|Behind the Scenes...Of One Very Green Backyard Renovation |
Goodbye Pool, Hello Water-Wise Oasis
With much of the U.S. experiencing drought or abnormally dry conditions in recent years, interest in water-wise gardening and sustainable water-management has been on the rise. Listen in on a conversation among conservation-minded folks and you're sure to hear discussion about drought-tolerant gardens, rainwater harvesting and permeable pavement. But talk is cheap. How many native gardens, rain barrels or permeable driveways have you seen pop up in your neighborhood? Chances are you can count them on one hand, or more likely, one finger.
That's why the backyard project of Redondo Beach resident Mike Garcia is so remarkable. Where there was once a pool, there is now a permeable patio that allows rain and runoff from the roof to percolate into modular rain tanks buried
underneath where the pool used to be. The stored rainwater is used to irrigate a drought-tolerant garden that surrounds a beautiful koi pond. The pond's water is pulled from the underground rain tanks and the pond's pump is powered by solar panels on the roof. Not impressed? There's more! The waste water from the koi pond is not waste at all: Mike uses the nutrient-rich water to irrigate a very impressive edible garden. Let me tell you: you don't see squash like that in any grocery store.
Granted, this renovation did cost Mike his swimming pool, but he gained a lot in return. Aside from the obvious environmental advantages - evaporation from the pool alone was wasting at least 2,400
gallons of water year - the financial rewards are significant. Mike estimates that eliminating the pool pump alone has reduced his electric bill by about $200/month.
Now, make no mistake, this is no ordinary do-it-yourself backyard project. Mike knows what
he's doing: he's the owner of Enviroscape, Inc., a landscaping company
based in Southern California that specializes in ponds and drought-tolerant gardens. He's won national and international awards in the professional
pond world, and his work has appeared on HGTV's "Landscaper's Challenge," ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and more recently, A & E's "Fix This Yard."
Mike is a pioneer in this area, to be sure, and one who wanted to set an example. Part of the reason that he decided to replace his pool with a rainwater harvesting system was to show the world that it is possible to create an outdoor space that is not only beautiful, but also self-sustaining, or nearly so (the irrigation system is tied into tap water in case there's no rain).
The otherwise impervious stone patio is grouted with thick bands of Flexi®-Pave, a porous paving material made from recycled tires that lets water pass right through, as you can see in the photo to the left. Not only is Flexi®-Pave
permeable to water, it's also flexible, non-cracking (tree roots, anyone?), slip-resistant, and impact absorbing. It's also aesthetically pleasing, and can be color-matched, so you can get just about any color you want.
Buried underneath the patio are 58 EcoRain ™ Modular Rain Tanks, for a total capacity of
4,000 gallons. Based on the size of Mike's roof and the average
rainfall for the area, he could capture a whopping 12,000 gallons/year. The tanks are surrounded by geotextile fabric and covered with one foot of sand. The system is maintenance-free and strong enough to park a car on top.
According to Mike, this could be a DIY project for the very handy, ambitious homeowner. However, Los Angeles residents who would like professional should talk to Mike: he's a licensed Flexi®-Pave installer and a licensed distributor of the EcoRain ™ Modular Rain Tanks.
One last thing: if you're in the Redondo Beach area between 1:15 and 3:30pm on October 10, you can take a tour of
Mike's backyard, as part of Manhattan Beach's 10/10/10
Sustainable Summit and Eco Fair. For more information about the tour, visit www.citymb.info, and to learn more about Mike Garcia and Enviroscape, visit www.enviroponds.com.
Good Green Eats|
|Tools to Minimize Food Waste
As kids, most of us learned that's it's a sin to waste food - with hundreds of millions of people in the world suffering from malnutrition, our parents were right to admonish us to clean our plates. But despite their diligence, food waste remains a serious problem: according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, field to fork, some 50% of all food produced globally is lost, wasted or discarded.
Granted, much of this loss occurs before the food makes it into the shopping
cart, but consumers themselves are a big part of the problem. According to a 2008 New York Times article, the average family of four in the US throws away 112 pounds of food per month.
It's true, some people just don't like leftovers (who wants a meal that is already prepared and paid for, after all?), but even the most conscientious among us are sometimes forced to throw away food: giant bunches of wilting cilantro, moldy cream cheese, stale crackers, and countless other forgotten foodstuffs that can be found in refrigerators and pantries across America.
This waste is not only a waste of money, it's a waste of natural resources. From the water and land used to grow the food, to the water
pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that usually accompany food production, every bite takes its
toll on the environment.
Here are two very handy and useful tools that will help you waste less food, save money and reduce your ecological footprint. Your mother would be so proud.
When faced with a suspicious food item (a bit of a mold here, an expired 'best by' date there), what is the prudent consumer to do? In our haste to avoid food poisoning, most of us at one time or another have discarded food that was
actually perfectly safe to eat. According to the folks at www.shelflifeadvice.com
, most products are in fact safe to eat or drink for at least a couple of days past the expiration date.
This helpful site offers shelf life and storage advice for nearly 600 foods and beverages,
opened, unopened, refrigerated, and stored at room temperature. You'll
find everything from yogurt to ketchup to matzos. You'll also find lots
of handy tips such as 'the harder the cheese, the longer it keeps,' and
answers to questions such as "should hard cheese with mold be
So the next time you're unsure if something is safe to eat or drink, visit www.shelflifeadvice.com
. In addition to a Professor of Food Science and an editor of four food-industry publications, the site's writers include a self-proclaimed food safety fanatic whose greatest achievement in life is "never giving my family food poisoning." Sounds good to me.FoodSaver®
One suggestion you'll find on ShelfLifeAdvice.com for extending the shelf life of foods and beverages is to use a vacuum sealer. Meat, cheese, wine, coffee grounds, giant bunches of cilantro, you name it: they'll stay fresh on average five times longer(!) when stored under vacuum-sealed conditions.
By removing oxygen, vacuum sealers retard both mold and bacterial growth. They also prevent freezer burn and are great for marinating: by removing air and "opening the pores of the food," vacuum sealers cut marinating time down to as little as 20 minutes.
There are several brands on the market, but as a long-time user of the FoodSaver®
Vacuum Sealing System, I can enthusiastically recommend this product. There are now eight FoodSaver®
vacuum sealers to choose from, ranging in price from $69.99 to $259.99. The one shown above costs $99.99.
For storage, you have two options: canisters or bags. The canisters are great because they can be reused indefinitely, and sealing is as easy as attaching the rubber hose to the lid and pressing a button. The bags come in gallon and quart sizes, as well as 8" and 11" continuous rolls. I'm a fan of the rolls because they allow you to create custom-sized bags. Once a bag is sealed, it's opened by cutting just below the seal. The bag can then be reused again and again until it is too small to hold anything.
Vacuum sealers have one other use worth mentioning: they're great for storing storing non-food items as well. Silverware, sentimental papers, open packets of seeds and survival kits are just some of the things you can keep fresh, dry and stain-free by vacuum-sealing. Get yours at www.foodsaver.com
Closing the Recycling Loop
Quick: what does the symbol shown below mean? If you answered "it's the recycling symbol," you're half right.
It recently came to my attention, while shopping at a local grocery store, that there is some confusion out there about just what exactly this symbol means. While paying for my groceries, the checker, noticing my choice of toilet paper, kindly informed me that her employer is now offering a new, softer line of toilet paper that I should buy instead. When I thanked her for her suggestion and told her that I didn't choose this new other paper because it isn't made with post-consumer recycled paper, she insisted that is was. To prove me wrong, she enlisted the help of a co-worker, who checked the package and agreed that yes, this new soft paper is in fact made from recycled paper. Confused, I asked them to show me where it said so on the packaging. They both pointed to the symbol you see here (with the number '4' printed in the center).
Needless to say, they were both surprised to learn that the symbol they were pointing at provides no clue as to how the toilet paper itself was made, and that this symbol merely indicates that the packaging was made with #4 low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic. The purpose of this symbol is to help the consumer determine whether the plastic item is accepted for recycling by his or her waste hauler; some recyclers accept LDPE, some do not.
So here's the moral of this story: recycling is great, but only if we close the recycling loop, and the way to do that is to buy products that contain post-consumer recycled content (meaning the recycled materials came from previously used and recycled consumer products). Unfortunately, there's no fancy, easy-to-recognize symbol that signifies that a product (or its packaging) contains post-consumer content. Instead, you'll need to search the label, and if you see something like "100% Recycled, 80% Post Consumer Content", you've got your product. One last word of advice: go with the highest post- consumer content you can find. A product with 100% post-consumer content contains no virgin resources at all. Now that's what recycling is really all about.
|10/10/10GLOBAL WORK PARTY
Environmental activist Bill McKibben is on a mission: to prevent a global climate catastrophe. The author of The End of Nature
(1989), the first book to warn the general public of the threat of global warming, McKibben recently launched 350.org to "inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate
crisis-to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our
Last October, McKibben and his team at 350.org organized an International Day of Climate Action to put pressure on world leaders to take meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With over 5200 actions in 181 countries, the event was declared by CNN to be the most widespread day of environmental action in history. Sadly, it was not enough: when UN leaders met last December, they failed to take serious, enforceable action against climate change.
