The Big Things…
This week I’ve spent a good deal of time working on several different projects in my community. Sustainable Capitol Hill has an initiative to reduce waste in our community – not just with recycling and composting, but also gardening, seasonal cooking classes, mending and fixing demonstrations, connecting multi-unit residents to establish lending libraries in their buildings, showing people how to weatherize, and many more ideas.
I’m on a committee that is writing a large grant for a pilot project, to reduce the waste considerably in one large neighborhood building. We’ll measure our successes and failures, and then share with the world our findings, in a booklet and video (made by yours truly, yes!). In this way it can easily be replicated in our community, and in other cities as well.
I’m also working with another small committee to create a new Sustainable Capitol Hill website, which you all have graciously helped with already! We’ll be launching it in mid-November.
I’m helping organize a Green Career Fair in February. More details to come! And a Green Singles Event early next year.
Oh yeah, and I’m working with a team of great local people with intimidating backgrounds in a wide variety of sustainability issues. We’re forming a business focussed on large-scale sustainability consulting, called Re-Vision Lab.
You can get a tiny snippet of what Re-Vision is up to at the beginning of this radio interview. Van Jones was interviewed on Wednesday, and Gabriel Scheer – who runs Seattle Green Drinks and who brought all these great people together to form Re-Vision – was asked to open for Van Jones. So, he talked a bit about our projects in the interview! How cool is that? Gabriel found out later that Van Jones was listening to the whole thing. Exciting!!
The Little Things…
Ok, enough tooting my own horn here. This is what I’ve been up to this week, along with being glued to the election and economic news. But… with all this going on in my life, I wanted to share with you something small and nice. One of those everyday things that really struck me.
After a meeting on Wednesday evening, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things. Normally we buy food at the co-op, or the market, or via our local food delivery. But occasionally we stop by our Kroger-owned QFC to get some odds and ends (and our favorite local coffee, which for some reason we can only find there!)
So I picked up my few items and went toward the cashier stands. There was a line of several people, waiting to use the automatic check-out stands. Totally computerized, at these machines you are told what to do by an obnoxious female computer.
Then, I looked to my left. There were three human checkers, standing, waiting, with no customers. Two were talking to one another, biding their time. And the third one, a middle-aged man, locked eyes with me and beckoned me over. When he saw me make my way toward him, he smiled, relieved.
“How are you? How was your day?” he asked, before I even reached the checkout counter.
“Not bad, a little hectic,” I replied.
“Ah, I see it’s one of those wine kind of nights. Good choice!” He said, as he nodded to my bottle of local, organic wine.
And we proceeded to chat about local wines and the beautiful night, as he seamlessly scanned my items, I paid with my debit card, and he bagged my groceries in my little Baggalini bag.
As he handed me my receipt, he looked at me with gratification and kindness, and said, “Have a truly wonderful night.” He honestly meant it.
I replied with a smile, “Thank you. You have a wonderful night as well.” And I honestly meant it, too.
As I walked away, I was happier than when I’d gone into the store. Somehow I had more energy for the 1 mile walk home. And on my walk, I realized something:
While those several people waited to be helped by a rigid computerized voice, told to scan their item, then place it in the bag and scan the next item…. I smiled and chatted with my checker, I learned something about local wine, and – I supported a local job. I supported a human being who needs to feed his family during this difficult economic crisis. I supported someone who really seems to love his job, who wants to do it well, and who is a good person.
And that action is as important as all the big actions I’m making in my life. Every little decision makes a difference.
For those of you who tried to visit this afternoon, there were a few hours of down time. Sorry about that! It seems we’ve had a large influx of new visitors over the last few days, and our bandwidth was exceeded.
Well, all fixed now! Welcome new visitors! Please stay awhile, peruse our Popular Posts (right-hand side) and our Pages (above), and leave a comment introducing yourself!
Ok, need your brain power everyone! As one of the several things I’ve been up to in my community lately, I am working with a few others in my neighborhood on a new community website: Sustainable Capitol Hill. The organization has outgrown its old site, and now we’re working on making it an indispensable resource for our community!
