HALF MOON BAY REVIEW MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2011
French fries to fuel tanks: An update on Coastal biofuel.
La Honda man's take on environmentalism
green ways to fix up your home
Why do we still
Group tries to jumpstart stalled carpool program. P.24
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HALF MOON BAY REvIEW MagaZine
Publisher Debra Hershon Managing Editor Clay Lambert Writers Lily Bixler Mark Foyer Mark Noack Stacy Trevenon Photographer Charles Russo Production and Design Bill Murray Mark Restani Business Ofﬁce Barbara Anderson Circulation Sonia Myers Advertising Sales Louise Strutner Marilyn Johnson Barbara Dinnsen Find us P.O. Box 68 714 Kelly Avenue Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 p: (650) 726-4424 f: (650) 726-7054 The HMB Magazine is published on the first week of every month and inserted in the Half Moon Bay Review. The entire contents of the magazine are also available in PDF format online at hmbreview.com
» PUBLISHER’S NOTE DEBRA HERSHON
Fix up then sit down
put my El Granada house on the market this past month, so I got a big, old dose of the “Fall Fix Up” blues before Sept. 1 even popped up on the calendar. I say blues because there’s a lot of physical pain that goes along with sprucing up a home — carpal tunnel in the wrist from painting and staining, chronic lower back pain from gardening and moving furniture, and mysterious bruises that pop up with no obvious cause (though I suspect leaning against the ladder caused the bruises on my shins). On top of that, my hands look more like the hands of a mechanic than of a computer-using, coffee-sipping newspaper publisher — complete with chipped nails and dark mahogany stain permanently discoloring the calluses. But like any labor of love, there’s always the payoff: my house looks amazing, and for the first time ever, everything is checked off my house “to-do” list, meaning it’s time to just sit back and enjoy. That’s the part I’m having a little trouble with. I don’t know what to do with myself without a “to-do” list. I guess I could catch up on some summertime reading or train for a marathon, but first I think I’ll just book an appointment for a manicure or maybe a massage. Then, if the fog would just clear for long enough, I’m going to sit back in one of my Adirondack chairs on the deck with a glass of wine and try to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I’m just going to pull a few weeds first.
HMB September 2011 3
Lawn Be Gone!
Residential customers of Coastside County Water District are eligible for up to $500 to replace lawn with water efficient permeable landscaping. Rebates are also available for commercial and multi-family properties.
Transform your front yard into a stylish landscape with water efficient plants that add value to your property. Water efficient plants can be both visually appealing and easy to maintain. Contact Coastside County Water District for application materials and lawn conversion project requirements. 766 Main Street, Half Moon Bay (650) 726-4405 www.coastsidewater.org
4 September 2011 HMB
California native plant images are provided by the California Native Plant Society â€“ Santa Clara Valley Chapter â€“ http://cnps-scv.org/ Special thanks to: Arvind Kumar, Toni Corelli, Steve Rosenthal and Bernard Trainor
Fix it up. Make it green. Features
Q&A WITH CON LAW
Long time La Honda resident and business owner discusses his brand of environmentalism.
FROM FRYER TO FUEL TANK Biofuel offers many benefits, but its use has stalled.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CARPOOLS?
There are some dedicated carpoolers on the Coastside but why hasn’t it really caught on?
TIME FOR SOME SIMPLE SOLUTIONS Making your house more sustainable. Departments
HALF MOON BAY REVIEW MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2011
7 UPCOMING EVENTS 13 SEEN IN THE SCENE 35 DOWNTOEARTH 36 SIGHTSEEING
French fries to fuel tanks: An update on Coastal biofuel.