Undeterred, McKibben and his colleagues at 350.org are now planning a "Day to Celebrate Climate Solutions." On 10/10/10, people all around the world will get to work "setting up solar panels or digging community gardens or laying out bike paths." There are already events planned in more than 140 countries. Impressive, but not enough. In order to send a loud enough message to decision-makers around the world, we need as many people participating in as many events as possible.
Help make 10/10/10 an even bigger, stronger and more effective movement than last year's. Go to www.350.org
to register an event or join an event today!
Events and Other Stuff for Angelinos:
Upcoming TeachingGreen Workshop
Wednesday, October 13: Detoxifying Your Planet, Your Home, Yourself
The average American home is full of products that contain toxic materials. Protect your health and the health of others by keeping toxics out of your life and the environment. Topics covered include everything from body-care products and homemade cleaners to electronic and other types of household hazardous waste.
Time: 7:00 - 8:30pm
Location: Whole Foods Market, 2655 PCH, Torrance, CA 90505
Cost: Suggested $5 donation
For more info, visit www.teachinggreen.org.
Eco Events Around Town
Coastal Cleanup Day
With over 90
countries around the world participating, Coastal Cleanup Day is one of the largest
volunteer efforts on the planet. Don't be left out! On September 25, join Heal the Bay at one of 50 cleanup sites throughout
Los Angeles County to help rid our local waterways of debris.
Visit www.healthebay.org to find the cleanup nearest you. Registration is recommended. All cleanup supplies are provided.
Date: Saturday, September 25
Time: 9:00 - noon
Location: Beaches, creeks, rivers and inland sites throughout Los Angeles
Alt Car Expo 2010
Experience the preeminent expo and conference on alternative transportation. Don't miss the ride & drive area where you can test-drive/ride various alternative fuel vehicles.
Date: Friday & Saturday, October 1 & 2
Time: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Location: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica
2010 Sustainability Summit and Eco Fair
Manhattan Beach will be hosting a 10/10/10 event (see "Duty Calls" above) to raise awareness of sustainability, climate change and water conservation.
Event highlights include:
Date: Sunday, October 10
- Three-panel discussion on sustainability, climate change, and water conservation through sustainable landscaping
- Tour of a native plant demonstration garden
- Tour of Mike Garcia's rainwater harvesting system (see "Behind the Scenes" above)
- Eco-Fair highlighting local green businesses, utilities, and environmental organizations (TeachingGreen will be there!)
Time: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Location: Manhattan Beach City Hall, 1400 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, California 90266
West Basin's 12th Annual Water Harvest Festival
Come take a tour of West Basin's state-of-the-art water recycling facility, and enjoy fun for the whole family, including games, costume contest and free petting zoo.
Date: Saturday, October 16
Time: 10:00am - 2:00pm
Location: Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility, 1935 S. Hughes Way, El Segundo 90245
LA Green Drinks
Relax, have a drink, make new friends, network and share ideas with others interested in environmental issues.
West Side................1st Thursday of the month
South Bay................2nd Thursday
WeHo/Silver Lake.....3rd Thursday
For times and locations, visit: lagreendrinks.blogspot.com.
Three ways you can help:
1. Bring us your people
Actually, we'll come to you.
In addition to public workshops, we also give presentations for groups, schools, and businesses. Are you a member of a community group, alumni group, Mom's group, church group, or any other kind of group? Have a business you're trying to green and want to get your employees on board?
If so, we would love to come and give a presentation or two for your group! We give presentations on specific issues, such as transportation, food and household toxics, and we also offer a general overview of sustainable living.
Visit www.teachinggreen.org to learn more and to request a presentation.
2. Volunteer or intern with TeachingGreen
We are seeking interns and volunteers to help further our mission of helping people reduce the environmental impact of their personal and professional lives. We need help with curriculum development, fund raising and outreach. Your involvement will help us to grow the organization so that we can reach more people with the message of sustainability.
For more information, contact Kathleen Jacecko at 310-372-7484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We are a 501(c)3 organization, so all donations are fully tax-deductible. Your support helps us spread the message of sustainability via workshops, presentations, our wesite and this newsletter. We currenlty operate only in Los Angeles, but even if you don't live here, remember that when we act locally, we help the global environment as well as the local environment.
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We hope you find
this newsletter helpful and informative, and should you have any
suggestions, questions or general comments, we'd love to hear from you.