So… we expect our readers will fall into one of three categories: Residents, Building Owners/Managers, and Businesses. With that in mind, one of the things we’re doing is making a “Top 10 List” of Ways to Go Green for each of the three types of readers.
I’m assigned to write the Building Managers Top 10 List. And… I’m stumped. Help! Here’s what I have so far…
Top 10 Ways For Building Managers & Owners To Make Their Buildings Green
1. Make sure to provide enough Recycling & Yard Waste/Compost containers for your residents. Even if your building does not generate much yard waste, you can still order a Yard Waste bin for residents to discard compost. You can encourage residents to recycle and compost, by providing them with an informational sheet when they move into the unit. Here is a printable flier describing yard waste and compost (available in several languages), and here is one for recycling.
Note that in addition to helping keep unnecessary materials out of landfills, there are financial incentives: if Seattle garbage contains more than 10% recyclables, a $50 fine may be added to your garbage bill.
2. Create a gardening space for residents to grow food and flowers. Not only does this increase the property value by beautifying the grounds, but it also encourages residents to stay longer in your building (by improving their quality of life, giving a sense of investment in the property, and showing that you care about their needs). If you don’t have room for a courtyard garden, consider providing matching window boxes for tenants, or creating a rooftop garden.
Please visit our gardening resources page for more information.
3. When remodeling or repainting, use green and non-toxic materials. For example: paint with non-toxic and non-VOC paints, replace carpeting with formaldehyde-free carpeting, and use reclaimed building materials from businesses like Earthwise, Second Use, or Re-Store.
4. Clean apartments and common areas with non-toxic cleaning materials. Generally these are cheaper for you, as well as better for the environment, the individuals who are cleaning, and your residents. (Anyone know a good link to go here?)
5. Provide a list of local businesses to new residents. The more invested your residents are in their community, the longer they are likely to stay in the building. Additionally, the stronger the local economy is in our area, the more desirable the neighborhood will become, and the higher the property value will become for you.
6. Use locally-owned and -operated businesses for your services. For example: cleaning services, plumbers, electricians, handymen, key duplication services, hardware stores, and management services can all come from local businesses. And again, when you support our local economy, it becomes stronger, which benefits all of us.
7. Recycle old appliances and building materials. You can take old appliances to the Waste Management Disposal Facility for recycling, or have them picked up by calling (206) 684-3000. If the appliance still works, you can advertise it on Craigslist or Freecycle, where someone will pick it up for free.
You can donate recyclable building materials to Habitat For Humanity for a tax-deductible donation. Or you can take the materials to Earthwise, Second Use, or Re-Store. Many of these services offer pick-up or free drop-off, and some also offer store credit for your usable materials. (Note: before deconstruction, make sure to call the facility and find out its policies.)
8. Weatherproof windows and doors throughout the building. Weatherproofing or weatherization includes: window caulking and weatherstripping; installing storm windows and/or new energy-efficient windows; pipe wrapping outdoors and in carport areas; weatherstripping exterior doors; and insulating the attic, walls, and crawlspaces. Check with Seattle City Light to see if your building might qualify for a Multifamily Weatherization Rebate. For low-income buildings, there is also a weatherization program for low-income apartment buildings.
9. Light hallways, entryways, and other common areas with CFL lights. In addition to lasting up to 10 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs, these will use 75% less energy. This takes a big bite out of your electric bill: each bulb will save about $30 in energy costs over its lifetime!
When the CFLs do burn out, make sure to dispose of them properly: you can take them to a Take It Back Network facility to be recycled (call the facility for details), or to a hazardous waste dropoff site. Check with Seattle City Light to see if your building might qualify for a Multifamily Lighting Rebate.
10. What have I left out? Please help!
What do you think? What have I missed? Please help me brainstorm… !
I have written recently about eating locally, and where to find local food sources. In that post, I also mentioned that if you don’t have a local food supply, it is time to build one in your community. Many of you have expressed an interest in learning more about how to do that. So I have a story for you!
