Over the past month, the weekly Eye on the Environment column in local newspapers has covered a variety of topics, ranging from concrete crushing to restoring native vegetation.

As the Eye on the Environment column looks back on January, here are the highlights:

Santa Paula Materials has a crush on recycling:

Recycling activists joined construction industry workers and local government officials last week to celebrate a new recycling operation in Santa Paula. Local politicians (including State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara) provided commendations, and county Supervisor Kathy Long, Third District, presented a giant check, representing a $1.1 million state-funded loan to help Santa Paula Materials crush concrete and asphalt into aggregate, the material upon which roads are built.  

 Countywide program creates markets for recyclables:

Recycling-based manufacturers create jobs while saving our natural resources. If you know a local manufacturing company capable of making its product with recycled or reused content, help it keep an “eye on the environment” by putting it in touch with the Ventura County Recycling Market Development Zone. For more information, go to www.wasteless.org/rmdz.

School saves resources and backs with technology:  

De Anza Academy of Technology and the Arts (DATA) in Ventura bought notebook computers for each student, using a federal grant from 2010. DATA purchased ASUS netbooks, a simplified version of a laptop computer. In addition to using computers to reduce the number of books issued, the school has also been able to cut back on paper use in other ways. Eighth-grade teacher Maklynn St. Clare said, “Having the computers in the students’ hands makes such a difference. Aside from being able to submit paperless assignments online, they can now read and respond to each other’s work and submit drafts and edited work to me, all without using a single sheet of paper.” For more information, go to www.dataschool.org.

 Letting rainwater recharge groundwater:

Ventura County is now in its rainy season. The spread of pavement over much of the local landscape has increased impermeability, or the inability of water to pass through paved surfaces and into the ground. Impermeable surfaces can reduce local groundwater recharge and collect pollutants such as oil, metal from brake pads, pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides on the surface, which are later flushed into local creeks, rivers and the ocean during winter rains.

Jason Burke, a water quality planner with the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, has been promoting a modern solution, permeable pavement, which allows rain and runoff to drain through the pavement into the ground or underground gravel recharge beds.  Below the surface, soil and microbes provide natural filtration and break down many pollutants carried in stormwater runoff.  In addition to providing habitat for pollutant-eating microbes, gravel recharge beds also store and infiltrate rainfall, helping to replenish local groundwater supplies. Permeable paving surfaces include pervious concrete, porous asphalt, interlocking concrete pavers and reinforced turf pavers. For more information, contact Jason.burke@ventura.org.

Success restoring native plants:

 Recent rains have turned the hillsides of Ventura County from their usual brown to a more lively green and, for a few months, California looks more like “The Green State” than “The Golden State.” Eventually the landscape will dry out again, fading to a golden brown. This change has not always been the case. More than 200 years ago, the county’s grasslands were mostly composed of perennial grasses that did not turn brown every year. Since the import of nonnative annual grasses, native grasses now compose only 2 percent of their original cover.
Not only are native grasses beneficial to the soil and water conservation, they also provide habitat and food sources for wildlife and insects. Many species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects and fish use grasslands for habitat, breeding and food.

Last week, on Jan. 26, volunteers came out to Ojai Meadows Preserve in Ojai for a native grassland planting. They were organized by Thomas Sanford and Sarah McGinnis, AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards. The AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project is trying to conserve, restore and enhance watersheds where fish go from the sea to fresh water to spawn. For more information, go to www.ccc.ca.gov/work/programs/AmeriCorpsPrograms/wsp/Pages/wsp1.aspx, www.ovlc.org,  www.cnps.org, www.venturanatives.com, www.socalnurseryplants.com/ventura/ and www.ssseeds.com/. 

Eye on the Environment is a new monthly column for the VCReporter that will be featured the last week of every month. David Goldstein has been the author or editor of a weekly column in local newspapers for more than seven years; and for more than 20 years, he has served as a county resource management analyst and is currently the administrator of the Ventura County Recycling Market Development Zone. The Eye on the Environment column is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency, primarily serving public outreach functions for the Integrated Waste Management Division and the Watershed Protection District. Nonprofits and public agencies wanting to write a guest Eye on the Environment column should contact Goldstein at david.goldstein@ventura.org.