Turning environmental education into action
Last chance to celebrate Earth Day
By David Goldstein 04/24/2014
April 22 was Earth Day, and commemorative events in Ventura County throughout the month have helped celebrants learn and have fun. Hopefully, many left theses events more committed to keeping an “eye on the environment.”
The first two local celebrations were in Oxnard and Thousand Oaks on April 5, drawing thousands of attendees. The Wyland “clean water mobile learning experience,” animals (including mobile marine lab), and cars (including a top-of-the-line Tesla) were among the highlights of the Thousand Oaks event. Oxnard’s auto show was more modest, featuring only a few hybrid sedans from the city’s fleet, but their focus on animals was innovative. Organizers devoted a sizable chunk of their Plaza Park real estate to giant poster boards on industrial-scale easels, featuring ultraclose-up photos of bees. Some pictures were so detailed, you could see grains of pollen collected on a bee’s body hairs. The event’s slogan “Bee kind to the Earth!” pointed out that bees, pollinators for one third of worldwide food crops, are suffering a tragic population decline, due in part to pesticides.
The last of this year’s local events related to Earth Day are scheduled for Moorpark and Ventura. The Moorpark event takes place the day this edition of the Ventura County Reporter hits newsstands (April 24) from 5 to 6 p.m. at 11800 Harvester St. Attendees can take home a free five-gallon tree. Ventura’s Earth Day is Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Promenade Park.
For Moorpark’s event, call 517-6360; for Ventura’s, see www.venturaearthday.org
A crossover environmental message
An Earth Day festival can “rally the faithful” and deepen the green commitment of those who were already inspired to attend an environmental event, but those of us who specialize in environmental outreach also prize opportunities to spark interest among people who do not yet prioritize the environment.
For example, contrast this month’s Earth Day events with the annual “Food Day” events coordinated by the Ventura County Public Health Department and the non-profit FOOD Share a few months ago.
The Public Health Department manages a garden, staffed with volunteer gardeners, at the end of Camino del Sol, near the La Colonia neighborhood. Using land provided by the City of Oxnard, volunteers conduct planting demonstrations, recruit community gardeners and encourage home gardening through programs such as giving school tours and sending students home with living vegetable plants.
Sylvia Lopez-Navarro, the Public Health Department’s Chronic Disease and Obesity Prevention Manager, focuses mainly on the public health benefits of this work, but she agrees the environmental benefit is linked. “Growing at home or in a nearby garden reduces the carbon footprint and air pollution of food distribution, avoiding long truck trips from fields to distribution centers, to supermarkets and then to homes,” she said. Often, community and home gardens include compost bins, so waste can also be managed on site, further reducing the smog and traffic of truck transportation.
Growing your own food also reduces packaging, not just the plastic or paper shopping bags everyone notices, but also transport packaging, which is many times more plentiful but is invisible to consumers. Pallets, shrink wrap, padding and other items used to move food from fields to your supermarket shelves can all be eliminated when you grow your own food.
Other local food-focused programs also promote environmental goals. For example, Suz Montgomery, who leads the Extended Learning Academy, developed a community garden geared toward seniors. Using donated items ranging from lumber to compost, volunteers and workers form the Ventura City Corps built raised beds for use by the residents of the Ventura Convalescent Hospital, who can now garden without excessive stooping. Some even tend their vegetables while seated in their wheel chairs.
Legal gray water to help green gardening goals
Of course, in our dry climate, water is a barrier on this gardening path toward a greener lifestyle. Fortunately, the Ventura County Building and Safety Division is offering opportunities for landscapers and the general public to learn more about legal and safe methods for reusing the “gray water” left over from washing clothes. Simply piping a clothes washer’s outflow onto a lawn presents potential dangers, so workshops on April 24, May 8 and 22, June 5 and 19 will teach homeonewners and landscapers how to install the piping and drainage systems needed for safe and legal irrigation with laundry gray water. Graywater can contaminate vegetables such as carrots and strawberries but, if done safely, can be used to irrigate citrus and avocado trees.
Workshops are in Room 311 of the Ventura County Government Center’s Hall of Administration from 6 to 8 p.m.
The Eye on the Environment column is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency