Southern California environment news and trends

New task force tackles strawberry pesticide alternatives

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Norbert Millauer/AFP/Getty Images

California’s strawberry industry has taken a substantial hit this year in terms of pesticides. Just as controversy over the use of methyl iodide was coming to a boil (opponents of the chemical claim it causes cancer), the pesticide’s Japanese manufacturer, Arysta LifeScience, pulled it from the American market.

With methyl iodide already a replacement for the pesticide methyl bromide (phased out after being cited as an ozone-depleting agent), California’s strawberry farmers have been left with little alternatives to combat insects and diseases that attack their crops.

As reported by the Southwest Farm Press, the Department of Pesticide Regulation has put together a special panel of scientists, farmers, and industry advocates to create a five-year plan of action for finding alternative ways of handling the situation without the use of controversial chemicals. The task force has been given until the fall of this year to draft a plan.


Gov. Brown orders new green building standards

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Governor Jerry Brown

Thanks to an executive ordered issued by Gov. Jerry Brown this week, California state buildings are going to be charged with meeting an updated and stringent green criteria.

Among the many goals of the executive order include half of all new state buildings being zero net energy facilities (AKA carbon neutral) by 2020. By 2025, all state buildings will be required to meet that mark. New or renovated state buildings over 10,000 sq. feet will have to reach the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver certification or higher, as well as incorporate clean energy generation.

“Doing something real about the growing threat of global warming requires more than just new laws. We must lead by example,” said Governor Brown in the Imperial Valley News. “Greening the state’s buildings will shrink our environmental footprint and save taxpayers millions of dollars.” 


Recyclable California produce boxes tested

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Abdullah Pope/AFP/Getty Images

Initial tests on newly developed recyclable boxes for California produce began in earnest last week.

Iceberg lettuce, broccoli and celery from Lakeside Organic Gardens’ Watsonville facility were packed into Fibre Box Association-certified recyclable boxes that were supplied by Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery, Interstate Container and Green Bay Packaging.

The produce was closely tracked from the Watsonville location to the New Leaf Community Market in Santa Cruz, to see if the packaging could adequately handle transporting wet vegetables. As reported by the Packer, the delivered produce (which reached Santa Cruz “in pretty good shape”) was then used to make salads for those assembled for the event, including Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate the use of paraffin wax, which has traditionally been used to seal boxes used for produce boxes and cannot be recycled.


CVS to pay $13.75 million for California waste violations

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Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images

It was announced this week that CVS Pharmacy Inc. will have to pay almost $14 million to settle a lawsuit claiming the chain improperly handled hazardous materials including hypodermic needles across 44 California counties. The cities of Los Angeles and San Diego were also represented in the suit.

"Safe handling of dangerous waste protects our environment in San Diego and is vital to the health of all Californians," explained San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to the Santee Patch.

With the alleged incidents occurring over the span of the seven years and across hundreds of stores, the California investigations began after CVS was found in violation of similar charges by environmental enforcement agencies in Connecticut. Long’s Drug Stores recently acquired by CVS were also cited for the errant practices.


Santa Monica wins sustainable community award

Eric Demarcq/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica

Earlier this month, we reported that California cities Riverside and Santa Monica were both up for one of three 2012 Siemens Sustainable Community Awards. It was announced just last night at a reception in Atlanta that Santa Monica took the midsize community award over Riverside and Jersey City, NJ. Chicago won for large community, while Purcellville, Virginia, took home the prize for small community.

"The awards show just how much the concept of sustainability has evolved for U.S. municipalities," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center founder and executive director Stephen Jordan in a press release. "Chicago, Santa Monica, and Purcellville show that getting sustainability right improves quality of life, the efficient use of resources, competitiveness, and attractiveness for residents and visitors."