Southern California environment news and trends

A greener childhood

I've been light on this blog as I went to see family and friends on the east coast. GreenLAGirl has been doing the work of an entire city!

My friends from college have four kids: my 7-year-old goddaughter and triplet 5-year olds. Somehow they manage not to create trash with FOUR SCHOOL LUNCHES A DAY through the use of BPA-free plastic containers in a variety of shapes and sizes, as well as plastic bag alternatives.

As a non-parent, this sort of blew my mind. Kids seem to me like waste factories, even years after the diaper days. For parents out there, where do you get your green know-how?

And don't say Karen Graziani, because that's cheating.

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Morning greens: LEED, leaked memos, and other green controversies

 Don’t forget: Artisanal LA and Homegrown Culver City happen this weekend!

A solar thermal plant in Mojave desert will break ground next week. The LA Times reports that the nearly $2-billion project project, “spanning about 3,600 acres and involving 346,000 mirrors, each about the size of a billboard,” is the first of its kind to be built on federal land.

California received Housing and Urban Development grants for sustainable development. As Kaid Benfield describes them in Grist: “the $4 million grant to a Fresno-based consortium covering eight counties complements a $1.5 million grant to metro Sacramento, a longtime leader in planning, in a way that should combine to address serious growth and development issues in the Valley and perhaps assist compliance with the state’s landmark planning law, SB 375.

Homeowners could get as much as $8,000 to make their houses more energy-efficient, if the Homestar bill, already passed in the House of Representatives, gets through the Senate. “Homestar advocates claim that the $6 billion could create 160,000 new jobs in the flagging building sector,” reports NPR.

Popular green building standard LEED may start accepting additional sustainable wood certification standards. At the moment, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits are awarded only for Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood. Many environmental groups oppose opening up the standards to other certifications, according to NY Times.

Changes in LEED standards can have widespread effects. The federal government’s General Services Administration seeks to be a role model in sustainability for the private sector by adopting green standards itself. Among its initiatives, according to the NY Times: “All new buildings will be at least Gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, [GSA Senior Sustainability Officer] Leeds said.”

Proposed cuts at the Department of Environmental Conservation would eliminate 209 jobs — a loss that has both environmentalists and the gas indutstry worried. “Not counting the 209 jobs scheduled to be eliminated from the current level of about 3,100, the department has lost 595 employees over the last two and a half years,” reports NY Times.

Those proposed cuts came to light due to a leaked memo. Since the leak, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s commissioner Alexander B. Grannis has been fired on suspicion of being the leaker; some are rallying for Grannis to be returned to his position, reports NY Times’ Green.

In BP oil spill news: The main federal investigation into the oil spill got an extension to complete its report. The Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement now have 60 more days to prepare their findings. Meanwhile, rescued turtles were returned to Gulf waters this week, reports LA Times.

Lastly and craftily: Don’t have a Halloween mask yet? Create your own — greenly. Alternative consumer has a roundup of 6 Halloween masks made from recycled and upcycled materials to get your creative juices flowing.

Image: Artisanal LA

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L.A.: City of eco-foodie fests - and food deserts

tendergreens mnn onlySustainable food’s a strange topic to tackle in Los Angeles. Locavoring and organic, healthy food’s gotten a big boost from health fad followers to backyard gardeners alike — and gotten so popular that this weekend, we’ve got a couple big eco-foodie events that will showcase sustainable, organic, healthy, artisan delicacies that are locally-grown and made.

And I’m lucky to be one of the people who can take advantage of this trend. For a green meal, all I need to do is walk a block down to the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood where I live, and I can spend my lunch dollars on organic veggie burgers from O! Burger, Grilled Miso Chicken with all natural Jidori Chicken at Fresh East, or a fresh, organic salad with locally-grown produce at Tender Greens (right).

Go to South Los Angeles, however, and the options are much slimmer. Here, finding fresh produce in and of itself can be a challenge, let alone finding organic, locally-grown produce. Large chunks of South L.A. are what health and social justice groups call a “food desert,” where healthy food’s tough to find.

mcdonaldsnuggets mnn onlyThat’s why Los Angeles is currently debating whether or not to allow more fast food restaurants in South L.A. Last week, KPCC’s Air Talk delved into this issue, as the City Council’s planning committee will soon consider placing permanent restrictions on new stand-alone fast food restaurants in South L.A.

The proposed regulations have often focused on the high proportion of fast food restaurants in South L.A. But If you caught that episode of Air Talk, you heard Bill McCarthy, Professor at UCLA’s School of Public Health, mention that car access also plays a big role in affecting food options. “For people without cars, they have fewer choices, and more by default end up eating at fast food restaurants, and thereby increasing their girth and the risk of obesity-related conditions,” Bill said.

