Sonoma County Sets its sights on zero wasteFrom working to return composting facilities to Sonoma County to reducing single-use plastics, 350 Sonoma is focused on achieving zero waste. Stay tuned as we track the issues to keep you informed and provide opportunities to take action.
Zero Waste Action Group
Some of our current initiatives are:
- bringing composting facilities back to Sonoma County
- reducing single-use plastics such as straws, beverage lids, etc.
- working in coalition with other environmental, environmental-justice, and labor groups to bring a green and labor-friendly garbage hauler to Santa Rosa.
The Zero Waste Chef has a timely Plastic Free July blog post titled Plastic Free July: The Pandemic Year(s). Check out all 17 ideas here to help you reduce plastic this month. Here is idea #17 illustrating the intersection of environmentalism, health, greed,racism and climate & social justice.
17. Join grassroots organizations
Fossil fuel companies know that the end it near—demand for oil and gas will continue to fall. To keep the party going, they have made big plans to ramp up plastic production (plastic is made from fossil fuels). Such plants often operate in marginalized communities, such as St John’s Parish, Louisiana—one of the most polluted areas in the US and known as Cancer Alley—where residents are currently fighting the construction of what would be the biggest plastics facility in the country. This is what environmental racism looks like.
The proposed facility has license to spew 800 tons of toxic pollutants yearly into the already compromised air. Spell this out to anyone who tells you that quitting plastic is frivolous. Consuming less of the stuff will reduce demand. And while we consumers alone can’t turn off the plastic spigot, at least we can take a stand and do what we can to turn down that spigot. We can also join organizations fighting for climate justice, such as 350.org, and racial justice, such as Black Lives Matter.
How can you avoid single use shopping bags?
- Instead of using single-use paper or plastic bags at check-out, load your paid-for groceries back into your shopping cart.
- When you wheel the cart to your car, transfer the items into the bags in your trunk.
- Or- if you walked to the store, transfer items into your bags outside the store.
Plant a garden and learn to compost
- how to compost and why its good for the climate
- Virtual workshops in English and Spanish on how to compost at home from the UC Master Gardeners
ZERO WASTE DURING S.I.P. TIMES
Many have been discouraged about zero waste during COVID times. No carry-in shopping bags, no bulk foods, no farmer’s markets. DON’T BE. These are transformative times and the will and ingenuity of the people will make lemonade of the lemon times. There still is plenty we can do to advance the movement. Here are suggestions for your consideration:
1) RETHINK – Many can’t print documents because they don’t have their work printer. Make a plan to continue to get by without as much of the ink and paper use.
2) REPLACE MATERIALS– We can use this time away from ziplocks to form a plan to replace them. Tupperware and reused plastic bread bags work well. You will like this project MUCH more if you get recycle ALL containers and lids you don’t like (do it), and buy matching sets of the right sizes
3) REPLACE/REDUCE – Running out of precious paper towels? Never been a better time to make a kitchen drawer filled with clean folded rags and begin using them for floor and counter clean ups. You’ll need a small “hamper” box under the sink for the clean ones. Pull out and add with any laundry load. Refold, reload drawer. Old, cut-up towels work well. Save money, save paper products.
4) REFUSE – Cut down on your junk mail. Contact orgs and publishers that are plugging up your mailbox.
5) REFUSE – We can refuse to buy or take drinks in plastic bottles. Choose glass or aluminum containers.
6) REDUCE – We can’t buy in bulk, but we can buy larger packages with less individual wrappings.
7) REDUCE – We can bake our own granola bars and not have to waste the individual wrappers (wax paper wrapping works).
8) REUSE – Have too much recycling? Two tin cans can be made into an old-fashioned telephone. A rinsed bleach or milk plastic bottle can become a bird feeder or child’s watering can. A wipe bottle and some dry rice inside becomes a shaker instrument. OR…just give your kids a huge box of all the (clean, safe) recycling and a roll of masking tape and they will make a fancy castle, or Recyclops monster, or fire station.
9) REUSE – No, we can’t bring our bags into stores, but we can reuse paper bags for garbage or spread them over areas of the garden to get rid of weeds. Paper bags make an awesome kid hat – roll it up from the end to fit the head. Let them decorate it.
Ask the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency board to accept their staff’s recommendation that Renewable Sonoma be awarded the commercial compost operation contract for the proposed Llano Road site (by the waste-water treatment facility). Send emails to the SCWMA board via executive director Patrick Carter by August 14th (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Talking point ideas for your email:
- Renewable Sonoma is owned by Sonoma Compost, the company operating our former, excellent local compost facility at the central landfill site.
- They have a long history of supporting composting education, school garden programs, community waste-diversion/ Zero Waste efforts, and local farmers and gardeners
- Their proposal includes an anaerobic digester that will generate electricity from green waste via natural gas generation
- They are excellent environmental stewards
- They have a long history of working with local farmers and have extensive knowledge of the local composting market
- Their business emphasis is on creating high-quality soil-amendment products for customers (as opposed to merely diverting green waste from landfill)
Local composting means:
- We do not have to truck our greenwaste out of the county (thereby reducing greenhouse gas production)
- Farmers, schools, and gardens can purchase high-quality compost produced locally (at lower prices because of reduced delivery fees)
Find a form for a petition to the SCWMA Board Members here: RenewableSonoma_petition
Sign up to be a volunteer for one or more Wednesdays!
