By Lexi Neely, Sustainable Fairfax Intern & Drake SEA-DISK student
Paul Hawken initiated a research project that had never been done before: the goal was to find the most impactful solutions to reverse global warming based on quantifiable data. This body of work, summarized in the book Drawdown, ranks the solutions based on the amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere. Food waste comes in third place, with an estimated reduction of 70.53 gigatons of CO2 (Hawken, 2017).
The impact of food waste on the environment begins with farming itself. Conventional farming has proven to be detrimental to the environment, requiring massive clear cutting, excessive resources such as water, harmful pesticides, and fertilizers, and the extensive use of machines. Additionally, a significant amount of energy is used to run the factories and machines that process food.
Transportation of food also creates a large carbon footprint. People often purchase foods like bananas from Ecuador, rice from Cambodia, and coffee from Ethiopia without knowing how far away their foods are coming from. These items travel long distances, emitting a significant amount of greenhouse gases along the way.
Next, the food is taken to a supermarket where refrigeration coolants are used in abundance to keep the food cool and fresh. The problem with this, however, is that harmful chemicals such as hydrofluorocarbons are released which warm the atmosphere at a rate 1,000-9,000 times greater than carbon dioxide (Hawken, 2017).
There is another aspect of food waste that has proven to be very destructive to the atmosphere. Approximately 40% of food in the United States ends up in the landfill which produces extremely high amounts of methane. (USDA, 2013). The anaerobic conditions in the landfill stimulate the growth of methane producing bacteria (EPA, 2017). Methane is approximately 30 times more potent as a heat trapping gas than carbon dioxide (Princeton University, 2014).
Currently there is not sufficient data available to quantify the methane released from food waste in landfill, and therefore, it is not reflected in Hawken’s final data. But without a doubt, the number of greenhouse gases produced due to food waste is much higher than quantified in the book.
Both low-income and high-income countries have issues with food waste, however the reasons are different. In low-income countries the majority of food loss occurs primarily during production, transportation, or even in the fields. They often do not have the resources and infrastructure in place for preserving produce and keeping it fresh, and therefore it is often inedible by the time it reaches the consumer.
In higher income countries, food waste occurs closer to the retail and consumer end of the cycle. Many consumers will only purchase fruits and vegetables without blemishes, prompting restaurants and grocery stores to reject produce that is perfectly healthy to eat.
Additionally, in affluent communities, food establishments often over-order food to ensure they will have enough inventory to keep customers satisfied. People have also become less inclined to eat leftovers, which results in large percentages of food being thrown away. Most of this uneaten food travels to the landfill and produces methane gas which further perpetuates the cycle of global warming.
By reducing food waste as Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown proposes, 70.53 gigatons of CO2 could be reduced from the atmosphere (Hawken, 2017). Solutions posed in the book Drawdown give me hope that there are ways we can successfully ease and even reverse global warming.
Good News for Fairfax Residents! A small, green kitchen counter compost container was delivered to each Fairfax resident last November. Put your food scraps in the container and then dump the contents into your green curbside cart each week. You will reduce the amount of food waste in the landfills in Marin, and become part of the solution to climate change. Learn more about the program here.
Hawken, P. (2017). Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
How much food waste is there in the United States and why does it matter? (2013). Retrieved November 28, 2017, from https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm
Princeton University. (2014, March 27). A more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, methane emissions will leap as Earth warms. Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327111724.htm
Basic Information about Landfill Gas. (2017, August 09). Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas
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
Despite being one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, Marin County has a widespread population of people who are food insecure. Food insecurity is the state of living without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Food insecurity is having to choose between impossible decisions like having the food you need or having shelter and a place to live.
There are nearly 50,000 people in Marin County who are food insecure, and worry about where their next meal is coming from. In Marin, over 16,000 seniors are food insecure. Many seniors have a difficult time getting access to fresh produce and affording nutritious foods. In a recent survey of 3,000 seniors, 46% report running out of money for food each month. On top of this, 3,500 seniors over 65 have annual incomes below the Federal Poverty Level of $11,670. These alarming and distressing facts demand change and require community effort to ensure that everyone in Marin has access to fresh, healthy, nutritious foods.