Last week Evan Cece wrote on the Riot For Austerity listserv about her experience setting up a local food supply in Wimberly, Texas. I was inspired by her story, and asked if I could share her words with you all. She then went to the board of The Bountiful Sprout, and found they were completely delighted to have their story told.
The following is an excerpt of Evan’s words…
Building A Local Food Supply
I’ve been looking forward to fall. I sure hope it gets here some day! I do have something to celebrate, though.
For more than the past year, I’ve been working with a small group of very dedicated people to build some sort of food security here where I live. We met late last summer in a coffee shop to figure out how we could create a source for locally grown, organic food and household products. We’ve had many obstacles and a few failures, but last week we had our first official and successful order. Thanks to the Nebraska and Oklahoma Food Coops, The Bountiful Sprout, LLC is helping our community secure food options for the future. I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that you will get something like this started in your own communities.
How It All Began…
The first thing I did was google words like sustainability, food coops, local harvest, etc. I found a website by a like-minded person, and then found out she was managing a very small farmers market in a neighboring town. So I called her and asked if she would be willing to help me with the project. She had a newborn and said she couldn’t, but offered some ideas.
Then I went to an organic coffee shop and talked to the owner. I asked him if he would be willing to place bulk orders for the group, and offer his location for meetings and breakdowns of orders. He was willing, and we scheduled a group meeting where we invited folks we thought might be interested. The first meeting had about 14 people, and we brainstormed ideas.
Next we placed a small order with a large organic food distributor and it turned out to be a fiasco. While we were figuring out what to do next, the coffee shop closed and we lost our meeting place and method for ordering through the larger distributors. During this time, more and more people heard about what we were attempting through word of mouth, and someone offered us a space to meet and receive orders.
So we held a meeting with an attorney to find out about liability for forming a coop. She suggested for insurance and tax purposes that we form an LLC. We held another meeting with members to elect a board and flesh out bylaws under the direction of the attorney. The board then took up the rest of the leg work and began meeting to figure out our plan of attack.
I contacted the larger food distributors, who all said they wouldn’t sell to a coop or buying club within 50 miles of any competitors. That ruled us out completely. Meanwhile, our members were assembling their shopping wish lists!
We met again and decided to only work with local producers and farmers. We canvassed all the farmers markets and CSAs in our local area and got people interested in selling to us. We collected a small capital contribution from our members to pay for the attorney, and to pay a webmaster to get our website up and running.
A Life Of Its Own
I think that pretty much covers it. At present, The Bountiful Sprout has 60 member families and a dozen or more producers, but we’re growing every day and this has spread only by word of mouth. This is giving me hope. I have to tell you, when I made that first phone call, I was totally clueless as to how this was all going to come together and it just took on a life of its own. It began with a desire and talented people just started falling out of the wood work. I promise you that there are like-minded people like you even in your own neighborhoods.
I have met so many people in the last year that don’t even blink when I tell them I am a no “pooer”, or who nod in understanding about military showers, or have even less garbage than our family of three each week. We have a lovely lady in our neighborhood that picks up recycling for all the families here for a small fee. When you live in a rural area, recycling pick-up is not an option. It’s a long distance to drop off your recycling, so we saved ours for six months and made one trip. She’s now made a business of it.
I love seeing the entreprenuerial spirit coming back to life in a smaller non-greedy, but service-minded way. We’re all on a boat and it’s sinking unless we plug the holes. We need more than two hands to do that, and that’s where community comes in. If we share, there’s more to go around and the burden is less. We can all work together to create viable local ecomomies with less dependence on oil. We have to do it for ourselves.
What Were Your Start-Up Costs?
We didn’t really know what type of start up costs we would need. We discovered things as we went a long. We ended up creating an LLC which required an attorney’s input and filing fees. This will vary from attorney to attorney. Our attorney was able to give us a huge discount, as she is also a member.
We asked our members for a capital contribution of $40, but this fell a little short of our needs. Some members donated some cash to help get us started. Our website was a big cash hog for us. Oklahoma and Nebraska offer their software for free, but we needed to tweak it for our use and we had to pay a webmaster for his time. Also, there are grants out there to help coops get started. We don’t qualify for them since we opted to become an LLC.