Zero Waste Sonoma County
By Caitlyn Thomasson
Folks in Sonoma County are learning how to work towards Zero Waste by composting, recycling, and reducing plastic use. Considering that Sonoma County residents contribute 4.6 pounds per person, per day to the landfill, this is an much needed culture shift. On June 24th, the Sebastopol Farmers Market hosted the first Zero Waste outreach booth with the help from Recology and 350 Sonoma members to help address this issue. Market-goers could stop by and decorate reusable produce bags made from repurposed from cloth with veggie stamps. The bags are a fun, colorful, and an eco-friendly way for people to gather veggies at the market without using plastic bags. Enthusiastic employees from Recology were on hand to provide information about their company and answer questions about recycling and composting. Also, a travelling trash installation from the Santa Rosa Junior College was on display, providing education and a unique conversation starter to help us all realize how much single-use plastic and disposable coffee cups are sent to the landfill weekly.
To get involved, visit us at the Sebastopol farmers markets for our monthly zero waste outreach booth (July 29th, August 26, September 30, October 21, November 18, December 16 January 27); join us at our zero waste subcommittee maker meetings to make more reusable veggies bags and other reusable DIY items to share at the market (contact Sunny Galbraith for more information: email@example.com); make a personal pledge to get closer to zero waste in your life, and encourage your city counsel or supervisor to adopt the upcoming Zero Waste Resolution, and ask restaurants/vendors to replace single-use plastic with compostable and recyclable alternative.
It has been a big month for the Zero Waste team. We worked with the Santa Rosa Junior College student sustainability group to present Wasted, a deep and sometimes profane look at food waste throughout the world. The conversation that followed was lively and informative. We were also instrumental in converting the Santa Rosa Earth Day to a Zero Waste event. As part of the effort, our own Sunny Galbraith organized 30 middle school and high school student volunteers who sortied garbage, separating compostible and recyclable materials from trash while educating the public. In addition, several 350 folks are participating in the “Zero Waste Curious” trainings, where we are being trained by Portia Sinnot of Zero Waste USA to give 20-minute informational presentations about Zero Waste to the general public.
On May 10th, we participated in the second-annual Sonoma County Zero Waste Symposium, which featured an amazing collection of knowledgeable and inspirational speakers. This event, somewhat coincidentally, marks the beginning our push to get city councils and the county board of supervisors in Sonoma County to pass a Zero Waste resolution. The Zero Waste policy resolution was crafted by a large group of community and business members interested in promoting specific city and county action to reduce waste and climate warming emissions, while promoting good jobs.
Hello Earth Enthusiasts! Please spread the word about Santa Rosa Earth Day. This will be a fun Zero Waste volunteer opportunity, particularly for middle school, high school, or college students and teachers that you know. Enthusiastic students make great Zero Waste ambassadors! Sign up to help with compost and recycling stations at the celebration. We want to give students a chance to sign up first. It will be super fun and a great community service opportunity! For the first time ever, this will be a Zero Waste event, and we need your help to make it happen. I am giving the first sign-up opportunity to middle school, high school, and college volunteers.
Volunteers will help monitor the compost/ recycling/ trash stations so that materials go in the correct bin. As a volunteer, you will help people sort their waste items (we will provide you with gloves and grabbers). This is a wonderful opportunity to participate in educating the public about how to sort waste at home so that we don’t send valuable recyclables and compostables to the landfill. AND, all volunteers get a free Santa Rosa Earth Day Volunteer t-shirt and reusable water bottle.
Click on this link to sign up: http://signup.com/go/VHVOMJz (you will not need to create an account to sign up). Shifts are either from 11:00-1:00pm, 1:00-3:00pm or 3:00-5:00 pm.
We will have our next Zero Waste Action Group meeting on Monday, April 2nd, 6:30-8:00pm in Sebastopol. We focus on spreading the word and community organizing. We have so many exciting things to talk about and plan for! Email 350SonomaCounty@gmail.com for location.
Good news! Santa Rosa just approved a contract with Recology, choosing it to be its new garbage hauler. Recology has an excellent record both as a responsible steward of the environment and a company concerned with the well-being of its employees.
350 Sonoma worked closely with North Bay Jobs with Justice to encourage city councilors to choose a waste hauler with a strong track record of fair and safe employment practices, and a sustainable, zero-waste approach. We know that rates will increase to reflect the added costs fair wages and cleaner trucks and practices. The result will be rates in line with our region, better jobs, safer working conditions AND keeping key resources out of the landfill. Other cities working with a zero-waste philosophy have significantly reduced landfill requirements and spurred local economic growth by utilizing resources previously discarded.
Watch this space! 350 Sonoma is part of two coalitions working towards improving waste management in the county, the Compost Coalition working to bring a local compost facility back, and the Zero Waste Task Force, working with other community groups to get Sonoma County cities to adopt zero waste policies.
What is Plastic Free July? It’s a challenge to all of us to refuse single-use plastic! It’s not all that easy – straws, bags, plastic lids all get delivered to us automatically, so you have to remember to ask to NOT receive them (and shouldn’t it be the other way around?) Take the pledge here and learn about ideas for avoiding junk plastics. We have found it (mostly) pretty easy to avoid plastic bottles, cups, straws and bags by carrying our own. What do you do to avoid junk plastic?