ACI mixing recycling and compost?

Dan Wood from A Progressive Alamedan has a post up today about seeing Alameda County Industries employees mixing trash (grey bin contents) with recycling (blue bin contents) with compost (green bin contents). I have heard other reports of this “unsorting” over the years as well. (Eye on Blogs made note of Wood’s post, too, asking if others have see the same mixing of bin contents.)


Michael Pollan comes to Alameda for library benefit

The Alameda Free Library Foundation, which raises money for programs, materials and equipment for our local libraries, has put together what sounds like a delightful evening.

There’ll be time for eating (with catering by Slow Food Alameda with help from Acquacotta, Cer’a Una Volta, Mona’s Table and Pappo), drinking (Rosenblum, Julie’s Coffee and Tea and The Beanery), and listening and thinking (Michael Pollan in conversation with Sedge Thomson).

The event will be at Auctions by the Bay Theater on Sunday, October 19 from 5 pm to 8 pm. It promises to be a wonderful evening. Tickets are $75 and available at Alameda’s Books Inc., Daisy’s, Marketplace, Lanvie, and Dewey’s Friends Cafe at the Alameda Free Library (and online at Brown Paper Tickets.) See you there…


Another “NO!” re leaf blowers in Alameda

I was glad to see Alameda Sun columnist Noelle Robbins had a piece this week on the negatives of leaf blowers. As I have said on the same topic, “It’s time for Alameda to explicitly ban the beasts. It’ll be better for our peaceful small town, better for our air and, not the least, better for the people who wield them, forced to endure the noise and breathe the particles all day long.” Robbins had these stats about much air pollution leaf blowers create:

According to the California EPA Air Quality Resources Board, each leaf-blower engine, although seemingly tiny, churns out the equivalent of the same smoggy pollution as 80 cars, each driven for 12,500 miles every year. In fact, all small-engine yard machines, including lawn mowers, weed trimmers and leaf-blowers, contribute five percent of all our air pollution annually. And with the lack of emission controls on these devices, that consists of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds, all the components of global warming chemicals.

And this on the noise they create:

Leaf-blowers are also responsible for noise pollution, a type of infringement on our senses that can have serious negative health impacts. A normal decibel level, considered acceptable in residential areas, is about 60 decibels (60dB). Every increase in decibels means noise that is 10 times louder. Leaf-blowers usually generate about 70-75 dB. According to the U.S. EPA this level of noise actually degrades quality of life by interfering with communication and sleep, leads to reduced accuracy of work and increased levels of aggravation, which can linger hours after exposure.

Maybe now with Alameda’s Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda in business we can get these things banned in Alameda. Some times goals converge: you can do right by the long-term health of the planet and your own immediate comfort in one fell swoop.


This week’s “Life on the Island”

The column I write for the Tuesday edition of the Alameda Journal is up online already. The headline: We’re not on the school yard anymore. Many of my past columns are still online as well. Oh! And here’s a link to last week’s “Life on the Island,” Alameda mom clean and sober for 14 years, which I wrote in recognition of National Recovery month, which is September. I am grateful for “Diane”‘s willingness to tell me her story.


Going green with goats

As I wrote in my Life on the Island column a few weeks ago, I am not a fan of leaf blowers: they’re loud, disruptive, and blow teeny-tiny particles of dust all over the place. All the better to trigger the asthma and jangle the nerves! It sounds like Los Angeles is going about some of its business without using polluting, gas-powered engines. They recently hired a herd of goats (with tenders) to clear a vacant lot slated for redevelopment. According to the article, “100 goats turned loose on a downtown L.A. plot,” the goats cost about half what people wielding machines would have. East Bay fire officials have long used goats (and, too, sheep) to clear dry brush that would be a fire hazard, as have many other cities and private companies.


This week’s Life on the Island: Driving less!