How Long Did It Take To Set Up?
It took us about a year to get everything into place. I imagine if you start smaller, you can begin placing orders right away.
How Big Do You Expect To Become?
We have 60 members at the moment and several pending. The word is spreading so we think we’ll be doubling our size by the end of the year.
Do You Make Any Money?
We did not begin this as a money making proposition. Our goal was, and still is, to provide good quality organic food and products produced locally. We want to create food security and provide a sound marketplace for local farmers and producers. We’re breaking even right now and that’s all we hope to do, unless we expand into a storefront.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Remember, we were clueless when we started and it has taken awhile, but we’re finally up and running. My best advice, is not to get discouraged. We’ve had many obstacles and failures and we’ve had to redirect many times, but none of us gave up at the same time, that helped.
Even if you begin with just five people, you can increase your buying power and grow. Now, we have farmers that are prepared to grow just for our 60 families. We have one farmer that is looking for additional land to lease to increase his CSA so that he will have more surplus to grow for us. In this way, we’re creating job security for him and he’s creating food security for us. It’s a total win-win for everyone.
Please visit www.bountifulsprout.org and then make something happen in your area. I hope you get started asap.
If anyone has any suggestions on how we can make our project better, I would love to hear them. If you are local and want to become a member or producer, we would love to have you.
Thanks for reading.
It’s nine days until the U.S. elections. There is my un-opened absentee ballot, sitting on my desk, calling my name. I’m going to spend the day looking into all the initiatives and local government positions on my ballot. And I just wanted to remind you to do the same.
Why? Because change happens most easily at the local level. Because these decisions may affect you, your family, and your community very substantially. Because some of our neighbors are working hard to make our communities better, and we need to support them. And because we can build upon the positive changes made in this election year.
I’m not going to tell you how to vote, because that is your business and this blog is a place where we can all come together regardless of political affiliations. But those of us who are here do have beliefs about important issues, or we wouldn’t be here at this blog. So please:
- Research every one of the initiatives, as well as the candidates.
- Act on your beliefs.
- Vote in every last category on your ballot.
It’s important. And it matters.
If you don’t know where to start researching, you can try here to find out information about local ballot measures. And here, to find your local election office – usually you can find specific information about each candidate’s position, and full text of each ballot measure. Generally your local newspaper will have information about each candidate as well, and if you have one you like and trust, you can check out their endorsements to see if they make sense for you.
It’s time to plant garlic in the Northern Hemisphere! I encourage you all to try this as it is so easy, and extremely rewarding. There are all sorts of lovely types of garlic to try – some mild, some spicy, some long keepers, some beautiful braiders, and some just mouthwatering!
We had a lovely crop of garlic this year. And let me tell you that garlic is pretty darn resilient. We planted our garlic in mid- and late November. It sprouted and looked lovely. Then we moved at the end of April and brought some of the garlic with us, transported in a garbage bag placed inside a box with its own dirt and mulch.
It was in a hot moving truck for 2 days, and then remained inside the box for -ahem- at least 2 weeks. It also went through heavy rain without any drainage, so it was extremely muddy at times. Finally, we transplanted the garlic into the ground in late May. We harvested it in mid-summer, and… we had full heads of scrumptious, full-flavored garlic!
So, do try to plant garlic at the right time and under the right conditions. But if you muddle it a bit, garlic is fairly forgiving.
Types of Garlic
There are two types of garlic: hardneck and soft neck.
- Hardneck Garlic tends to have dramatic and distinct flavors, is easy to peel, and has generally bigger cloves. These also produce edible garlic scapes at the beginning of the summer. These are my favorite, but they generally don’t store for as long as softneck garlic. Can be stored 3-6 months.
- Softneck garlic is what you’ll find in most supermarkets – it generally has a milder flavor and smaller cloves. However, it can be braided, and generally stores for much longer. Can be stored for a year or more.
