Call Senators Now-Support EPA

This news just came in from the League of  Conservation Voters:


Earlier this year, Trump announced he wanted to slash the EPA’s budget by 31% — a total gut-job on the agency that would zero out key environmental programs. He also proposed 14% cuts to the Interior Department.

Well… this is a big update. After months of negotiations and intense campaigning, the House just passed a budget deal that actually increasesfunding for the EPA and Interior Departments — AND would remove Big Polluter requests that have been slipped into spending bills for years. 

This is a huge rebuke of Trump and his dangerous policies. Now, the package goes to the Senate — a vote will happen as soon as Monday. 

We need to make sure a clean bill gets through the Senate and sets up a path forward on these important government environmental programs. No poison-pill riders. No anti-environment attacks.

But with only a short window before a vote, we need to mobilize — and fast. We need your help to push this campaign over the finish line — the vote could be close.

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Please call Senators who are on the fence about funding the EPA. 

Barbara – for ECP Environmental Justice

Click here to Reply

El Cerrito Natural Update – Eliminate Plastic Packaging

Sixty-three (63) people signed our letter to El Cerrito Natural at our booth at the 4th of July Festival.

I presented your letters and signatures to the General Manager on July 23.  El Cerrito Grocery is an employee-owned business. The GM, store supervisor, and staff all very much want to eliminate toxic plastic, and I learned that it will take time.

Good grocery business is complex: how to meet the desires of customers so they will keep patronizing the store, how to keep produce fresh, and how to conduct business in alignment with the owners’ values.

Coincidentally, the leadership team had a scheduled meeting this afternoon. On the agenda was the subject of plastic. The GM promised to take the letters to the meeting and share our request.

In the immediate, the store plans to eliminate clamshell lettuce that duplicates what is sold in bulk, i.e., the mixed salad greens. Some of the specialty lettuces are not available in bulk and the staff is concerned that customers will abandon El Cerrito Natural if they cannot buy those items there. I suggested they poll the customers for their preferences. The GM said they welcome customers to tell them their preferences as that helps them make decisions about what to stock in the store.

At the Annex, they have eliminated the biocompostable cups and brought in metal cups for water. They welcome people to bring their own containers for takeout, instead of using the paperboard containers they provide.

Thanks to everyone for your support to make El Cerrito healthier for all.

Barbara Chan

Film: FROM PARIS TO PITTSBURGH 9/21/2019

Despite the federal government’s inaction and attempts to deny the effects of its policies on the environment and society, people across the United State are taking action to combat climate change. Join us to watch this National Geographic film about inspired and inspiring people working to make a difference and talk with fellow human beings about ways we can make a difference locally.

Saturday, September 21 @ 7PM

Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury Ave., El Cerrito

Free

Seats are limited–Reserve yours now https://www.eventbrite.com/e/film-from-paris-to-pittsburgh-tickets-65316386069

Support Plastic-Free Produce

We love our hometown organic grocery store, El Cerrito Natural. We would love it more if vegetables and fruit were not packaged in plastic wrap or plastic clamshells. Plastic is a toxic material, and it is a contradiction to sell organic product wrapped or packaged in plastic. Other produce markets and farmers at El Cerrito Farmers Market are selling produce without plastic packaging or use of plastic bags!

We have drafted a letter to El Cerrito Natural’s owner, Mr. Bob Gerner asking him to consider sourcing product from farmers who use sustainable packaging.

If you did not sign our group letter to Bob at the 4th of July WorldOne Festival, feel free to copy our letter or write your own, then sign and deliver or mail it to El Cerrito Natural Grocery, 10367 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, CA 94530. Please encourage your neighbors and friends who shop there to write a letter too.

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Dear Bob,

We value that your store sells organic food products. Those products support the health of all in our community.

We are writing to urge you to source produce from famers who do not package their harvest in plastic. It is a contradiction in values to sell organic fruit, such as berries, and organic greens, in plastic containers. Not only is plastic harmful to the environment and living beings, encasing berries and greens exposes those foods to potentially carcinogenic chemicals.

There is overwhelming evidence that plastic causes grievous harm to the environment and living beings. We hope you will consider our request.

Respectfully,

Your name and address

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Coal Out of Richmond

We are in solidarity with Richmond residents who are affected by the coal dust pollution at the Levin-Richmond Terminal. Although residents in that area are the ones primarily impacted, Bay winds blow pollution all over the greater Bay Area, affecting air quality.

They are asking people to support Coal Out of Richmond and to show up at the Richmond Planning Commission’s meting on Thursday, July 18 at 6:30PM.

