OCSC Spearheads County-Level Research

OCSC has partnered with Claremont McKenna College’s Roberts Environmental Center (REC) to investigate the obstacles that prevent companies from engaging in environmental initiatives. Instead of focusing on leading sustainable companies throughout the county, the project has a comprehensive scope that will embody companies that exhibit a range of sustainability initiatives. The team of research analysts includes Sierra Gibson, Henrietta Toivanen, Chad Redman, Su Min Ha, Hilary Haskell, and Jesse Pence.  Through surveys, internet research, and interviews, we hope to gather information to protect the environment by consulting with companies to help them overcome these obstacles.  The REC analysts will publish a report this year on their findings and strategies for addressing issues companies face in implementing sustainable business practices.

Call For Instructors – National Registry of Environmental Professionals

The National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP) stands testament to a long and continuous journey that started as a response to the emergence and the growing intensity of environmental awareness in the modern, environmentally conscious world. Established in 1987, NREP has emerged as a leading not-for-profit organization that provides professional certification and official recognition to environmental professionals. We, at NREP, help professionals gain an in-depth knowledge of environmental laws and best practices as we inspire them to maintain high levels of commitment toward ethical practices and guide them to address the multifaceted demands of their core work area.

The foundation of our endeavors is our quality training which is delivered by a team of highly qualified environmental professionals who have created a distinction in the field of environmental and safety education. At present, we are looking to expand our team and invite instructors to join NREP as independent consultants to conduct online certification workshop programs.

You are eligible to be a part of the vibrant NREP team of instructors if:

•  You have a NREP Certification or a professional certification in environmental education from a legally-recognized institute

•  You are skilled to develop quality training content

•  You have the expertise in creating engaging environmental and safety webinars

•  You are proficient in creating instructional tapes to promote easy learning

•  You have prior experience in conducting training seminars, workshops, and other instructional programs

We help instructors generate an optimal value from the engagement and we plan compensation packages appropriately to perfectly align their skills, qualifications, efforts, and expectations. Your compensation will include air and land travel, food and lodging, in addition to an agreed-upon daily payment.

If you think that your participation will add momentum to the environmental and safety awareness waves generated worldwide, we ask that you please visit the NREP Website and look at the various NREP and OIP Certifications that you would possibly be interested in sharing your knowledge. Mail your resume along with your choice of NREP and or OIP Certification’s that you wish to conduct to NREP, PO Box 2999, Glenview, IL 60025 or write to us at cyoung@nrep.org.

State of Green Business Report Released

Greenbiz.com has released their 2014 State of Green Business Report. The report looks at 10 trends in sustainability, the good and the bad of what is currently out in the CSR world. Check out the full report!

OCSC Learns of Goodwill of Orange County’s Sustainable Practices

On Monday, July 29, the Orange County Sustainability Collaborative Staff, Interns, and friends took a tour of Goodwill of Orange County Headquarters in Santa Ana, Calif. The tour started with a very informational overview of Goodwill’s strong mission, sustainable ways, and impact on the community. Opened in 1924, Goodwill of Orange County has been in charge of collecting and selling donations around Orange County, and helping the community as it sees fit.

Boasting a mere 8% of the items and goods that they receive through donations and collections going into landfills, Goodwill has developed a phenomenal and praise-worthy system for reusing and recycling materials. It starts, as they showed during the tour, at the donation centers where donations are sorted and priced, or disassembled and properly recycled.

Any clothing that is gently used, does not have holes, tears, or stains are tagged with the color of the week to be sold in Goodwill Stores. Damaged clothing, along with donated pillows and underwear, are bundled and sold by the bale to recyclers. The color-coded tags help determine the age–or how long an item has been out in the store. If an item is not sold in four to five weeks, Goodwill tries to sell it for half the original price. If the item still does not sell in cycle, it is placed at the Goodwill Marketplace, where buyers can pick and choose clothing and buy it by the pound. The final step in this process is the baling of the clothing and other textiles, to be sold to companies that can repurpose the materials.

Branded clothing and higher-end goods are auctioned off or placed on the Goodwill online store. Non-perishable food donation, although not sold in Goodwill stores, are accepted and delivered to Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange County. A nation-wide collaboration with Target stores allows returned and off-season clothing and goods to be donated to and sold at the Goodwill stores. Goodwill’s services, however, extend farther than just dealing with the donations they receive.