La Honda man's take on environmentalism
green ways fix up your home
On the cover
Group tries to jumpstart stalled carpool program. P.16
Illustration by Bill Murray
Why do we still
HMB September 2011 5
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Celebrate the local surroundings 9/8 The Coastside Land Trust is planning
to reinforce its work in preserving local open space by opening a gallery right next to their office at 788 Main St. in Half Moon Bay. The gallery will showcase visual works such as the photographs of its resident artist, photographer Beau Gill, of Half Moon Bay. Coastside Land Trust Executive Director Jo Chamberlain says that work by other photographers will be considered, as long as it fits the criteria for exhibition. The photos must have been taken in the geographical area covered by the Coastside Land Trust (the San Mateo County Coastal area) and must fit with the five chief aspects of its mission: agriculture, natural habitat, recreation, scenery and local history. Gill’s color photographs do just that, capturing scenic local vistas, the historic Ocean Shore Railroad depot and local wildlife, particularly birds. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8, Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Charise McHugh will cut the ribbon to officially open the gallery. Gill will be present along with 12 to 18 of his photos. Light refreshments will be served. 726-5056.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
A cast of Coastsiders of all ages brings to life an inspiring, classic play based on the Harper Lee novel, about triumph over bigotry and a child’s view of one man’s stand against mindless prejudice in a 1935 Southern small town. At 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 8, at the theater at 1167 Main St. in Half Moon Bay. Tickets run from $15 to $30. 569-3266.
Art, wine, music for Sunday afternoons
The Summer Music and Art Faire Series continues at La Nebbia with the second and fourth Sunday afternoons from noon to 5 p.m. monthly, with arts by the Colony of Coastside Artists, wine and artisan food plates available for sale, bocce ball courts available on first-come, first-served basis and live music: On Sept. 11 you’ll find the Shelter Cove Blues Society with blues and jazz; Sept. 25 there’s acoustic music with soul by Heart Take Flight. There are also glass-blowing demonstrations. 726- 9463.
Take an elegant walk to see the reefs
Get an up-close-and-personal look at local wildlife like harbor seals or brown pelicans on this Reef Walking Adventure with the Half Moon Bay-based Coastal Elegance tour company. On this afternoon reef walk, use trekking poles and other equipment supplied by Coastal Elegance while you meet and photograph intertidal-zone marine life on a beach area that isn’t often frequented by visitors. The cost is $120 per visitor, with children age 12 and under free with an adult guardian. Reservations required at 712-8456.
Bring the kids to see the farm
Young children are welcome to see how it’s done on the farm at Fall Preschool Days at Elkus Ranch, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28 through Friday, Sept. 30. In this biannual (spring and fall) open house just for preschoolers, visit the animals, make a woolly craft, help in the garden and have a picnic! Staff will answer questions and direct visitors to activities. At 1500 Purisima Creek Road, Half Moon Bay. The fee is $5 per person. 712-3151.
Help celebrate High Holy Days
The Coastside Jewish Community invites Coastsiders to join in its celebrations of Rosh Hashana (7:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 and 10:30 a.m. Sept. 29) and Yom Kippur (at 6 p.m. Oct. 7 and 10:30 a.m. Oct. 8) at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church at 1500 Perez Drive in Pacifica. (650) 479-5252.
Here come the runners
The Half Moon Bay High School cross-country team hosts the Artichoke Invitational at Half Moon Bay High School, Oct. 1. The meet, one of the state’s largest, is broken down into two divisions, based on school population. The first race starts at 9 a.m. with the last one going off around 4 p.m. The Cougars will run in the morning sessions. Free. There will also be a concession stand. 712-7200.
HMB September 2011 7
Living a sustainable life La Hondaâ€™s Con Law reflects on his vision of environmentalism By Lily Bixler
8 September 2011 HMB
“The environmental movement is a good movement, but it’s just overruled and regulated, like most things when they get too much damn power.” Con Law, La Honda resident and business owner
When the engine of Con Law’s tractor peters to a stop, the 69-year-old leans back and is ready to talk. On this summer day, when fog socks in the rest of the coast, rays of dusty light dapple the man’s barrel-shaped torso as he sits on the tractor overlooking the land. Law has spent the last 50 years in La Honda. Originally from a farm in North Dakota, Law moved west, after service in the military, to join his uncle who lived off Skyline Boulevard. A self-declared “wild duck,” Law ran about the coast in the 1970s working as a logger and at a sawmill. It was a time when, “everybody knew everybody.” It was also a time of great environmental awareness in La Honda. In fact, starting in the 1970s, environmentalists spearheaded an effort to preserve the remaining open spaces in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Law supports conservation — he agrees recycling and keeping the air clean are noble causes — but his approach to greening the planet requires less regulation and political banter. “Everyone wants grass cut this high, with a little terrarium,” Law says with a tinge of annoyance. “Everything’s peace this, peace that.” When the federal Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970, Law recalled it was a good effort, but he expected the agency would get too much power. And by his estimation, the EPA and other government-fueled environmental efforts wield too much authority. “A lot of times they come up with laws, rules, regulations that sometimes don’t make any sense,” Law said,
his voice conveying growing annoyance. “Lots of times they come up with rules that just don’t fit. They might fit downtown, but there’s a world of difference between living down there in the asphalt jungle and living here in the country.” Conservation is the best way to save the environment, Law contends. He’d like to see more access, the roads cleaned, and the creeks and marshland opened up. “More good things have been done with farmers, ranchers and loggers,” he said. “Once they learn what’s good and bad, they go for it.” A man of his own word, the afternoon the Review visited Con’s Backhoe Service, Law and his crew were clearing his land of debris. That day alone, Law had diverted from the landfill eight loads of stuff to be recycled. As Law sees it, the problem is everyone jumps on the bandwagon and “charges 28 times more fees to do something.” “You drop a bag of flour on the freeway, my god, they call out the army, the airplanes, everything else for a bag of flour,” he says. “My god, I can drive out and see that it says ‘flour’ on the bag. Oh no, we have to have the hazardous waste people.” What if everybody was left to his own devices? He spins into a spirited riff about American greed but stops himself at one point saying he’s too wound-up. “I get too fired up. I’m a simple kind of guy,” he says, returning to his gentle temperament. “I just want to work and pay my bills without a bunch of hokey-pokey rules and permits. 1
HMB September 2011 9
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» SEEN IN THE SCENE
Network@Night at Elkus Ranch Elkus Ranch was host to the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce’s monthly “Network@Night” Aug. 18 at the Elkus Ranch Conference Center on Purisima Creek Road in Half Moon Bay. The evening’s featured nonprofit organization was the Community Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP). Appetizers provided by Elkus Ranch were enjoyed by about 50 to 60 guests who also heard about the opportunities that the ranch provides for Coastside youth.
Ashley Utz, Jenna Baxter, Kevin Jensen
Dona Thornwall, Paul Pantera, Shahrzad Pantera
Regina Neu, Michael Klass, David Richards
Daphne Simmons, Kathy Baxter
Robin Tierney, Jim Howie
Dianne Passen, Olga Crowe, Robin Tierney, Jo Chamberlain, Paige Fennie
Leslie Jensen, Gordon Ray, Kim Sailors
Ellen Joseph, Mike Slinn
Melissa Robinson, Cindy Lopez
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Warren Barmore, Andre Franco
HMB September 2011 13
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Moving oil from fryers to fuel tanks By Mark Noack | photos by charles russo
16 September 2011 HMB
Biofuel offers many benefits, but its use has stalled
The owner of a small Half Moon Bay landscaping business, Steven Melo uses dozens of gallons of fuel each day to keep his work trucks running across the Peninsula. It could be worse, both for the environment and his pocketbook. But whenever he’s low on gas, Melo can fill up at his local diner. Melo is part of a loose contingent of biodiesel “home-brewers” on the Coastside who are shunning standard gasoline and instead are fueling their vehicles with discarded restaurant oils. It’s not as easy as filling up at the local gas station, but advocates on the Coastside say re-using old frying oil — also known as yellow grease — is surprisingly simple and carries big benefits. Obviously, at the top of that list is not having to pay escalating pump prices. The other big benefit is the environmental factor. Unlike fossil fuels, vegetable oil burns cleaner with no toxins and is supplied locally. “Short of walking or biking, there is no more climate-change neutral way to get around than a vehicle running off used oil,” said Craig Reece, owner of PlantDrive in Berkeley. PlantDrive sells kits to convert diesel engines to run on vegetable oil. “Generally, restaurants are only too happy to give their oil to you,” he said. Melo admits his incentive is purely economic. He processes hundreds of gallons of fuel each day at a cost of about $1 per gallon, but that’s after investing the time and labor to outfit his own little fuel station. Walking through his truck yard, Melo flipped on a motorized fuel pump, making the Frankenstein contraption whir to life. The device was pieced
Local resident Steve Melo at his vegetable-oil filling station in Half Moon Bay.
