One million plastic cups are tossed into the landfill every minute. Thanks to everyone who purchased the reusable aluminum cups sold at the Fairfax Festival (or brought their own). Sustainable Fairfax installed a cup collection display to educate people on this issue. Please continue to spread the good word!
By Renee Goddard, Vice President, Sustainable Fairfax
It was July 2006. I collapsed in my chair at the Embarcadero Center Theater, mind and body overwhelmed, and completely terrified. Where normally the credits would roll at the end of a film, instead a list of “Never fear, What To Do’s” filled the screen.
The film was Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The list was the first of many such lists that I would see and put on the shelf. I felt the tension ease as I read, slowly relaxing enough to begin to absorb what the words were directing me to do.
The movie subsequently inspired volumes of lists, books, and calendars of daily actions, which people initially consumed voraciously. These urgent calls to action, prescribing behavior changes critical to combating Global Warming were published and illustrated with breathtaking photographs of the wonders of nature and heartbreaking photographs of our planet in peril.
My mind raced on that July night as we drove home from San Francisco. What needed to be done seemed so tangible and so achievable. I expected to see the townsfolk of Fairfax out in the street, ready to make the changes the list instructed us to make in order to sustain our ability to live on this earth.
But where was the Town Crier in the Parkade calling us to take action? After seeing Al Gore’s crystal clear depiction of climate science and gripping teaching of the facts underlying human contribution to the massive acceleration of the planet’s warming, it seemed impossible that we were not responding as if our lives depended on it.
As a mother of a 5 and 8 year old I saw no other choice but to mobilize. Certainly other parents of young children would be equally desperate to join together.
I put a homemade banner in the window of The Fairfax Scoop announcing a call to action and community gathering at the Tree Park at the bottom of Cascade Drive.
I called the meeting at dinner time the next day knowing that the time was most likely inconvenient for young families. We would gauge people’s sense of urgency by whether they showed up, choosing to prioritize human existence over serving dinner on time.
50 + adults answered the call and brought their children.
People participated enthusiastically, expressing a collective relief to find others who were ready to combine their individual efforts and knowledge into a larger local movement of people to make a bigger impact impact.
We discovered that we all had lists tacked to our walls, but the number of things that we were told we “SHOULD” have been doing was weighing us down and draining our energy to act.
Our collective was a renewable source of energy and we all tapped in. We became known as The Inconvenient Group, and we gathered weekly.
We made new lists and distilled the larger actions into bite sized pieces. We committed to making homemade yogurt in order to avoid purchasing plastic containers. We learned basic biking skills to encourage biking as a viable means of transportation. We held a screening of “Synthetic Seas”, a film about the Pacific Gyre garbage patch, and learned how plastics are suffocating our oceans. We supported one another’s desire to make lifestyle changes that would decrease our individual generation of greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate at which our planet is warming. We were discovering distressing truths but were motivated to work for solutions.
Organizations began to seek us out. A group of energetic action- oriented people is a gold mine for a non-profit organization.
I received a call from Pam Hartwell, who was at the time the Executive Director of Sustainable Fairfax. She came and spoke to our group and described the community actions already in progress, as well as the history of the organization whose founder was a key player in the inception of Marin County’s Community Choice Aggregate (Marin Clean Energy). She made very clear the efficacy of combining resources.
With a little courting and a lot of coaxing we joined Sustainable Fairfax.
It has been 12 years since An Inconvenient Truth took the world by storm. Over the course of these 12 years, Earth’s atmosphere has exceeded over 400 parts per million of CO2 warming gases in the atmosphere and the climate is increasingly chaotic, threatening humanity’s ability to survive on our planetary home. The threat is more pressing than ever, and our message all the more urgent.
Sustainable Fairfax has been and continues to be the Town Crier, the spring board for community action, the hub, the home and the hope.
Please join us!
Marin Sanitary Service delivered kitchen compost pails to its Fairfax customers during the week of November 6th. The pail fits on a kitchen counter or under the sink, making it convenient for residents to collect their food waste. The program was created to encourage participation in a community effort to move Fairfax closer towards its ambitious zero waste goals.
Marin Sanitary initiated the green cart program for residential yard waste in the late 1980’s, and added food waste in 2010. The program has been successful in capturing yard waste, but only a small percentage of households use the green carts for food waste. According to the most recent Marin Sanitary Waste Characterization study in 2014, food still accounts for about 29% of Marin County’s Residential Waste Stream.
