax will be eliminated
  • new "pollution tax" on gasoline tax would be added, to create a floor price in California of $3.50 per gallon regardless of market price
Ms. Lussenhop's article points out that a "pollution" tax would also be regressive because lower income people pay a disproprotionate percentage of income on transportation. She also provides a bit background on the ideas beyond this tax.

(The Green Curmudgeon wonders why this can't be a very progressive tax, beginning at zero for cyclists, bus riders, and walkers and rise rapidly based on green house emissions or fuel efficiency - still regressive, see why?

After all, if at checkout register stores can identify homeowner with 2 cats, surely the state can identify your carbon footprint at the gas pump.)

We hope Ms. Lussenhop will arm us for painful future town hall meetings to come.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Green Drinks

Next Green Drinks, arranged by Ecology Action, is scheduled for September 2, 2009

BUT this coming Monday, August 17th, 5-7 pm there presentations at the Cypress Lounge from students/researchers attending the a summer UC-Denmark program on renewable energy. Free (but no bar I guess.)

More details.

(Sub)Urban Homesteading and Sustainable Living Group

I arrived late to this meetup (sub)urban homesteading and sustainable living but found a delightful conversation about sustainability, world population, influence of our free-market system in controlling the discussion and what we can do. (shorter showers isn’t the answer). Most of the 10 or so attending were optimistic (or hopeful) about the future rather than fearful. Skip did an excellent job. Good Santa Cruz group.

But what is the next step?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sustainability at UCSC

Aurora Winslate, UCSC sustainability coordinator, gave a good talk last night at UCSC Summer Sustainability Lecture series and discussed some of the challenges and rewards of trying to shift the behavior of a large organization, such as UCSC.

Ms. Winslate's profession - sustainability coordinator - is a new one with with only 500-1000 in the US. But it is growing quickly!

To change an organization is a bit harder than even changing one's personal habits, like shorter showers. Different departments, with different purposes, budgets and internal 'culture', need to work together differently. It isn't enough to design a green building; they must also be maintained (different budgets and people). Academics and operations don't always work closely. Purchasing can be very different, new contracts, RFPs, expectations, etc.

Some administrators 'get it' and some don't (haven't we done enough?) and some are caught in the bureacracy (we have to change contracts, but I don't have the staff, it isn't in my job description yet). Ms. Winslate seems to have the patience and political savvy to go for the "low-lying fruit" (change the paper, more composting, a lot has been with dining halls) and she reports that in many cases employees become enthusiastic about finding more opportunities to make changes.

Of course, many of the projects she described also lower costs, something every administrator these days listens to. Students are also eager to get involved and apply problem-solving skills to real problems in their world, a possible shift in American education. (And students in this decade appear especially eager to be involved because of deep disallusionment with the last president.)

Ms. Winslate seemed to doing well and there are plans to rank different schools for sustainability, which we all hope UCSC will do well.

The empowerment of lower level employees pleased me but something kept bothering me. What happens when we run out of 'low lying fruit', and change starts to cost money? Or, change becomes a little less convenient? Or, my favorite topic and may god forbid it, private automobilies and the revenue from parking fees must go away?

And I was troubled too by "beefless days" in the dining hall. Nothing wrong with that. I grew up in a Catholic community and Friday's everyone had to eat fish. That's an old idea, but still a good one. But in the past decades we've had other reasons to not eat meat: the animals, for health reasons. But guess those haven't reached the dining halls yet. If sustainability kicks us out of the meat habit, then it's great. But somehow I am not convinced this is enough, or it will last or it will scale up.

With smoking, once the cultural norm everywhere, our society somehow, someway changed despite intense resistance from a wealthy industry. It wasn't cool anymore (well, except on Pacific Avenue). Will sustainability become 'cool' .... do we have time?

August 18 - Agroecology & Sustainable Farming
August 25 - Sustainable Transportation

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trisolar and Municipal Funding

At last week's UCSC summer sustainability lecture series, I learned more about an excellent effort by a group of UCSC students to develop a municipal financing model for Santa Cruz suitable for like a solar tax district, based on examples in Berkeley or Boulder, CO.

Their first step was to build a social financing portal, which I would consider a must read for anyone interested in Clean Energy Municpal Financing. Good works guys and please keep it going.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Solar Technologies, Inc - seminar

Had a chance to attend 2-hour seminar on August 1 offered by Solar Technologies, Inc., a solar installer on Soquel across from the Buttery. Focus was on financing and benefits of adding solar to your home under the California Solar Initiative, which is a state project to create a solar market, i.e. enough buyers and sellers so that solar will be competitive without use of current tax subsidies.

The seminar worked through a spreadsheet to see how those subsidies, together with financing, for typical small and typical large home solar installation. I found this quite helpful.

The idea behind the state subsidies is to reduce the subsidies as solar use increases, i.e. an incentive for homeowners to act sooner rather than later. A home solar unit typical creates 5 kilowatts of power, enough to cover most electric use during sunny hours. Current solar in state adds up to about 160 Megawatts (MW) now and will the state subsidy will vanish when the state total reaches 250 MW. At present solar can be installed for about $1,000 down and annula cost of loan payments, expenses and any electric bills etc. will be below your current annual electric bill.

Remark: Solar is gaining more quickly in China and Asia for a couple of reasons. One is lower expectations. Americans expect a temperature set at say, 72 F, will stay there and not move around. People in developing countries are more tolerant and happy to have low-cost electricity.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Santa Cruz County - Commission on the Environment

Next meeting is August 26, 2009 at 5 pm in the County government building, 5F, Supervisors' Chambers.

Here's a bit of information:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Finding nutrition information?

I’m tired of reading labels and they don’t tell me what I need.
Every package has a unique bar code and number. Anyone know a nutrition website allowing searching by bar code number?
(Why can’t I just search by product name? Seems my favorite cereal or soy milk has 3 or more vareties and I can’t remember which one the store carries.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Methyl Iodide Hearings

Speaking at a transit Town Hall meeting on July 30 in Santa Cruz, Assemblyman Bill Monning mentioned his concern about Methyl Iodide, a proposed fumigant for Strawberry fields, that California is fast-tracking for approval. He chairs the Assembly's Labor and Employment Committee and has scheduled an August 19th hearing.

The state's Department of Pesticide Regulation has reversed itself and now plans to use peer review process for deciding approval or not.

More information in this LATimes article or Beyond Pesticides Daily Blog.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Free Bus Ride in New York

Claiming buses would move faster if they didn't have to collect fares, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC proposed make a few cross-town routes free, since the city calculated most people use free transfers on cross town buses and the city wouldn't loose much money.

A campaign gimmick? Way to get out of humid sun for a few minutes? Or, a way to tempt people to try (and pay) for other buses?

Most important could a free bus route in Santa Cruz, yes - a very different place, as way to lure people out of cars?