together with parts from a welded oil filter, an old gas pump nozzle and a hose stuck in a 30-gallon plastic drum. A steady stream of amber oil streamed out of the gas nozzle and into his truck tank. All his machinery, tanks and the ground around them had a glossy sheen of oil. The fuel was like “liquid gold,” Melo said, but it was still grease and pretty repulsive. “It’s disgusting, filthy stuff. And it sticks everywhere, like glue,” he said. “You don’t want this kind of mess in your garage!” He started the ignition on his Ford F-250, and the exhaust smelled like barbecued, Asian stir-fry and French fries — trace scents from the last batches of food cooked in the grease. The quality of the oil depends on the restaurants, he said. Some eateries fry up foods in heavy amounts of lard, and that gunk can make the leftover grease unusable. The biofuel community on the Coastside today is made up of individual drivers each finding their own best method to fill up the gas tanks. Melo and many other home-brewers find their fuel by going hat-in-hand to local restaurants to see if they can take away the used cooking oils.
“Short of walking or biking, there is no more climate-change neutral way to get around than a vehicle running off used oil.” — Craig Reece, PlantDrive owner
HMB September 2011 17
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Local resident Steve Melo fills his tank with vegetable oil-based fuel at his makeshift filling station in Half Moon Bay.
The reaction they get varies from restaurant to restaurant. Some owners consider it a lucky break to get rid of an unneeded byproduct that they had to pay to dispose of not long ago. Others see an opportunity to cut a deal. With his landscaping business, Melo says he’s often able to persuade café owners to give up their oil by trading free gardening services. That’s how he began to take used oil off the hands of the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and Mezza Luna. “It’s worked out great,” said Mike Laffen, Brewing Company manager. “(Melo) has several diesel trucks, so he comes and gets the oil when we’re done using it. In return, he keeps the trees trimmed at the brewery.” Other café owners aren’t so certain about that kind of arrangement. In recent years, as the value of yellow grease from restaurants has skyrocketed, eateries throughout the Bay Area have seen their old oils go from the commode to being a commodity. Barbara’s Fish Trap owner Melodie Madsen says for her the risk involved in having amateurs deal with the grease isn’t worth it. “We’re close to the road, the gutter and everything,” she said. “If any of the oil was spilled on the street, I’d be stuck respon-
sible for the cleanup.” For her part, she’s more comfortable having a professional rendering company come out to pick up the oil. In past years, nearly all restaurants would typically pay rendering companies to take away used grease. Rendering companies would process the grease to remove contaminants and then sell back the substance for use in food products, pet feed, soaps or cosmetics. But, in recent years, the competition for oils has been fierce as rendering companies, large biodiesel processors and smalltime drivers all try to buddy up with restaurants for their waste product. For small independents, trying to run a vehicle off veggie oil is a little more complicated than just obtaining the fuel. For a period, any driver who filled up on homemade fuel was still required to send in about 20 cents per gallon in road taxes to the state of California. In addition, anyone taking used oils off restaurants is supposed to have a waste hauler’s license and $1 million in insurance coverage in case of a spill. But few people actually follow those requirements, and enforcement has been spotty. In 2008, Half Moon Bay auto mechanic Dave Eck got a call
HMB September 2011 19
3-Cart Curbside Collection is a Success! Congratulations residents of Half Moon Bay for making the easy transition to the new 3-cart waste and recycling collection system. Allied Waste Services thanks you for your cooperation and input. The new cart system is simple to use and will increase recycling diversion in Half Moon Bay. IMPORTANT TIP: Cardboard should be folded to fit inside the cart then PLACED in the blue recycle cart. Only if the cart is full should you place folded-to-fit cardboard next to the cart. Place Cell Phones and Batteries in Zip Lock bags on top of container
Please place carts at the curbside
Call Allied Waste Services of Half Moon Bay at 650-592-2411
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20 September 2011 HMB
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Local resident Steve Melo points out the modifications to his veggie oil-powered vehicle at his makeshift filling station in Half Moon Bay.
