Paris to Pittsburgh: a Review!

Leann Nizzardi contributed this blog after the showing of Paris to Pittsburgh by the Multi-Faith Alliance of Climate Stewards at Middletown United Methodist Church.

So last evening my daughter and I went to a showing of Paris to Pittsburgh. This is a new National Geographic documentary. I always find them fun and interesting. This one was about the current state of climate change and what Americans are doing about it. Kind of sounds like a downer. After all the negative stuff you hear in the media. But this was anything but!

About 40 people attended the June MACS showing of Paris to Pittsburgh!

Since the USA has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement at a national level. Communities, large and small, have stepped into the void. Cities like Pittsburgh, PA have taken it upon themselves to meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s standard with renewable energy. The movie highlighted the many communities across the country in which solar and wind energy is quickly becoming the primary source of electricity.

There was also talk about widespread residential farming called ‘fleet farming’ to cut down on the emissions generated by log haul trucks.

The one thing that I took away from the experience is that Frederick, MD is not alone. There are so many communities doing their part. I got a real sense of hope and community. A willingness and need to share our best practices with other communities and learn from their best practices.

Check out the movie for yourself sometime. Better yet, watch it with your friend and family and share some ideas afterwards.

Leann lives and works in Frederick and is passionate about cleaning the earth and sustainable energy.

The Grocery Story: Our Food and Co-ops in the age of Big Grocery Retail

The Grocery Story: Our Food and Co-ops in the age of Big Grocery Retail

grocery storyI walked in the C. Burr Artz Library expecting a large crowd gathered in the community room. There were a couple of tables set up, chairs lined in their rows, and an elderly crowd making
chit chat as we were waiting for Jon Steinham to begin his discussion on his new book: AGrocery Story. Once we all gathered at our seats, the lights dimmed and Steinham took his
place behind the podium.

The talk began with Steinham thanking his sponsors and the various co-ops he visited along his trip from Canada to most of the East Coast. Before starting his book tour through North America, Steinham worked in radio and television as a journalist and was a former elected director of Kootenay Co-Op from 2006 to 2016.

Jon Steinman

The important question that comes into play is, how and where do we get our food? It’s not something we really think about in our day-to-day lives, but Steinham took this question into a much deeper thought. Today, we have left our food in the hands of corporate giants such as Wal-mart, that shape price perception on food prices, our environment, health, and local economy.

Why have we left this enormous responsibility to the private sector? With only a handful of corporations running the grocery store market, collusion and fixed pricing can occur along with monopolies leaving local grocery stores little room to fend for themselves. This issue was first seen in the early 1900s, but there were efforts to combat this with legislation and people actively shopping at independent retailers. Once we hit the 1980s during the Reagan Administration, one can see the drastic and rapid increase of corporate grocery stores due to lax regulations in trade.

This is where the co-op comes into play! While looking into alternative grocery stores, Steinham not only discussed co-ops, he brought up stores such as MOMs and Whole Foods. Unfortunately, natural grocery stores are not free from the hands of corporate money; Amazon recently purchased Whole Foods.

As organic and local food started becoming more popular among our growing and environmentally aware population, you can now walk into any store and see aisles of these foods. “Local” was no longer local as they were once advertised. Grocery stores could label something as local, but actually produced 200 or more miles away. The value and meaning of local and organic was slowly diminishing.

Co-ops generally adhere to an upstanding value of good, healthy, and local food/ wellness products. When Jon Steinham was working at Kootenay, the board of directors coinedthe term, “TRUE local” foods meaning that those were produced 0-150 miles away. Not only do co-ops support local farmers, they stimulate the local economy. With the head office located in your town/city, big decisions are made by people who live in the community, not by a headquarters located out of state. This cotnributes to economic development when co-ops use local legal services, construction companies, etc. to keep business running. In my opinion, co-ops follow the public sector model in a way. Not only are they run by community members (and not by a major corporation), they act as community centers for wellness classes and workshops.

Also a fun fact, co-ops are three times more likely to give back to the community by donations and investing in the economy, Steinman said.. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Vanessa at the Common Market, which sponsored Steinman’s talk.

When I attended college at the University of Maryland, I lived in a co-op called CHUM (Co-Op Housing of the University of Maryland) so I am very familiar with how co-ops generally run.

I love the idea of grocery store co-ops, but the issue that still boggles my mind is: How can we
make this food affordable for EVERYONE to purchase? A member of the audience asked Steinham this question and he admitted that it is a tough issue to address. You are paying a higher price to support your local farmer and have that food readily organic, but that doesn’t appeal to every person. There are some co-ops that offer discounts if you are at the lower end of the income scale, but aside from that, prices are going to be a little higher. I hope that one day we can address this issue as it would be amazing if one day everyone could buy from a co-op and stop supporting these corporate giants.

Author: Vanessa Moreno, urban planning and sustainability enthusiast while always trying tofind the best place to support my local grocery store. This is her first blog post!

School Composting and Waste Sorting Data

Joe Richardson of Bar-T Mountainside Ranch (a directory member!) and member of the @Frederick Compost Workgroup recently presented data from a number of waste sorts and composting efforts he coordinated at schools in Frederick County. He presented the data to the Frederick County Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC) as well as Frederick County Public Schools representatives. Students, teachers and parents from Sugarloaf/Urbana Elementary and Brunswick High School who have worked on the project also attended and gave their perspective.