By creating partnerships with local companies, Goodwill is able to provide employment opportunities for citizens with barriers that would otherwise not have stood a chance in the employment field. These are people with learning or communications disabilities or even language barriers that are given employment opportunities. Goodwill partners with companies– like Cox Communications and Dave & Busters–and provides simple services like packaging, that any worker can do.

Yet, “the store is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Community Development Team member Sam Gookin. In their strong commitment to helping out the community, Goodwill doesn’t just aid people with barriers acquire jobs. Goodwill provides other services that will get them on the path to independence. From a fitness center that is completely accessible, to classes that develop and improve communication skills, and even training programs for certain vocations, Goodwill covers a wide spectrum of facilities and services for members of the community with disabilities and barriers. Goodwill of Orange County aids members of the community in every step of the way: in caring for themselves, in educating and training for special skills, and acquiring and securing jobs.

With sustainable methods and over 1,000 employees, it is clear that Goodwill’s mission to make an impact on community is well on its way, if not already achieved. Yet, every day, Goodwill and its employees are finding better ways to improve the community.

City of Stanton Launches “Cease the Grease” Campaign

When grease, fats, and other oils are poured down kitchen drains, they tend to clog up the pipes. Many studies have shown that pouring used cooking oil down kitchen sinks can lead to clogging. This is because as the grease travels from the kitchen sink into the sewers and water treatment plants, they tend to cool, harden, and eventually build up on the pipes. They can accumulate over time and block certain pipes, causing very costly damage. Not only that, but clogging the pipes in cities can cause sewage and other wastes to be directed instead to waterways and other bodies of water, which can be harmful to both the environment and to residents of surrounding areas.

On July 24, 2013, the city of Stanton officially started the “Cease the Grease” campaign with a press conference and light reception for residents. Although it shares the same name as a Dallas campaign to educate residents on proper grease disposal, Stanton’s campaign takes it a step further. With local government-provided services that will actually enable residents to properly dispose of their grease, the campaign is geared to protect the environment, and reduce potential costs that can be caused by sewer and pipeline blockages. Local leaders are thinking ahead, not just to save residents tax dollars in the future, but to save the environment, as well.

Residents are now encouraged to recycle fats, oils, and grease rather than risk improper disposal. They can collect their oils and grease and with the help of the Orange County Sanitation District and CR&R Environmental Services, a Stanton-based recycling company, eventually recycle the grease. Residents can call CR&R for a recycling container, which is offered through curbside delivery, pour their cool, used oils into the container, and have CR&R schedule a pick up.

With over 115 containers delivered and 80 gallons of used oil received, it is no question that the campaign is off to a great start. By helping make it easier on residents to recycle their grease wastes, Stanton and the “Cease the Grease” campaign is doing much for the environment.

 

Sports Apparel Companies Join the Effort to be more Eco-Friendly

It is no question that climate change and global warming has been a serious threat in the last couple of years. As the threat grows, more surf, skate, and other board companies attempt to become eco-friendly. With the warmer temperatures come melting ice caps, plummeting wave heights, and the potential destruction of coastal cities, which can obliterate the sports of surfing, snowboarding, and even skateboarding altogether. Orange County boasts some of the most prominent sports apparel companies in these sports, and a lot have joined the effort to preserve the planet. A lot have implemented more eco-friendly processes and materials into their businesses, and some have even taken initiative in reporting.

Many critics, however, claim that these steps toward becoming more sustainable are mere publicity tricks. Consumers are becoming more conscious of the things they buy–and that steps have been taken to produce them in more sustainable ways. At the same time, in order for businesses to move several steps forward in becoming more eco-friendly, even more steps are needed to be taken backwards financially. As appealing as having a completely zero-waste facility or using only recyclable materials may sound, it also costs a lot; and only few buyers are willing to shell out extra for such products. Thus, many companies have taken shortcuts–creating EP&Ls, Higgs Index, and other tools that report how much is being taken away, but not necessarily addressing or solving any problems. They have all entered an experimental stage, trying to see how to accurately balance pleasing their customers, helping the environment, while still making money. Perhaps, with a little more integrity, some leadership, and a lot of courage, the road to becoming fully eco-friendly will prove to be short, after all.