from the tax man after he gained attention for a fleet of vehicles he had converted to run off veggie oil. State officials called Eck demanding he pay back the taxes and threatening him with fines. Many drivers who want to gas up on alternative fuels prefer to entirely avoid the sleazier side of the grease competition, but those options have been dwindling. About five years ago, a group of enthusiasts from Half Moon Bay to Pacifica coordinated to form the Coastside Greenride Biodiesel Co-op. The group purchased biodiesel from large processors and resold it to local drivers for about the same cost as standard diesel. But the nonprofit co-op closed up in 2008 after losing money and having difficulty getting a constant supply of the fuel. Local biodiesel drivers also recently lost their next closest option, the San Mateo-based Autopia Biofuels, which closed in July due to financial problems. Now drivers who want to purchase biofuels must drive either to the East Bay or to San Francisco if they want to fill up — or they could learn to refine their own oil. Jim Bauer, owner of Café Classique, said he’s been surprised that no one has come around asking for his oil for months. Instead, he’s had to throw it out. “I don’t like dumping it out … If someone could make use of it, that’d be great,” he said. “I’d even put a bucket out for someone to pick up.” 1
ANYONE TAKING uSED OILS OFF RESTAuRANTS IS SuPPOSED TO HAvE A WASTE HAuLER’S LICENSE AND $1 MILLION IN INSuRANCE COvERAGE IN CASE OF A SPILL. BuT FEW PEOPLE ACTuALLY FOLLOW THOSE REQuIREMENTS, AND ENFORCEMENT HAS BEEN SPOTTY.
HMB September 2011 21
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Very few jump in the carpool Ride-share programs try to entice Coastsiders after decades-long decline
By Julia Reis
Pat Kelly is part of a rare breed of Coastsiders. Every weekday morning, she wakes up in the early ether of dawn, when the fog enshrouds Half Moon Bay in a thick blanket of gray. She puts the key in the ignition of what she dubs her “gas hog” SUV and drives over Highway 92 to her job in Redwood City. But unlike most coastal residents, she doesn’t go it alone. Kelly is one in a small group of Coastsiders who carpool as a means of transportation to and from work or school. Although you might think that carpooling is a common practice given the Bay Area’s environmental savvy, it has actually become less common over the past 30 years, a trend that is nationwide. But local transportation organizations and ride-share companies are stepping up their efforts to make carpooling cool again with incentive-based programs that give residents another reason to take on passengers. According to U.S. Census data from 2010, only 11.2 percent of San Mateo County residents carpool compared to 16.5 percent in 1980. The drop was similar in California, from 16.9 percent to 12 percent. Across the country, the decline is
24 September 2011 HMB
more dramatic, from 20 percent to 10.5 percent. These numbers coincide with an increase in telecommuting and the number of vehicles per household. Kit Powis, who is the communications manager at 511.org, a Bay Area organization that provides traffic and transit information, says that there could be a number of variables contributing to the decline in carpooling. “Certainly gas price is a variable that can prompt people to start carpooling, depending on how much people are willing to pay for gas,” Powis said. “Some companies are also offering telework programs, and that’s a good green commute pattern, as well.” In Half Moon Bay, carpooling hasn’t been particularly popular since Highway 1 reopened after the closure at Devil’s Slide in 2006. Back then, the Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance came out to a Half Moon Bay City Council meeting to encourage residents to carpool to decrease the number of cars on the roadway. Park-and-ride lots were established behind Safeway and at Pillar Point Harbor, the latter of which was only temporary.