Marv Zauderer, founder of ExtraFood, came up with one solution. The United States has an extremely high rate of food waste, at a rate of over 40% (Zauderer). That means for every ten apples you buy, four of them go rotten! This rate of food waste is unacceptable, given the number of people in our local community who are food insecure on a daily basis. Zauderer founded ExtraFood because he witnessed how many people in this county were food insecure, and wanted to ease people’s worries about where their next meal was coming from. So much food was not being eaten and Zauderer realized how this “creates unnecessary waste and is bad for the environment.”
Zauderer decided to tackle the issue of food waste and food insecurity by creating a system to recover fresh healthy food that would normally go to waste and donate it to someone in need. ExtraFood picks up excess fresh foods from organizations and businesses and delivers them immediately to various nonprofits that serve Marin’s population of hungry people. The foods that they deliver include fresh produce, prepared food, eggs, meat, dairy, packaged goods, and baked goods. According to Zauderer, “ExtraFood delivers food to more than 5,000 people per month to over 80 different sites around the county.” In three years of operation, ExtraFood has delivered over 900,000 pounds of food collected from over 150 donors to almost 83 different sites in Marin. This includes 13 new food programs they have started with their partners to expand the safety net further. ExtraFood has made 11,000 deliveries and continues to regularly supply food to Marin County. Zauderer explains that every donation counts, even the smallest contribution can make a difference.
Another local organization working to take action against hunger in Marin is The Fairfax Food Pantry, co-founded by Holly Bragman. Bragman helped create The Fairfax Food Pantry in 2011 because she noticed that there was a need for this service in the Fairfax community: 25% of the participants of the San Geronimo Valley Community Center Food Pantry were from Fairfax. Bragman decided to open up the Food Pantry in Fairfax because transportation is often very difficult for people who are food insecure, and this new location would provide more central access to healthy nutritious foods. Located in the Fairfax Community Church, The Fairfax Food Pantry feeds over 130 families every week. According to Bragman, “the Pantry receives donations totaling 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of food per week.” These foods mainly include protein like meat, fresh veggies, fruit, and other staples for the everyday kitchen. If they have extra food at the end, they often give it to other locations or organizations like St. Vincent’s. Bragman’s vision is to act locally, helping the community through a system that includes Fairfax Volunteers, the Town of Fairfax, and the Fairfax Community Church to create an easy and accessible way for people to obtain healthy, fresh foods.
What can you do? You can support ExtraFood by committing to volunteer as a “food runner” and deliver healthy food to those in need. You can also help by encouraging other Marin businesses and organizations to donate their extra or leftover food. (For more information visit: ExtraFood.org) To support the Fairfax Food Pantry, you can donate money, sign up to volunteer, or something as simple as dropping off empty paper bags from 8:30-11:30 a.m. on Saturdays at the Fairfax Food Pantry. (For more information visit: FairfaxVolunteers.org)
Together we can help solve hunger in our local community by making small changes to our consumer behavior, and making a conscious effort to help those in need.
By Lexi Neely, Drake High School SEA-DISC student & Sustainable Fairfax Intern
We often hear about how Americans buy too many products we quickly dispose of or don’t really need. However, many overlook the wastefulness of the packaging and transport of the products we buy. The amount of single-use plastic bags we consume is no small issue; in fact, the United States goes through over 100 billion plastic bags annually.
Plastic bags put an enormous burden on our environment and our wildlife. We use 12 million barrels of oil every year to produce the number of bags we use in this country. Plastic bags are responsible for the death of over 100,000 sea creatures when these animals mistake them as food. On top of that, plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it only photodegrades, meaning it will break up into extremely small pieces resembling dust but it will still be harmful to the environment.
With this ominous and foreboding status of plastic bag use today, it seems like reducing or stopping their production and use is unsurmountable. When looking at this issue as a whole, it can seem overwhelming and hopeless. We must focus on how to change our plastic bag use at the individual, local, state and eventually national level. With the upcoming election this November 8th, I urge you to take a stand against the use of plastic bags and take a stand for our earth.
Two years ago in 2014, California passed the first statewide single-use plastic bag ban in the nation, following the lead of cities and towns all over the state (Sustainable Fairfax initiated one of the first successful plastic bag bans in the country here in Fairfax!). Plastic bag companies from all over the country were distressed that they would lose their biggest consumer of plastic bags. So they hastily challenged this law and placed Proposition 67 and 65 on the November 8th ballot in an effort to complicate, distract, and repeal the existing law.