Andrew Asch explores all of this in an extremely informative piece in this week’s OC Weekly: http://www.ocweekly.com/2013-07-18/news/eco-surf-skate-companies/

Stricter Regulations Approved for Southern California Beach Fire Rings

More than 500 fire pits dot the Southern California coast to be used by beachgoers year-round, free of charge. For many, spending the day in the water and starting a bonfire in the fire pits at night are a cheap and almost traditional way to spend summer—and definitely not something they are ready to give up anytime soon.

Last month, however, the Southern Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) regulators suggested the removal or relocation of many fire pits down the Southern California coast. They claim that small particle pollution, which come from the bonfires pose a serious health risk to the residents of the beachfront houses on the coast. A study conducted has shown that the pollution from one fire pit alone is comparable to standing next to three diesel-run vehicles. Since more than one fire pit is located on each given beach—with Huntington Beach boasting over 500 fire pits on its shores—the accumulation of the small particle pollution has made beachfront residents and air regulators worried for their health. Additionally, as they are now, most of the fire pits are too close to the homes of residents; the buffer zone is less than 700 feet, especially in beaches like Newport.

The air district proposed that new regulations be imposed on the fire rings. Studies supported by the air quality regulators found that over 700 feet away, the particle pollution becomes more distributed and scattered than when they are closer. This led to the proposal that fire pits must be at least 700 feet away from any residences, unless they are spaced out 100 feet apart. The new proposal will also let each city decide on their own whether or not to ban beach fires. This new proposal would mean the elimination or relocation of many fire pits; in the case of Newport Beach, the new proposal would mean the elimination of all of its more than 60 available fire pits.

With growing bans and regulations already placed on many different beaches–such as the banning of smoking in most beaches, the inability to use frisbees when the beach is crowded, and the ban of alcohol in San Diego–many are outraged by the new proposal and argue that this is just another trick of wealthy beachfront residents to take people away from their beaches. After all, the beach fires have been free from air regulations from many decades; starting now after so long seems somewhat arbitrary.

During a hearing held July 12, the California Coastal Commission questioned whether the new proposal was really needed. They have not seen an actual study conducted to test whether the less concentrated pollution that a 700-feet buffer zone actually reduces the health risk for residents. The regional air quality regulators have been monitoring the effects of the proposed new buffer zone, until the proposed new laws went under review during the hearing.

At the conclusion of the hearing, a 7-6 vote approved the proposed rules, effective beginning March 1, 2014. Although the SCAQMD has made a decision, and the new regulations will mostly only affect Newport Beach, many will most likely continue to fight for their traditions. The hearts of many are set on keeping the fire rings and they feel that air quality regulators might be better off focusing their efforts on fixing other, bigger pollution contributors.

Central OC Hosts its First Food Swap

2013-06-23 12.07.47On June 23, the first ever Central OC Food Swap occurred in Santa Ana. Started in March 2010, one of the first Food Swaps occurred in Brooklyn, initiated and led by Kate Payne, founder of the Food Swap Network, along with Emily Ho. Since then, the modern food swap movement has spread all over the United States, Canada and even abroad. The Food Swap Network acts as a worldwide registry for all Food Swap events.

Most Food Swaps occur in the same format. A Food Swap is a chance for a group of people to bring homemade and homegrown goods and trade with other participants, using a barter system. They are recurring events in certain neighborhoods or regions. The Food Swap usually lasts for two hours, with anywhere from 5 to as many as 40 participants. The Swap starts with 30 minutes of greetings, introductions and set up. The next hour is dedicated to sampling of the different goods and participants write their names on lists of items they are interested in. The final 30 minutes of the Food Swap is when the actual swapping and trading begins.

Conceptualized by Sarah Whittenberg and supported by Slow Food Orange County and the Orange County Food Access Coalition, the Central OC Food Swap boasted nearly 20 registered participants; a huge number for its first time. With participants coming from all over the county, one even traveling 70 miles from Rainbow, Calif., the Food Swap had a huge variety of homemade and homegrown goods. There were stone fruits, rosemary jellies and even some plants. There were vegetables from a community garden, different flavors of flan, rice pilaf and backyard eggs. Most of the participants had never attended any other Food Swap, and were thrilled to be part of the first for Central OC. Given the variety of foods and items that were present, one can wonder what constitutes a fair trade. One participant said “whatever you agree on,” a great proof of just how much a Food Swap is focused on community and the relationships amongst it.