Why is this important? Following in the footsteps of San Francisco and Alameda, the Fairfax Town Council approved the first step of an ordinance that will prohibit residents from placing food and yard waste in the landfill cart. These efforts are critically important, given that food and other organic matter rotting in the landfill produces a significant amount of methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) 30x more potent than carbon dioxide. In the US, 40% of our food is wasted and most ends up in the landfill.
[quote]According to the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of GHG after the US and China.”[/quote]
Your new kitchen pail makes it easier for you to capture food discards, and empty them into your curbside green cart!
1. What do I do if I already have a kitchen pail for food scraps?
* You may return the pail to Town Hall for use by Sustainable Fairfax for education and giveaways.
* They make excellent gifts!
2. Can I use a biodegradable/compostable plant-based plastic bag to line the pail?
*NO. Plant-based plastic bags are not accepted at the Redwood Landfill compost facility. Why? The residential green cart contents are processed into EarthCare™ compost that is certified for organic farming. Compostable plastic bags, cups and cutlery do not fit the criteria required for organic compost. Paper and leaves may be used to line your pail (see #3 below).
3. How do I keep the pail from smelling up my kitchen?
*Many people do not notice a smell from the pail. However, if this is a problem, line the pail with newspaper, other recyclable paper or a paper bag, then dump the contents of the pail into your curbside green cart. You may also mix in leaves or other yard waste in the pail to absorb liquids and reduce odor.
4. Can I put meat, bones and dairy products in my green curbside cart?
*Yes! All food and soiled paper/cardboard can go in your green cart. See the full Marin Sanitary list here.
5. Should I put my kitchen pail on the curb for collection?
*No. Please place the contents of your green pail inside the green curbside cart.
Please call or email Sustainable Fairfax with any questions or concerns you may have about using your kitchen pail or any information you would like regarding zero waste initiatives, reuse, recycling and composting
Sustainable Fairfax: 415-408-6008 / email@example.com
By Kian Kazemi, AP Environmental Science student at Redwood High School
Carbon sequestration is a foreign concept to many, including myself. That being said, it is a very important part of sustainability and it is a process that can help reverse the harmful effects of global warming if adopted across the planet. Global warming is caused by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, a common greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere when we drive our cars, use electricity from nonrenewable sources, heat our homes or cut down our forests.
The increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes detrimental problems like ocean acidification, an increase in droughts and wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and sea-level rise. Problems such as these are the reason we need solutions that will take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and return it into the earth. We need innovations that will connect the environment, economy, and politics together. There is one thing for sure: something has to change.
Marin Carbon Project – Carbon Farming
I started by looking at the Marin Carbon Project. The Marin Carbon Project (“MCP”) is an organization that works to “enhance carbon sequestration” in different types of soils. In a general sense, carbon sequestration is a process in which carbon dioxide is taken from the atmosphere and is stored in other biogeochemical cycles. The MCP wants the farmers of Marin to be pioneers in carbon sequestration techniques so we can start reversing climate change. They currently have eight carbon farms in Marin but in the next three years, they plan to have more than twenty.
Their carbon sequestration methods are not easy to understand, but according to MCP, “by increasing the amount of photosynthetically captured carbon held, or sequestered, in long-term carbon pools on the farm or ranch, including soil organic matter, perennial plant roots and standing woody biomass, Carbon Farming results in a direct reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” Their techniques are on the cutting edge of carbon sequestration.
I interviewed John Wick, who co-founded the MCP. Wick has worked in the area of carbon sequestration for over ten years and is a rancher in West Marin. He worked with scientists at UC Berkeley to quantify the phenomenon of carbon sequestration as he needed to determine what it would take to both cool the planet while feeding and clothing more than seven billion people, a nearly impossible task.
Wick observed success in shifting the vegetation species composition from invasive annual grasses to deeper-rooted native perennials, and thought that it allowed the soil to take more carbon. He needed a scientific protocol for measurement. UC Berkeley scientists found that a topical application of compost changed the way the soil behaved, as plants turned atmospheric carbon into new carbohydrates through the natural process of photosynthesis, taking in more and more carbon as time went on. Wick also stressed the importance of the grass, and talked about how grazing by both wild and domesticated animals is a critical aspect of soil carbon sequestration.