Elephant Garlic is actually a member of the leek family so it’s not really garlic, but tastes similarly. It has much larger cloves, with a milder taste than garlic, and it keeps well. Elephant Garlic is wonderful baked: slice off the very top of the head so that you can see the tops of the cloves, pour a bit of olive oil on top, and bake until soft and browned. Then you can eat it by scooping the cloves with a spoon, or adding the cloves to other dishes.
When To Plant Garlic
You can plant from September through mid-January, as long as the soil is not frozen. Fall planting, when the soil is around 60F, will yield the highest quality bulbs. But again, don’t worry too much if you plant it late – you can even plant it in late winter/early spring and still get a fall crop.
How To Plant Garlic
Well I was going to write about how to plant garlic, when I came across an article from Farm Mom that says everything that needs to be said about it! So go purchase some beautiful heads of organic garlic – either at the farmer’s market or at an organic seed supply like Seeds of Change, Peaceful Valley, or Territorial Seed. And then follow Farm Mom’s excellent instructions here. For more information, Peaceful Valley has some great companion instructions here. Enjoy!
Have Any Other Garlic Planting Tips To Share?
Please tell us in the comments!
We have been eating loads of fresh, local goodies lately – it was fun to show off our local flavors with Kate last week! Actually, I’ve made a special effort to find local food in October as a part of the Eat Local Challenge.
We’ve been trying a local delivery service to supplement our farmer’s market goods and goods from the local food co-op. Last week our food miles averaged 166 miles, and we paid for a carbon offset for the delivery. Considering this included dairy, dry goods, and several staples in addition to a few mid-week veggies, that wasn’t bad!
I have had several questions over the last few months about how to find local food. I thought I’d answer them here, so those of you who are wondering can learn, and those of you who know can add to my list! Please do add any resources and thoughts in the comments – thanks!
Top 10 Benefits Of Eating Local, Seasonal, Organic Food
1. Supporting local farmers & local food diversity will be increasingly important in an economic crisis, as energy prices rise, as our climate continues to change, and as our food supply continues to become threatened by a loss of biodiversity.
2. Eating local food also allows you to have more power as a consumer to monitor where your food comes from, and how it is grown and raised. You also have a strong voice in the local government, so you can make a difference in food legislation.
3. If you eat seasonally, you will reduce the amount of energy used to store your food.
4. If you eat organically, you will reduce the amount of energy, pesticides, and herbicides used in growing your food. This has benefits for your health as well as the climate, our food and water supplies, and the natural environment.
5. If you eat locally, you will reduce the amount of energy it takes to transport your food.
6. The flavors and nutrients of local and seasonal food are generally much richer and more complex. The French have a term for the flavor of wine grapes that comes from growing conditions, soil, water, and place – called terroir. I believe all fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, nuts, etc. have such potential. We just recently sunk our teeth into a local butter which was divine, with hints of cool, wet, luscious northwest clover. Just amazing.
7. If you grow your own or you purchase from local farmers, you may discover many varieties of different vegetables and fruits you’ve never heard of. This is how we found tayberries for the first time. Until recently I’d never seen kohlrabi in the stores, but I knew the taste well from my grandfather’s garden. In Geyserville, our carrots had multiple levels of complexity – some were spicy, some sweet, some with many other flavors I’ve just never tasted in a carrot.
8. When you buy from local farmers and grocers, your money remains within your local economy. Generally, your money will remain within your local economy much longer as it passes from that farmer to the local hardware store or the local feed store, and beyond. Whereas when you buy from a national or international chain, generally your money leaves your local economy as soon as it leaves your hands. In addition, more of your money goes directly to local farmers, so that they receive more of a living wage.
9. If the economy continues to get bad, a relationship with local food producers and sellers will become essential. Maybe one week you won’t have the money to pay for your produce, but a local farmer may just accept a barter for something you can offer him or her in exchange. And maybe some day a drought hits California, or an oil crisis makes trucking produce too expensive. By supporting our local economies now, we will have these systems in place when we really need them, and we will be able to support one another during difficult times.