Proposition 67 puts the California statewide single-use plastic bag ban before the voters, as the result of a referendum on the law sought by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a coalition of plastic manufacturers. Proposition 67, if passed, would essentially eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags, as well as charge a 10¢ fee for any reusable or paper bag. Prop 67 would give the money collected from the 10¢ bag fee to the grocer. This way, the grocer could use the 10¢ to help abide with the new law requiring them to use more expensive reusable or paper bags.
According to Jessica Connolly, the Recycling Programs Coordinator for Marin Sanitary Service, reusable plastic bags are up to “five times more expensive” to make (a reusable plastic bag is defined as being able to carry 25 pounds across a football field 125 times!) For this reason, plastic bag companies are strongly opposed to the plastic bag ban, and spent $2.9M to oppose Proposition 67.
Proposition 65 is an initiative that was also placed on the ballot by the American Progressive Bag Alliance. If the plastic bag ban passes, this law would demand that the money collected from the 10¢ bag fee be directed into a California State environmental fund. What could be wrong with that? Not so fast. Many believe this poorly written law was put on the ballot by the plastic industry to confuse voters. Since the grocers would be required to give the money to the State, the plastic bag ban opponents could challenge the law by claiming that the bag fee is actually a tax. Tax measures need a 2/3 majority vote to pass, rather than the 50 percent simple majority needed for initiatives. If Prop 65 gets more votes than Prop 67, but doesn’t get 2/3 of the vote, it likely will be challenged and repealed in court, thereby eliminating any plastic bag ban.
For plastic bag ban proponents, the hope is that people will become accustomed to bringing their own reusable bags. According to Mark Squire, owner of Good Earth Natural Foods, they have never given out plastic bags at checkout and initiated a fee for paper bags years ago. He believes that the bag fee serves as an effective reminder for his environmentally conscious customers to bring their own bag when they can. Squire has seen a steady increase in the use of reusable bags, which is currently at about half and half.
In short, to ensure that single-use plastic bags are banned from our state, it is important to vote YES on Proposition 67. And vote NO on Proposition 65. I believe the plastic industry is misleading the public about what is best for the grocers, the environment, and the consumers and are only looking out for themselves. Help protect our earth, you have the power to make a difference!
Sustainable Fairfax strongly encourages everyone to vote on November 8th, 2016! For voting information, including your polling place, please see this link. Below are our recommendations for the Statewide General Election (Propositions 65 and 67) and Fairfax Special Municipal Election (Measure C) .
YES on Proposition 67. Eight years ago, Sustainable Fairfax initiated the first plastic bag ban in the country that was (overwhelmingly) approved at the ballot box. Since then, plastic bag bans have spread like wildfire around the world, and in September 2014 the Governor approved Senate Bill 270, a statewide plastic bag ban. The plastic bag maker lobby – the American Progressive Bag Alliance – gathered the signatures necessary for a Referendum placed on the ballot as Proposition 67. This lobby has spent millions to defeat the ban. Please help us protect the environment, take steps towards eliminating plastic from our landfills and oceans, and RETAIN this new law. Vote YES on 67!!!
NO on Proposition 65. This proposition, put on the ballot by the plastic lobby, conflicts with Proposition 67. Prop 65 requires grocers to donate the 10 cent bag fee to specific environmental causes, while Proposition 67 allows the grocer to use the bag fee funds to comply with the bag ban law (ie for purchasing reusable bags and providing education about the single-use bag issue). Some believe the only purpose of this proposition is to confuse voters and divide the environmental vote. We are in favor of bag fees, but taking away these funds from the grocers is not the answer. And, if Prop 65 received more votes than Prop 67, it may actually supersede Prop 67. Vote NO on 65!!!
YES on the Fairfax Measure C. This is a general tax measure to continue a retail transactions and use tax in Fairfax for an additional ten years, and to increase the Fairfax sales tax rate from ½ % to ¾ %. We believe this tax measure is necessary to cover increases in the Town’s public service costs and to fund important projects to improve safety for our residents. The ¼% increase (translating to just 25 cents for every $100 spent), will help the Town fund projects such as street paving, sidewalk repair, trail expansion for wildfire safety, community planning for disaster evacuations, and senior and youth programs. The sales tax is a fair way for our many visitors to contribute to our Town livelihood when they enjoy our stores and restaurant. Find out more about Measure C here>>