The idea behind Food Swapping is an “alternative food system.” In this system, one can stretch his or her dollar—having the ability to determine the value of his or her goods through the barter system. Additionally, the format of the Food Swap allows one to expand his or her knowledge and ideas of food, how it is made and the amount of work that can go into a single item. Moreover, the quality of the goods brought to Food Swaps is bound to be better than those found at most commercial supermarkets, free of preservatives and other boosters. They are a great way to diversify one’s pantry and fill it with homemade and homegrown goods. They are also a great way for one to share his or her passion and hobby of food.

Above all else, Food Swaps bring together communities. The distant, almost non-existent relationship between producers and consumers that the current globalized food system has created can be rebuilt and made to be stronger. They allow the demystification of knowing the source of one’s food, and providing a platform to establish stronger relationships with the people in one’s community, in one’s own neighborhood. When asked how the idea of starting a Food Swap for Orange County came about, Whittenberg claims the push was not just for an alternative system, but for a community-based need.

“This is my home, but it lacks a sense of community unless ethnically-driven,” Whittenberg said. “Something like this gives Central Orange County a place to congregate and be enriched not just by the food they make, but also the connections they create.”

Recruitment for Open Board of Directors Seats

The Orange County Sustainability Collaborative (OCSC) is seeking well-qualified candidates to fill two uncompensated volunteer positions on its Board of Directors for 2-year terms.

Applications will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. (PDT) on Friday, July 19, 2013.  To be considered, candidates should carefully review the attached evaluation criteria.  Please keep in mind no candidate could possibly meet all of these standards.  The determination and ability to get things done are two of OCSC’s highest priorities.

Then, email the following documents to OCSC’s Board Member and Acting Secretary, Ms. Christina Hall, at chall3@antioch.edu :

A cover letter of no more than two pages concisely:

  • Stating candidacy
  • Expressing motivation for serving as a board member, and
  • Briefly summarizing significant professional and personal qualifications
  • A curriculum vitae and
  • Three professional references with professional titles, organizational affiliations, telephone numbers and email addresses.

After the close of the application period, the OCSC Board of Directors will evaluate the applications and announce its selections by Friday, August 2, 2013.

Director Nomination and Selection Criteria Final

Director Candidate Eval Wrksht

Energy Efficiency Investments : The Safest Type of Investment

Finance guru Zvi Bodie had recently claimed that the best and safest investments are on I-bonds, inflation-adjusted bonds from the US government. This means that the rate of interest is guaranteed to be at least the rate of inflation. They are backed with the credit and full faith of the US government for 30 years, and can be cashed out anytime with the security that it is adjusted and the purchasing power has been maintained.

In response to this article, however, one Hilton Dier, owner of Renewable Energy Designs, argues that it is not the safest investment out there. Instead, he claims that energy efficiency investments have the best return, and are the safest type of investment.

First, he stresses that this type of investment only works for people who own property–homes or businesses–but does not work for people who rent. One of the key points that he underlines is that investments do not necessarily mean earning money, but can also mean saving money. If you save $100 on an electric bill, for example, it is the same as earning $100 on an investment, but perhaps even better, since saved money is not taxable.

He also adds that just as I-bonds are inflation-adjusted, so are personal energy investments. In fact, it might be well over than just inflation-adjusted since it seems that the cost of energy–all the different kinds–is going up faster than inflation. So, the money saved in the first year, is guaranteed to adjust in the next year, as the costs go up and efficiency lowers the money spent.

Finally, perhaps the biggest advantage of energy efficiency investments is that they are insured. Whether you make improvements on a business or a home, they will always be protected by the insurance over the establishment. Any damage on equipment or on the property will always be covered. The best part, is that it will always be yours.

As for his final comments, he adds that returns will vary depending on location and the types of energy replacements/efficiency equipment you decide to install. For example, using solar energy in New Mexico will return more than if it was used in Seattle. But overall, the return on energy efficiency investments will be much higher than any other financial investments. A lot of states have even jumped in to help, creating tax credits and other incentives for those who decide to take on personal energy investments.

The first step is an energy audit. The report will include the deficiencies of the building, the possible solutions, and estimates on both costs and eventual savings. Whether it is a simple air sealing of the building to make central heat and air systems more efficient or completely turning into solar energy, each investment is not only good for the pocket, but good for the environment as well.