10. Buying from local people encourages important personal connections within your community. I’ve learned so much more about my local region, having searched for local food providers. And what joy it is to talk with a local farmer about her particular variety of greens, to learn from another farmer about a new way to protect your tomatoes during heavy rains, or to discuss a new law that may be passed that will affect your local food supply. The stories that come from these interactions just make our lives so much happier, healthier, and more beautiful.
And lastly, it is important to remember that while some things may seem slightly more expensive to buy locally and organically, in the end, eating locally, seasonally, and organically is much less costly to your community; our air, water, energy, and natural environment; and the safety of our children’s food supply. We can reduce economic costs by shopping only for seasonal local produce, and by growing whatever we can in our own yards.
Where To Find Local Food
Natural Food Co-ops
Organic produce delivery services
CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture – generally a farm you buy into so that you receive produce from it each week)
Local farms – they may sell to you, or tell you where their products are sold
Farm Stands (generally adjacent to your local farms, or located somewhere near the local farming district)
Produce Stands (often located in city neighborhoods, where several farmers sell their goods to a central produce seller)
Restaurants and Cafes Serving Locally-produced Food
Gather wild berries, greens, nuts, and other foods (Do be careful of those things that have been sprayed – check with your city parks department if you don’t know; and make sure you know what you are picking – if you aren’t absolutely sure what it is, do not eat it!)
Grow food in your own backyard
Grow food in a community garden, a friend’s garden, your parent’s garden
Barter with other gardeners (trade apples from your tree for lettuce from his garden, for example. Or even barter for a service, if you don’t grow food of your own – can you help prune or pick apples on the tree, or bake a pie, or help build something for your neighbor?)
Food Banks, if you are in need of extra food (Don’t be afraid to use this service if you need it – it’s very important for you and your children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and that’s what the system is set up for.)
If They Don’t Have It, Ask For It
Don’t forget the power you have as a consumer to ask for things you want to buy. If your store doesn’t carry something you want, ask. If one of the store’s distributors carries it, they’re likely to try out a product you ask them to carry. And if it doesn’t carry local food, tell them how important it is to you, and have your friends do the same. This is the only way it will change!
How To Find These Resources In Your Area
- Organic Consumers Association
- Local Harvest
- Eat Wild
- Phone Books
- Google search
- Google’s local directory
- Other local food bloggers – many local food bloggers have resources like this for their local regions.
- Word of mouth – ask friends and family, ask other moms and dads at school, call your Chamber of Commerce, ask local farmers where they sell their goods, ask local restaurants where they buy their local produce, ask anyone who might know… or anyone who might know someone who might know! Don’t give up!
- Please add to this list in the comments! There are lots of readers from other countries here, and I don’t know any international resources, so please let me know of any resources in your country.
If You Don’t Have One, Build One
No excuses! If you don’t have any of these things, it’s time to form one. Past time. You will not be alone in wanting to bring local foods to your area. And some of your local farmers are probably very anxious to find a local niche. So gather your courage and do it!
Find or form a local group of people interested in helping you create a local food system, and start on it now. You can begin by forming a local community garden system, or by creating a farmer’s market once a week, or pushing local groceries to carry products from local growers.
There are many programs out there that exist in other regions, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Call a farmer’s market that does exist in a nearby city or town, explain what you’re trying to do, and ask them how they started. Contact a co-op in another area and ask them what works for them, what advice they can give you. Meet with them if they will give you the time. Call the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and find out how their matching funds work for setting up our local community gardens, and what other incentives they’ve given Seattle residents. Also find out where they get their funding, and how they were able to create the program.
Don’t forget that just about everyone who is working on their communities is busy – and many doing this as a volunteer – so make sure you respect their time by have a prepared list of questions, thoughts, and issues you’d like to address. Most likely they will be very happy to help you start, and will be honored that you’re using their program as a model. But just make sure you are respectful!
Some local food companies we patronize for daily food:
What have I missed? What other resources are there for finding local food? Please feel free to add specific programs in your neighborhood, so that anyone here from your region can find them, and so we can all find more examples in case some of us have to create our own!