So this week’s column (it came out in the Alameda Journal on Tuesday) is about my family’s experiment with living without a car. An interesting—and surprising—side effect of this approach to getting around (we’re on day 35 of the challenge) is that instead of making the Island seem bigger and harder to navigate (as I expected) it’s actually making it seem smaller. Trips that I had in my mind that I needed a car for—like going to South Shore, or Park Street or various friends’ houses—I find are quite quick and easy to make by bike or by foot. And often, once I get over the hump of getting my bike out of the garage, making sure I have my lock, and getting the kids all helmeted up, the trips are more pleasant than they used to be by car.

Past “Life on the Island” columns
August 25, 2008: Lessons learning on vacation
August 4, 2008: Leaf blowers, no!
July 29, 2008: Backyard wells and conserving water
July 22, 2008: Out and about on a home-town date
July 15, 2008: Changes in school leadership offers new opportunities
July 8, 2008: Getting an education in civics Continue Reading


Guerrilla gardening: pathways to Alameda

For those of you who ever happen to come on or off the Island by way of the Fruitvale Bridge, perhaps driving or walking or cycling from the BART station, you know that the particular stretch of road is one of the most homely anywhere: chain link fences, wind blown trash, run-down buildings, weeds in concrete. A few days back, my trusty research assistant noted a man on a bike watering a lone plant on the median strip right near the bridge on the Oakland side. And I myself have noted these petunias, set against a backdrop of concrete, being tended on the east side of Fruitvale Avenue, between the train tracks and the 880 underpass. Guerrilla gardening, the cultivation of neglected public spaces by energetic individuals, is not a new concept, but it’s nice to see a little sprig of color where none had been before. Is anyone aware of any on-Island guerilla gardens?


Solar permits in Alameda?

There’s an article in the current East Bay Express about solar in Alameda. The headline, “Less Than Light Speed,” and much of the story takes what seems to be the greater-Bay-Area’s default stance toward Alameda: Alameda is backwards. Though, if you read the whole article, it sounds like city departments—after a solar contractor complained about turn-around times for permits at an Alameda Power & Telecom board meeting in July—are actually working hard to streamline the process: the city responded by coming up with a plan to issue solar permits within five days.

I did learn (if the Express reporter got it right) that Alameda Power & Telecom, as an independent utility, didn’t have (as other California cities have had since 2001) a state-funded consumer rebate program, until a new law, “Million Solar Roofs,” went into effect at the beginning of this year.

And for those of you interested in alternative sources of power, you might enjoy reading about this gym or this bike.


Life on the Island: Leaf blowers, no!

This week’s Life on the Island column is about the noise and particle pollution of leaf blowers. Read it in whole (or, in part, if you prefer) here. [Ed. note: The Alameda Journal blog is officially on vacation until August 20, but you can find the online Alameda Journal here—or read what other bloggers are saying at Alamedans.]

Past “Life on the Island” columns
July 29, 2008: Backyard wells and conserving water
July 22, 2008: Out and about on a home-town date
July 15, 2008: Changes in school leadership offers new opportunities
July 8, 2008: Getting an education in civics Continue Reading


Life on the Island: Water conservation and backyard wells

This week’s Life on the Island, the column I write for the Alameda Journal, is about water conservation and, too, the possibility of backyard wells for keeping lawns and gardens hydrated

Past “Life on the Island” columns
July 22, 2008: Out and about on a home-town date
July 15, 2008: Changes in school leadership offers new opportunities
July 8, 2008: Alameda Journal”Getting an education in civics
July 1, 2008: Soaking up life on the Bay
June 24, 2008: Alamedans get back to basics to save environment
June 17, 2008: Fear can limit the joys of childhood
June 10, 2008: Never underestimate the power of one
June 3, 2008: Paying the price to have good schools
May 27, 2008: A civil rights issue in our time
May 20, 2008: What’s cooking in the hot weather?
May 12, 2008: When a man needs a cave
May 5, 2008: Enjoying that small-town feel
April 28, 2008: Support of tax teaches lesson
April 21, 2008: New garage can be a good habit
April 14, 2008: When the earth shakes, duck
April 7, 2008: Snails, ants, lice and light brown apple moths