The presentation is here for your enjoyment and information; click on the graphic below!

 Presentation for SWAC – FINAL

Have You Read the Green New Deal?

What do you think would happen if the Green New Deal resolution was passed by the House, the Senate and then signed by the president?

Nothing would happen.

The Green New Deal resolution does not mandate any action. It is aspirational. It is a listing of aspects of our society that the authors feel need change. I believe it is intended to be a guide to further legislation. In that respect it is similar to the New Deal under President Roosevelt in the 1930s. Also, it should be considered with an emphasis on its “New Deal” aspect because it is not just an environmental resolution. Just like the fixing of the economy in the ’30s was to be accomplished by building bridges, roads, etc. this new New Deal aims at repairing aspects of our economy that are having a deleterious effect on our environment.

Before I read the Resolution I had heard that it contained provisions requiring the end of the use of fossil fuels for electric generation by 2030. I thought that was ridiculous. In actuality, there is no such thing in the Resolution. There is also no requirement that we all become vegans to prevent cow flatulence, which one “commentator” asserted.
There are a lot of commentators making similar assertions about and refutations of scary things that are just not in the document.

Personally, I do not agree with the entire Resolution but it is so much more interesting to talk about it after reading it. Read it yourself. Find it here If you skip most of the first page it is only about 2000 words and will take about 5 minutes.

 
Ellis Burruss is a longtime Frederick County advocate for environmental causes and common sense change. He lives in Brunswick.

Note from Green Frederick:
Here is another assessment of the Green New Deal from the Sierra Club of Maryland.

New City Leaf Policy – Storms of Change

Some people eren’t happy about the City of Frederick’s new “leaf collection policy” when it was put in place last fall.

Interestingly, it’s just another example of the indirect impact of impact climate change on our everyday lives.

Better maintenance of Frederick City storm drains-including discontinuing leaf sweeping into streets–could help with freak storms like the YMCA flooding. (photo by D. Farrar)

In an attempt to soften the change in service, the city positioned it as an increase in service: weekly leaf pickup service would be replacing the every-other-week collection that city residents have been used to for decades. However, in reading the fine print, (and in the print left on warning tickets for those who didn’t know or didn’t comply last fall), leaf-rakers found that the increase in service came with an important difference: now they had to pile their leaves into reuseable containers or brown bags in order to have them collected.

A newspaper letter writer was dubious about the change, speculating with a tongue-in-cheek comment that the city’s vacuum truck broke down and the policy was to avoid replacing it!

City personnel explained in a press release that the new policy is for “pollution prevention. EPA’s Phase II Municipal separate storm sewer system permit requires good housekeeping.” . But this is not the kind of pollution that would typically think come from street sweepings (cigarette butts, glass, trash and road grit). That’s actually less than 1% of the volume of contaminants, according to the city streets and sanitation department.

No, the more troubling problem is the leaves themselves, when they are swept in massive piles to the curb. Why? “They clog infrastructure including swales, pipes and inlets,” the release notes, increasing the risk of flooding. Think about it—and the crazy storms that flooded North Frederick and the area surrounding the YMCA; and that nearly swept away the Town of Ellicott City twice. Many of these flooding and severe weather incidents, attributed to the increasing impact of climate change, are causing major headaches for homeowners, road and infrastructure planners, and politicians trying to figure out how to lessen their damage. We’re not the only city dealing with this issue: see http://cleanbayous.org/debris-can-clog-storm-drains-2/.

Next time you hear someone complain they can no longer sweep their leaves into city streets where they end up clogging storm drains (and eventually adding sediment to Carroll Creek and the Monocacy River) remind them of the increasing number of “freak” storms and the help they are providing their fellow citizens by bagging their leaves. And if that doesn’t work, just remind them of the flooded YMCA and Ellicott City. That should help them to understand.

 

 

Urban Gardening and Help for Hungry People/Food Deserts

A Hood College grant program was celebrated recently for tackling the problem of hunger — also called “food insecurity” — in Frederick County. The program, in its first year and housed under the Center for Coastal & Watershed Studies — seeks to link sponsors and volunteers who help plant and harvest urban gardens with the areas of the county that need them.

Connie Ray, who has coordinated the program, spoke to a recent dinner celebration of the program.

Connie Ray, Food Security Network

Facts Noted at the event:

In Frederick, even though the median income is $90,000, 8% of residents live in poverty and 40% of residents who are not in poverty struggle to provide child care, put food on the table, and pay rent (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed-ALICE).

Emmitsburg, Libertytown, Thurmont, Brunswick and certain areas of Frederick City also fall into the ALICE category.

460 households in the City of Frederick are in what is called a food desert, a geographic area where it is difficult to find quality, fresh food.

This year, they grew 1,500 lbs. of produce that served 400 families in Frederick through their garden partners and volunteer network.

Information about Community Gardens where they are working: click here.

Frederick News Post Article on the program: click here.

A bountiful harvest in areas of Frederick County hungry for fresh produce is a goal of the Food Security Network.