More details at https://ncir.weebly.com/

Plastic Free July!

For over a year ECP Environmental Justice has been advocating that the City of El Cerrito ban plastic and non-compostable single-use food- and beverage ware through our research, presentations to the El Cerrito Environmental Quality Committee, conversations with residents, speaking at City Council meetings, showing a film about plastic, and our presence at events like Off the Grid and World One 4th of July Festivals. After one year of speaking up and out, City staff are only proposing to ban plastic straws and stirrers.
Meanwhile cities around us, including Richmond, Alameda, and Berkeley have instituted new foodware and litter ordinances that have not only banned single use plastic food and beverage-ware, and non-compostables, some have instituted mandatory charges of as much as 25¢ a cup for a take out beverage, thereby encouraging people to bring their own cups. Palo Alto very recently banned plastic produce bags in addition to plastic straws, stirrers, and utensils, and produce and farmers’ markets will have to replace plastic bags with compostable ones or none at all.  Watsonville just banned plastic carryout bags, and disposable plastic foodware from all restaurants.

To understand how much plastic enters our lifestream, some of us tracked our plastic lifestream for 31 days and it was an eye-opener about how many items used in a normal daily life include 1-time use plastic. For example, a box of Kleenex has a plastic piece around the opening of the box, presumably to protect the tissue. Buying a package of batteries involves disposing of hard-to-open hard plastic packaging. The toilet paper you buy probably comes wrapped in plastic. The sparkling water metal bottle cap has a small disc of plastic in it. To say nothing about plastic straws or cups from your favorite To Go beverage shop. The list is much longer than we anticipated.

One cannot escape the almost daily news about the overwhelming, ubiquitous amount of plastic pollution everywhere around the globe. This pollution cannot be recycled. We cannot “throw plastic away” because there is NO AWAY. Plastic is toxic to the environment and all life.

El Cerrito used to be known as a green city. We need your support to ban toxic plastic from our city.

This is why we are encouraging everyone to ban plastic from your life to the best of your ability during the month of July. If you have children, ask them to help you track the plastic that comes through your life. If you are thinking about buying an item, be it food or a non-food item, reconsider whether you really need it or can get it or an alternative without plastic packaging around it.

Come by our Booth 54-55 at the 4th of July free WorldOne Festival at Cerrito Vista Park, say “Hi” and learn how to make healthy changes in your life and work.  We’ll share our Plastic Lifestream spreadsheet template with you. Check out the games we have, take our Plastics Quiz, see our samples of alternatives to plastic that can be purchased locally, and pledge to take action to eliminate plastic from your life.

Learn about our campaign to have El Cerrito sign on to theClimate Emergency Resolution with other Bay Area cities.

We ask you to call your State representatives and tell them to support California SB 54 and its companion AB 1080. As reported in the Santa Monica Daily Press SB 54 requires that all single-use packaging and products be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2030. Senate Bill 54 would also require California to recycle or divert 75 percent of single-use materials. The state currently recycles just 15 percent of single-use plastics.

Join the global Plastic Free July Pledge started by fellow concerned humans in Australia. Together, we can make a difference in reducing plastic pollution!
https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/

With gratitude,
Barbara Chan
Convener, Environmental Justice Committee
El Cerrito Progressives
Leaders of the Campaign to Ban Plastic in El Cerrito
https://elcerritoprogressives.com/category/environmental-justice/

 

2018-2019 Year of (No) Plastic

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DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH PLASTIC PASSES THROUGH YOUR LIFE?  Last year several members of our Environmental Justice group tracked 1-time use plastic items that flowed through our lives on a daily basis.  It was a real eye-opener. In my 31 days, the number of items ranged from 0 to 18. Besides the obvious items like plastic bags* from the produce aisles of your local grocery store, yogurt containers or water bottles, plastic comes with so many ordinary items we use every day. For example, a Kleenex tissue box has a plastic insert in the opening. I tried soaking it to remove the cardboard so I could put the plastic with my collection of clean plastic film– all plastic film has to be clean and dry and bunched up together in a plastic bag or wrapped together before being put in your grey bin or taken to the Recycling Center. A metal cap on a bottle of sparkling water has a ring of plastic around it. The batteries you buy come packaged in cardboard and plastic. Multiple rolls of toilet paper are packaged in plastic. Produce from Trade Joe’s comes in plastic containers (although now the company is finally responding to customer’s urges to stop that practice–I for one never buy produce there because of the plastic. When you get takeout food, does the restaurant stick in a plastic fork? What implement do you use to write? I would guess it’s a plastic-encased disposable pen. I could go on and on about the data our group has uncovered in more than a year of researching the insidiousness and dangers of plastic.