“(Carpooling) was definitely more prevalent then because of traffic congestion,” said Alliance Executive Director Christine MaleyGrubl. “People were looking for any opportunity to get back and forth.” Kelly moved to Half Moon Bay in November 2006, a few months after Devil’s Slide reopened. For three-and-a-half years, she commuted to work by taking a SamTrans bus to the Hillsdale Caltrain station, then taking a train to Redwood City. She switched to 511. org’s carpool program four months ago, however, after SamTrans changed its bus schedule. Now she drives neighbor Linda Hersh, who pays for half of Kelly’s gas, to work in San Mateo before parking at the Hillsdale Caltrain location and hopping on the train. “It’s hard to get people out of their cars, but it’s not going to work if you don’t offer convenient bus and train times,” Kelly said. “And I just think it’s just a matter of convenience. If I get stranded it may be inconvenient and uncomfortable, and we (as a society) just don’t have time for that.” But while carpooling may have fallen by the wayside, Bay Area ride-sharing organizations are reporting an increase in people requesting their services. Powis says that more people are signing up for 511.org’s RideMatching with an average of 1,000 new participants per month. The Alliance reports that 1,177 new registrants signed up for so-called “carpool incentives” from
“What I’d hope for is the continued focus on making the commute as easy and efficient as possible for people.” Christine Maley-Grubl, Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance executive director
HMB September 2011 25
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July 2010 to June 2011, a 26 percent rise over the previous year. Eleven of the Peninsula Traffic Alliance’s 306 newest registrants are from the Half Moon Bay region. The year before, the only carpool incentives came through the Cabrillo Unified School District’s school pool program. Now, 13 of the 29 people receiving carpool incentives on the Coastside are commuters. Local transit agencies’ ride-sharing programs are often laden with enticements to spur participation. The Alliance, for example, offers gas cards that range from $20 to $60 depending on whether participants are carpooling to school or work. The aforementioned school pool program, for example, gives a $25 gas card incentive for someone who drives at least two children from two different households to one school at least two days a week. 511.org gives ride-sharers chances to win gift cards for music, groceries and iPods. Private companies are also entering the carpool incentive sector. RideSpring, which is based in Santa Cruz, was founded by Paul McGrath in 2005. Like 511.org, RideSpring offers prizes to its members every time they carpool, bike, walk or use public transit to get to and from work. McGrath believes the money saved is an incentive in itself, as he says that the average commuter can save $600 to $1,200 per year on fuel costs alone. Among his clients are the city and county of Santa Cruz, which utilizes RideSpring for employees. Twenty-four percent of the city of Santa Cruz’s 979 employees registered for the program in the first year, according to a 2006-2007 case study of RideSpring participants. Forty-eight percent of alternative commute trips were made by bike, followed by carpooling at 28 percent. Public transit was the least popular at 7 percent. McGrath considers his company “complementary” with regional rideshare services like 511.org. He says the big difference between these carpool incentive programs is that his is restricted to specific employers (often bigger companies) and their workers. “When I first started looking into this, I found that a lot of our clients wanted something that was just with their employees,” McGrath said.
Charles Russo / Review
The park and ride sign behind Safeway in Half Moon Bay may be a useful place to chain a bicycle, but it doesn’t entice many drivers to park their car to carpool over the hill.
While RideSpring does not have any Half Moon Bay businesses as clients, McGrath says that Gap Inc. in San Francisco, Cooley LLP in Palo Alto and the city of Santa Cruz have Coastside employees that utilize RideSpring. He says he would be pleased to make RideSpring accessible to more local residents. Kelly says she would love to see more Half Moon Bay residents carpool. She touts the ease of use of 511.org’s website and says she was able to find a carpooling partner within a week of signing up. “I don’t know why so many people are going over the hill by themselves,” Kelly said. “But my hope would be that the people making these decisions (on transit) consider our lifestyles. I just think they’re not people who are using public transit, and I’m not sure they’re carpooling.” The push to increase carpooling in California is also taking place on the legislative floor. Assemblyman Rich Gordon proposed AB 1105 back in April. The bill expands carpool lanes an additional six miles into San Mateo County and will allow solo drivers to pay to use the express lane starting in 2015. It was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in July. State Sen. Leland Yee, however, was not as fortunate with SB 582, which would
have required businesses with 20 or more full-time employees to provide benefits for those who commute without their car. That bill was vetoed by Brown, who said it would have put a financial burden on small businesses in a time of economic strife. In addition, California recently ceased giving free passes in the carpool lanes to many hybrid vehicles. Meanwhile, over the summer in San Mateo County, the Board of Supervisors approved the implementation of two pilot programs to install bike rental kiosks and electric cars in various county locales. These will be funded through nearly $6 million in grants. “What I’d hope for is the continued focus on making the commute as easy and efficient as possible for people,” MaleyGrubl said. “We want people to see that taking a carpool is an attractive way to get to and from work.” Meanwhile, Kelly, Pat and Hersh plan to continue their joint workday trek from their Cañada Cove homes. They have formed a kinship that goes beyond the casual acquaintanceship of neighbors. Now, they rely on each other. “I’m motivated out of guilt because I have a gas hog,” Kelly said. “And I’m pleased to be helping a neighbor, and my neighbor’s helping me.” 1 HMB September 2011 27
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Demystifyinggreen How can the average person make a home more sustainable?
