Plastic Free July – Week 1

Plastic Free July has crept up on us! Haven’t heard about Plastic Free July? Find out more, here. Why live plastic-free? To improve human health and the health of the Planet. Plastic is made from petroleum extractions and does not biodegrade; it pollutes land, water, and air. Mirobits of plastic can be found in deep ocean canyons and in icebergs. It’s in every plastic beverage bottle you drink.

Once a week this month we will cover the 4 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, ReUse, and Recycle, and include tips for avoiding plastic packaging during the pandemic, which has likely impacted almost everyone’s purchasing habits.

To help us decide what to Refuse, we kept a log of our household’s plastic usage for a month. It’s pretty easy to do: just note the date, the quantity, and type of plastic item(s) that comes into your home. We did ours on a spreadsheet that tallied up the daily totals between 2 people. The first screen shot shows one person’s log for a week.The next screen shot shows the sum of two people’s log by the day and a graph of the numbers.

Another way to keep track is to keep a bucket or basket where you collect all the plastic items that you discard/recycle throughout the month. This gives a good visual representation. At the end of the month, you’ll know a lot more about where you need to focus to change your habits and reduce your plastic consumption.

So what does refusing plastic mean? Ideally this would mean refusing to purchase anything that is packaged in plastic, or made from plastic. Since plastic packaging is generally single-use, and much of it is not recyclable, it is considered one of the worst environmental offenders when it comes to plastic. With Shelter in Place and more home deliveries, more plastic has come into some people’s homes than usual.

Food shopping is an area in which it’s hard to refuse/avoid single-use plastic packaging. When shopping at farmer’s markets, you can bring your own reusable bags or baskets and ask vendors to explore non-plastic packaging options. For example, berries can be packaged in cardboard containers vs. the typical green plastic cartons. Sambrailo Packaging in Watsonville makes cardboard packaging for fruit.

Because grocery stores are currently not allowing shoppers to bring their own bags into the store due to the pandemic, you can put your groceries, unbagged, in your shopping cart and transfer them from the cart to bags at your car or bike, instead of having them bagged in plastic bags at the checkout counter.

If you’re shopping for food online, as many of us are doing during Shelter in Place, you know that this poses its own set of problems with plastic packaging. Look for vendors that use recyclable packaging materials. Fragile items are often packaged with styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap, but what did people do before these items existed? An “old fashioned” and much more sustainable approach was to wrap the fragile item in paper, padded with crumpled or shredded paper, place it within a cardboard box, and then place the box within a larger cardboard box with additional crumpled or shredded paper stuffed in between the two boxes.

It will take time to change your habits and find alternative sources for items that are not packaged in plastic. It may seem overwhelming at times. One approach is to focus on one area of your life at a time, such as “food” or “toiletries” or even “clothing.” It took one member of our group 1.5 years to reduce her household’s plastic consumption by 70%. Just do your best and keep trying!

Here are some great resources for reducing plastic in your life:

Beth Terry, formerly from the Bay Area, has an informative blog and comprehensive book dedicated to living plastic free. The recent film, The Story of Plastic, “takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it.” Berkeley’s Ecology Center is a wonderful local resource.

Rebecca Anaya for the Environmental Justice Committee



URGENT ACTION REQUESTED for June 16 City Council Meeting




Item 7B on the June 16 El Cerrito City Council Agenda is about revenue, expenditures and costs.

COVID-19 and Climate Change

The COVID-19 pandemic has brutally revealed the connection between individual and public health, the economy, and the health of our environment. People of color are most impacted by the coronavirus, polluted water, dirty air, and contaminated soil. Around the world, people demonstrated that they could change their behavior instantly when their health was threatened by an invisible force of microscopic size.

Unlike the coronavirus, the Climate Emergency is a visible, palpable threat: rising seas are already affecting coastal communities that in turn will impact the salinity of bays, estuaries, rivers and creeks. Temperatures are the hottest this year since they have been recorded. Deforestation is causing widespread damage to air, water, and soil quality.

The  Climate Emergency has already started—higher temperatures and another drought year spell trouble for everyone, especially unhoused people and people without access to AC or who are living in places with few windows and cross-breezes. In El Cerrito, our  library and community center have been our cooling centers. Their closure means no place for people to cool down on super hot days.

One benefit of the shelter in place health order has been clearer skies which means easier breathability for people with respiratory ailments and allergies. More wildlife has come out to delight us—birds, bees, butterflies, and more.

UNFORTUNATELY, IT TOOK DESTROYING OUR ECONOMY TO GET PEOPLE TO CHANGE BECAUSE WE WERE NOT PREPARED. El Cerrito did not plan for such an emergency.  We have no alternative power system for the City; we haven’t invested in green business initiatives that could save our small businesses and do good by the environment; we have no alternatives for cooling centers, and clean drinking water; we have no plan for how to feed people should food scarcity occur throughout the community; and we have no local health center.

Despite all this, the City Manager in her June 9 City Council Budget Study Session directive wrote, “ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS This section is not applicable to this agenda item.”  The Consultant hired by the City Manager further put in his PowerPoint presentation, “Foster environmental sustainability citywide” at LOW priority in the short term (6 months).”  In the mid-term he put it at MID priority, and only in 5 YEARS did he assign HIGH priority.

El Cerrito and the world do not have 5 years to start thinking about environmental sustainability. The progress we have made in recent years can easily backslide for lack of attention.