People were led to believe that recycling solves the problem of our over-consumption of stuff. The fact is that 91% of plastic worldwide is NOT RECYCLED. A recent study by marketing researchers at Citi found that only 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. And when China declared in 2018 that it would not longer accept our “recyclable” trash because much of it was contaminated and they have their own garbage to deal with, America was stopped dead in our wanton wastefulness and confronted with mountains of so-called recyclables that are now being hauled to landfills.

Why?  Because so many communities, including our own, went to single-stream recycling. That is, we were told to place metal, glass, paper, cardboard, and plastic altogether in our grey bins. This resulted in contamination of many items, making it impossible to be recycled, hence they end up in landfills. Years back people in El Cerrito had to separate our recyclables into different bins; that was in the era before food waste was accepted. Then single stream recycling came into practice and new trucks were designed and built to accommodate one large bin and prevent workers from having to pick up and lift the bins and tilt them into the yawning rear openings of the recycling trucks. What used to take several workers now only takes one worker to run the truck and its grippers that pick up the bin and toss its contents into the side opening of the truck and then set the bin back on the street. When materials are contaminated, purchasers or recyclable materials don’t want to buy them and they have to go into landfill. Not only does this pollute our Earth, it loses money for our City.

Recycle processing equipment cannot handle small bits of plastic. 500 million straws were being used every day in the U.S.; they plus the ubiquitous plastic stirrers and plastic knives, forks, and spoons slip through the machines. And yet they can be found by the 1000s in our creeks, pathways, streets, at bus stops, and blown into people’s yards.

These are just a few of the reasons why last Summer we took our “Skip the Straw” campaign to El Cerrito’s Environmental Quality Committee, an advisory group to the City Council. Although we called it “Skip the Straw,” what we really want is for our city to ban all 1-time use and non-recyclable and non-compostable foodware. In July 2018 we started an awareness campaign at the One World Festival, and collected signatures of El Cerrito residents. We had a contest for people to guess how many plastic straws were picked up at the festival, and gave out organic plants as prizes. We made informal and formal presentations to the EQC, whose members acknowledged that we had done the heavy lifting for them by doing a lot of relevant research, complete with references to problems and cases where cities, states and whole countries are tackling the issue.  We showed them the environmental, health, litter, and economic consequences of so much plastic being used and tossed on streets, in creeks, in parks, and all around town. As a result, EQC set up a sub-committee on plastics and declared 2019 The Year of Plastics.

Other cities are way ahead of us. Richmond passed their food ordinance in 2010 that required food providers to stop using disposable foodware and use recyclable or compostable foodware, encouraging them to provide reusable containers. Polystyrene foodware was banned in 2018. In December 2018 they added bans on the use and sale of all plasatic straws and stirrers by retail establishments, food providers, and transient lodging, and added utensils and lids to the list of disposable foodware that must be compostable or recyclable and applies it to City facilities and events. In January 2019 after a council member  introducing the idea in April 2018, Berkeley passed an ambitious comprehensible Single-Use Foodware and Litter Reduction ordinance.  Among other things, the Berkeley Ordinance includes small items such as plastic packets of condiments (e.g., ketchup), customers are encouraged to bring their own clean beverage containers for takeout beverages or be charged 25¢ for a disposable cups. Disposable foodware must be BPI Certified Compostable starting January 2020. The details about their ordinance are a role model for other municipalities to follow to get to Zero Waste.

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Although we have urged the EQC to work on a comprehensive plastics and non-compostable foodware ordinance, the staff has told EQC and us that they are only willing to work on a plastic straw and stirrer ban this year.

Our belief is that it will take a lot of effort just to go this one small step, and question why we should not design a comprehensive foodware and anti-litter ordinance that supports the healthy and safety of workers, diners and drinkers, and helps business improve their bottom financial line. Rethink Disposables, part of Clean Water Action has helped businesses save money by eliminating disposable foodware.

If you care about the health of our city and its inhabitants, food providers and workers, please join our campaign. Contact us through this website.

Barbara Chan, Convener for Environmental Justice

* For years i have cleaned and re-used plastic bags, like my mother before me, taking them with me to the store. Lately I stopped putting my produce into bags and just pile apples and oranges on the conveyer belt and then put them loose into my large cloth grocery bag or my wicker basket.