30 September 2011 HMB
By Lily Bixler
oing green” can seem as nebulous as “getting into shape” or “saving for retirement.” Hiring a green consultant to make your home LEED certified isn’t the only way to take the burden off Mother Earth. There are some relatively easy changes that won’t break the bank. The Review reached out to local businesses to find out what average homeowners can do to make their homes more sustainable. From swapping traditional materials for eco-friendly products to embracing repurposed household items, little changes can make a difference for the planet.
Instead of using the traditional, cotton-candy-pink fiberglass variety, try insulating your home with blue jeans. Yes, you’re reading it right. Denim scraps are spun into fibrous cotton. The sustainable insulation regulates temperature, deters insects and rodents, and absorbs sound. Made from mostly post-consumer recycled fibers, UltraTouch denim insulation doesn’t itch and is safe to work with. For about $90 per roll, the material will cover 85 square feet.
Whether itâ€™s an antique chair from the 1850s reupholstered in French linen or recycled grainsack pillows, sprucing up old stuff can result in offbeat decorating.
Unlike the average can of paint, nontoxic brands are free of volatile organic compounds and the chemical vapor that can be damaging to humans and the environment. Mythic is a fast-curing paint made with a resin that doesnâ€™t include crystalline silica, ethylene glycol or carcinogens. Eco6design on Main Street has a mixing machine. Plug in the formula, or color recipe, from a mainstream brand and the machine can mix the Mythic nontoxic version. A gallon costs $45 and will cover 400 square feet.
HMB September 2011 31
Made from repurposed material, modular FLOR carpet tiles can be mixed and matched to cover a floor. They are made from natural, hardy materials. The tiles adhere to one another and donâ€™t require glue. The best part: When wear and tear gets the best of the carpet, you can return it to the manufacturer to be recycled. Also, consider seagrass area rugs. They are long-lasting but will biodegrade in the landfill.
Cork and bamboo flooring can make for a nice alternative to traditional linoleum. These are two of the most sustainable, renewable resources for flooring, and the material is available in myriad styles and colors.
32 September 2011 HMB
With a brake-rotor base, a guitar-string pull and a banana-leaf shade, this lamp is an amalgam of reused items. It’s part of the Bamboo series, made by Rerun Productions, a company that claims to be, “made in America twice.” Half Moon Bay Electronic sells the table lamp for $450 and the floor lamp for $475. While you’re at it, screw in an LED energy-efficient bulb.
Rethink the grass Back-to-basics lawnmower
Ditch the motor and go for a reel mower. Besides providing good exercise for the operator, reel mowers are 100 percent pollution-free compared to the gas-powered counterpart. Plus, the old-fashioned grass cutter is quiet, and maintenance costs are low. But beware: Mowing with the eco-friendly chopper can take time, and the blades need to be professionally sharpened every couple of years.
Instead of grassy turf that can drink more than its fair share of water, think outside the box. Replace the lawn with native plants, bocce court, or native grasses that require limited water and rarely need to be mowed. Reducing by half a 1,000-square-foot lawn that each week is getting an inch of water can save 10,000 gallons of water during the dry season. Plus, it slashes the water bill.