The City has a Climate Action Plan that was supposed to be reviewed this year. With the fiscal cliff our city is working to alleviate, this is the best time to re-imagine our city—not just slash expenses, but how we treat our environment for improved public health, social equity, healthier jobs and a healthier economy.  Here are 4 things that can move us quicker into integrating

-the integration of climate action in all operations by including it in every city government job description

-the City Council Sub-committee on Climate Action report to be released immediately for public discussion and action

-the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50% by the year 2030

-the city to allow El Cerrito resident volunteers to work with city staff to activate GHG reductions, greening of local businesses, and educating the community

If you believe the City should include climate change actions in its 2020-21 budget as a priority, please email comments by Monday, June 15 to the City Clerk at

Subject heading must state “Public Comments – Agenda Item #7B” in order to be included in the City Council members’ packets.

Let’s advocate for Community Emergency Responsiveness Training (CERT) for Society!

El Cerrito Climate Emergency Background as of June 2020

In August, 2019, the City Council heard from the public about the importance of addressing climate change at the local level. This included information from The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change definitive report in 2018 urging a reduction in GHG by 50% by 2030 to maintain the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to reach net zero GHG no later than 2045. 


The staff report about the Resolution states that, “the City of El Cerrito’s declaration would commit the City to reinforce citywide efforts on climate change, with the belief that people locally and around the world have a right to a clean and healthy environment.” The resolution is consistent with El Cerrito Strategic Plan Goals E (ensure the public’s health and safety by supporting initiatives that decrease pollution and improve the health and prosperity of future generations) and F (foster environmental sustainability citywide by supporting implementation of the Climate Action Plan and policies that would help the City, and the State, meet their GHG reduction targets).

By adopting a Climate Emergency Resolution, El Cerrito has joined over 1,000 jurisdictions around the world. The Resolution and staff report can be found here on page 26.

The City Council also made a commitment to convene a Council ad-hoc committee on climate action, which was tasked with identifying action items that could be taken more quickly by the City to reduce GHG emissions.

Here are some videos to share with young people and others who want to understand about GHG.

URGENT ACTION–AIR QUALITY AT STAKE: Stop AB 617 Implementation defunding

Governor Newsom released the May revised budget last week and we are facing a complete de-funding for AB 617 implementation. We need your support to advocate for necessary funding for AB 617 implementation throughout environmental justice communities in California. Your voice can influence this decision and we need to act fast!

Thankfully there are numerous ways that you can help!

  1. Provide written comment or verbal testimony during the Budget Subcommittee THIS THURSDAY from 10am-1pm.

Click here to access the meeting agenda

Click here for access to the live stream

Here is how to provide testimony:

Written testimony, the event on the Assembly’s website for the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 3 states: 

“We encourage the public to provide written testimony before the hearing. Please send your written testimony to: Please note that any emails sent to that address are considered public comment and may be read into the record or reprinted.”

 Be sure to clearly state that you are supporting AB 617 implementation! 

For constituents wishing to participate during the budget hearing’s public comment period:

At the beginning of the hearing (as well as the start of the public comment period) there will be a call-in number and passcode listed on the Assembly website, the agenda and on the livestream of the hearing.  By dialing into this number, it will place you in the queue to make public comment.  Once your queue number comes up (NOTE: the numbers are not always called in order), the operator will direct that caller how to activate their line.  Callers need to be sure to mute any background audio devices so there is not an echo/competing background noise. 

 You will not have a lot of time for public comment, so we recommend following this script:

My name is [YOUR NAME], I live in [CITY] and am here representing [ORGANIZATION OR GROUP]. I support funding AB 617 implementation because [BRIEF REASON].


Be sure to clearly state that you are supporting AB 617 implementation!

  1. Send a letter to the Governor. I have attached the Air District’s letter for reference and our key talking points are below. If possible, please submit the letter on letterhead by the end of this week. Next week may be – but the sooner the better as decisions could be made very soon.

To make it super easy for you, please send your letter to our legislative colleagues Alan Abbs and Annie Hargrove and they will package them and send them to all of the relevant folks at the state capitol.


Here are Air District key talking points and rationale:

·         We are facing a complete de-funding of the AB 617 implementation after this coming fiscal year. We will not be able to make up the difference with local funds. That means we may have to significantly scope back the AB 617 implementation effort as soon as this July to stretch out what money we have now.

·         In the Bay Area, the zip codes most impacted by COVID-19 overlap with our high priority AB 617 communities. We also know that long term exposure to air pollution increases COVID-19 mortality. We understand that the State of California is having a terrible budget crisis, but funding community-led solutions to improve respiratory health should be a top priority.

·         Good News: AB 617 has been listed by the Governor as a high priority for Cap-and-Trade funds.

·         Bad News:

o    Mobile source incentives to reduce emissions are listed as a higher priority than community-led work.

o    With gasoline use down 50% and refineries cutting back and/or shutting down, there may be very little Cap-and-Trade money available.

o    So, there’s no guarantee that any money will be available for AB 617 implementation. We can’t hire staff or provide grants to work on this program if there’s no certainty that there will be money to pay for it.

Please contact Kristen Law ( or Azibuike Akaba ( with any questions.

Coal Transport from Utah to Oakland update 11/13/2019

We have been watching the case of Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal LLC against the City of Oakland play out for several years.  This project, started by Phil Tagami and his investment-developer group years ago to reinvent the old Oakland Army Base, was to build a large terminal to accept coal from Utah that will be exported to Asia.  Oakland terminated his lease in 2018 because of concerns over air quality, pollution, and health of residents.

ECP Environmental Justice supports Oakland’s efforts, and Richmond’s as well, to keep coal from crossing through our neighbor cities and causing coal dust pollution that will affect air quality not only for those cities, but ours, and every one of the cities in the Bay Area. Coal dust is dangerous for people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and for normally healthy people too.

For the latest news, see

Please write your elected city, regional, and state officials and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the California Air Resources Board and urge them to support the banning of coal transportation through the State and the Bay Area.