Now, a new mapping tool combines multiple factors to give us a look at food deserts. Put together by a community investment group called The Reinvestment Fund, this mapping tool focuses less on fast food restaurants than on supermarkets. As Bonnie Azab Powell describes it at Grist, the tool “layers data about supermarket presence with income levels, public-transit commuting, federal nutrition and housing program participation, and other key demographics to pinpoint those communities it calls Low-Access Areas — those most affected by the lack of a full-service supermarket.”

 mnn only

Above is what the map looks like for South L.A.; the purple areas denote Low-Access Areas. (You can also visit the map yourself and plug in a zip for a closer look at any area) Do you live or work in South L.A.? Does The Reinvestment Fund’s map match your experience with food shopping in these areas? Let KPCC know what your local food landscape looks like to help shape our coverage of this issue.

Also on KPCC: Navigating L.A.’s food deserts: solutions from the bottom up

Photo of Tender Greens salad by George Ruiz/Flickr; photo of McDonald’s chicken nuggets by Jacob Enos/Flickr

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Morning greens: Obama against Prop 23, Chevron for Prop 26

obama1 le Morning greens: Prop 23 got another powerful foe: President Obama. If passed, Prop 23 would put the brakes on AB 32, California’s landmark global warming law. In case you haven’t heard yet, Obama is in Los Angeles today.

As we mentioned before, some oil and corporate business interests are pouring money into Prop 26 while distancing themselves from Prop 23. “The California Chamber of Commerce has pumped at least $3.3 million into Prop 26, and California’s Chevron has spent $2.5 million,” reports Grist.

In addition to pushing for Prop 26, Calif.-based Chevron’s ready to get back to drilling. NY Times’ Green reports “Chevron announced on Thursday that it was going forward with a $7.5 billion project to develop two giant deepwater fields in the gulf.”

Former LA DWP CEO David Nahai answers questions about L.A.’s lawn watering ordinance — that saved a lot of water but may have caused waterline breaks — on KQED’s Climate Watch: “My concern is some of the council members made certain statements that tended to undermine the resolve of Angelenos as far as water cutbacks, and it left only the price signal of the rate adjustment…. It would help if city council members weren’t being defiant of the law.”

Expect a warmer, drier winter in the Southwest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts released yesterday. “The weather driver this season is La Niña, the feisty distaff to El Niño, that other well-known offshore event,” reports L.A. Now.

California’s long-term weather forecast sounds more dire. Grist reports that “Aiguo Dai, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado … thinks that unless greenhouse-gas emissions are cut, large areas of the planet, including the U.S. Southwest, are in for some very long, very damaging dry spells within the next 30 years.”

Lastly and playfully: In Culver City, a new sidewalk game Culverland seeks human game pieces. The interactive piece offers sidewalk engagement for pedestrians — but also depends on L.A.’s car culture for fun play. According to LA Times, “The game should take 10 to 15 minutes to play, less time during rush hour, said its creator: ‘It’s one time when you can say, “Yah, it’s rush hour!”‘”

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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Prop 21: Parks, taxes, and a party in Venice

prop21 Sorry for the last minute notice, but Angelenos who’d like to see state parks funding increased by passing Prop 21 passed have a party to go to tonight.

A “21 on 21″ party is happening at The G2 Gallery, an eco-conscious art space in Venice. Environmental nonprofits Surfrider Foundation, Audubon California, and California State Parks Foundation have put together “an evening of art, activism, and awareness” — an event free and open to the public. It happens tonight, Thu., Oct. 21 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at The G2 Gallery, 1503 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice.

What’s Prop 21? If passed, the proposition would add an $18 surcharge on vehicle registration — and use that money to fund state parks and wildlife conservation programs. According to the legislative analyst’s office, Prop 21 would raise $500 million a year, providing at least $250 million more a year for state parks and wildlife conservation — and leaving about $200 million currently spent on parks in the general fund. As a bonus, Californians would no longer have to pay day-use fees or parking charges at state parks — so if you generally spend more than $18 on these fees and charges in a year, you’d actually come out ahead.

Of course, not everyone takes advantage of the state parks. LA Times reports that “various taxpayer groups” are against Prop 23. So are auto industry groups, reports LAist.

Park lovers, however, point out that California’s known for its iconic parks — often used as the backdrop for car commercials! And those parks are in trouble. “While widespread closures have been avoided, parks around the state have closed campgrounds and cut back visitor services,” reported LA Times earlier this month. “Some have been unable to pay bills and are facing utility cutoffs.” And unfortunately, California’s new budget didn’t give the state parks much more to work with.

KPCC’s Pat Morrison took a closer look at this issue earlier today — and generated a healthy comment stream! How will you be voting on Prop 21?

Related links:

 

Photo: David McNew/Newsmakers

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