HMB September 2011 33
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34 September 2011 HMB
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» DOWN TO EARTH
Blessed are the bees I
was working in my garden recently and the buzzing from the bees was so loud that it was distracting me from my weeding. (Not a bad thing, I say!) I looked up and they were happily at work amid the blooms of my many lavender and teuchrium plants. I know the bee population on our planet is in crisis, but not in my garden! While watching them, I remembered a “Bee Blessing” that was read at Green Gulch Farm in Marin, and I wanted to share part of it with you: More than 30 percent of our food supply (more for vegetarians) comes to be because of the crucial relationship that honeybees and other pollinating beings have with the flowering world. Besides vegetables and fruit we receive from the labor of bees, we also receive the medicines of honey, pollen, propolis, beauty, and delight… Today a new bee family to be has come to Green Gulch to reside with the other eight colonies that live here. If causes and conditions are such, in 10 days or so, a new queen bee will emerge from her egg. And if causes and conditions are such, the new queen will fly out into the flowering world and mate. And, the newly mated queen will return to her waiting family and for the remainder of her life will produce hundreds of thousands or maybe a million or more bees. And if causes and conditions are such, honeybees will continue to provide us with food, medicine, beauty and delight. May it be so. Green Gulch is a Zen center, organic farm and much more. The location is stunning and its programs interesting. You don’t have to be a Zen practitioner to participate, so check it out!
Tomato-less summer for me M
y garden blog (www.dirtygirlgarden.com) is linked to a host of other garden blogs, written by people all over the world who write about gardening. The past few weeks I’ve been reading nothing but stories about how fabulous everyone’s tomatoes are doing this year. Images of huge, colorful heirloom tomatoes fill my computer screen and make me jealous on a daily basis. My tomatoes this year are far from huge and glorious. And although I’m not in Palo Alto, the Deep South or Florence, Italy, right now, I usually can grow a decent bushel of tomatoes that don’t make me cringe whenever I see someone else’s. However, I’ve decided to give full blame to our crazy year of weather. Shirt-sleeve weather in February and late rain have left my tomatoes less than happy. Even my poor cherry tomatoes (the easiest thing to grow in the world!) are lackluster. The heirlooms seem on the verge of suicide. But, alas, I’ve taken this “summer weather” and used it to my advantage by growing more leafy greens — and they are growing great! Here are a few of my favorite varieties that you
can plant now and harvest in the early fall: t arugula “apollo” — This is a smaller arugula that won’t grow six feet tall! Great for almost everything. t sorrel — You can find this in the herb section of the nursery. It’s great for teas, salads, soups and on sandwiches. t swiss Chard “Fordhook Giant” — This is a great variety that grows almost all year long! t dandelion — No special cultivar or variety, just your regular dandelion is great for salads and soups. It’s a powerful detoxifying plant that can be used as a tea as well. You can use the ones growing in the cracks of your driveway. Just make sure to water the plant so the leaves are not too bitter. t Pea “dwarf gray sugar” — I love using pea shoots (the first 4 inches of the pea vines) for salads and stir-fry. JLs
Contact Jennifer Segale, Wildflower Farms, 726-5883 and Carla Lazzarini, Earth’s Laughter, (650) 996-5168. HMB September 2011 35
» SIGHTSEEING WITH CHARLES RUSSO
Sunflowers in the fog
n When: 4:25 p.m., Aug. 19, 2011 n Where: Half Moon Bay n Camera: Nikon D90 n Notes: There’s something a bit off about a sunflower in the fog — at least from a photographer’s point of view. Snapping a few test shots of this field along Highway 1, I resolved to return to these flowers as soon as the sun did. I got that opportunity a few days later but decided against stopping amid other errands. One morning later and the field was empty, harvested for distant flower shops; my golden opportunity was lost to procrastination. The features of a landscape can vanish faster than you think, like the weird upside-down tea tree in my old neighborhood or that bus stop mural of Richard Nixon. So if you have the itch to stop and take a photo of something, capture it while you can. Seize the day. Or in the photographer’s case — Carpe Imago — Seize the Image. Charles Russo is the Half Moon Bay Review’s photographer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
36 September 2011 HMB