At the end of our interview he left me with a few facts, and one really stood out to me. Currently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agree that emission reduction will no longer help slow climate change, so we must develop a strategy of ongoing atmospheric carbon removal that is sustainable. This is exactly what the Marin Carbon Project has achieved! You can learn more about MCP at http://www.marincarbonproject.org.
Another source of inspiration on climate change is the recent book Drawdown by Paul Hawken. Drawdown is a collection of one hundred most effective ways we can combat global warming. The word “drawdown,” in particular, pertains to reducing atmospheric carbon in various ways including carbon sequestration. In his book, he talks about the importance of composting. Composting prevents food from going into the landfills where it will decompose slowly and produce methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. Composting also returns carbon back into the soil: this is crucial. According to Hawken, composting could reduce 2.28 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050.
I find composting both an eco-friendly and self-satisfactory process. We bring a lot of our food scraps to our chickens, peacocks, and other fowl. It’s great to see how we both return the carbon back into the earth and feed the birds with our waste. It’s important that we all play our part in reducing atmospheric carbon.
Protection of our coastal wetlands is another important way to sequester carbon, according to Hawken. Living in Marin, we have beautiful coastal wetlands all around us. These delicate ecosystems hold billions of tons of carbon dioxide. Humans have notoriously destroyed the environment for thousands of years and, according to Hawken, the more we destroy our coastal wetlands, the more carbon will be released into the atmosphere each year.
Coastal wetlands are a huge source for sequestering carbon and destroying them would not only destroy habitat for millions of organisms, but it would also deepen the effects of global warming. According to Hawken, 1.2-2.4% of the sequestration of carbon in the world occur in these vital ecosystems. The organisms and flora of the coastal wetlands work together to create a “carbon sink” and take carbon away from the atmosphere.
Moreover, it is not only coastal wetlands that have a huge impact on carbon sequestration but it is also different ecosystems around the world like estuaries and rainforests that are so vital to carbon sequestration. I implore everyone to make sure we don’t harm these beautiful and potentially earth saving ecosystems. To learn more about Drawdown visit http://www.drawdown.org.
My time learning about carbon sequestration from the MCP, Wick and Hawken has shown me that we can reverse climate change and global warming. Global warming isn’t just a thing that should be adapted to, it should be a thing that should be solved. Wick cleverly used a Warren Buffett quote and applied it to carbon: Buffett’s two most important rules in gaining wealth are to “never lose money” and to create compounding interest situations. Wick claims that we need to do the same thing with carbon. If we never lose carbon from the soil, we can create a compounding interest conditions that increase through use. We need to return carbon to the soil. Wick left me with a hopeful thought: he said, the one thing that everyone can do to help carbon sequestration is to compost everything that comes from living sources.
We need to work hard to find creative solutions like carbon sequestration and fund climate research and projects that scale-up the solutions. Empowering the public to do their part in composting and providing farmers with the knowledge and the tools to implement carbon sequestration practices are essential to keep “drawingdown” atmospheric carbon. Action should also be taken at the political level, such as advocating for tax incentives for carbon negative farms. Reversing global warming will take a variety of strategies, as there is no one solution. Marin is a unique and beautiful place and if we want the future communities of Marin to enjoy it as we do, we must act!
Special thanks to John Wick for a fascinating and informative interview
Marin Sanitary Service is providing two new services this year to its ratepayers in Fairfax. The free hazardous waste pick-up has been replaced by a Curbside Cleanup day and two free scheduled Bulky Item Collections.
Curbside Cleanup: On curbside cleanup days, you can put out up to fourteen extra 32-gallon bags or cans (2 cubic yards) of garbage, recycling, and/or yard/food waste. Bulky items like mattresses, appliances, and furniture will NOT be collected during curbside clean-ups. The next curbside cleanup will be on your regularly scheduled collection day between September 26-30. If you are a Marin Sanitary Service customer, and do not live in Fairfax, your curbside cleanup may be scheduled for a different week. See this link for more details. (Note: Residents in the unincorporated areas of Fairfax are not serviced by Marin Sanitary Service and will not receive this service.)
Bulky Item Collections: Residential customers may receive two free scheduled bulky item collections per year of up to two items each time. Any item over 60 pounds or 6 feet will be subject to an additional fee to cover equipment and labor. Call Marin Sanitary Service customer service department at 415-456-2601 to get a quote or schedule your collection. A 24-hour notice is required for special pick-up requests. The quote given over the phone may change after the driver assesses the load.