All posts by SustainableRossmoor

Cutting Back on Meat and Dairy

By Dave Casey

Most Americans blame cars and coal-fired power plants for greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, but most aren’t aware of the cow in the room. Few of us are aware the livestock sector accounts for more emissions than cars and planes together.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a prestigious medical journal, recently editorialized that climate change represents the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. It also noted that chronic diseases caused by dietary choices are currently the leading cause of death.

Could there be a way to combine fighting climate change and combating chronic diseases at the same time? For example, using a bicycle for transportation versus driving a car is a win-win-win for our health, for the planet and for our pocketbooks! Are there similar win-win-win situations when it comes to diet?

Cutting back on meat and dairy
Consuming red meat and dairy products in moderation benefits you and the environment.

The foods that create the most greenhouse gases (red meat, farmed fish and dairy) appear to be the same foods that contribute to many of our chronic diseases. Meat, dairy and eggs have substantial negative environmental impacts on climate. Grains, beans, fruits and vegetables have the least negative impact on the environment. Moreover, animal-based foods have less fiber, vitamins and antioxidants than plant-based foods. Meat and dairy also cost more per pound. That makes a possible win-win-win: reducing meat and dairy leads to less environmental impacts, greater health benefits and lower cost.

European Commission Study

In 2011, the European Commission commissioned a study on what individuals can do to help the climate. The Commission is the European Union’s executive arm. In terms of transport, if all Europeans started driving electric cars, it could prevent as much as 174 million tons of carbon from getting released. They also could turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.

But the European Commission study concluded the single most impactful action people can take is to shift to a low-meat diet. The foods we eat may have more impact on global warming than what cars we drive or turning down the thermostat. Cutting out animal protein just one day a week can have a powerful effect. Meatless Mondays can reduce greenhouse gases as much as the weekly commute to work. A switch from the average omnivore diet to a 100% plant-based can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Commission’s study identified why it is difficult to reduce meat and dairy. It’s simply lack of knowledge, ingrained habits and culinary cultures. Most approaches to reversing climate change are expensive. A global transition to a low meat diet, as recommended for health reasons, can actually save money. A healthier, low-meat diet could cut the cost of mitigating climate change; while a no meat and no dairy diet could cut climate mitigation costs by 80%.

Cutting back on beef and dairy
Reducing the red meat in diets is a healthy choice.

For most of my life, my family has enjoyed a great barbequed flank steak on Friday nights, a weekly cheese laden pizza, a weekly spaghetti or tacos with beef, and frequent crackers and cheese. Yet, over the past year, I have found myself and my family consuming less and less meat and dairy.

World Resources Institute Recommendations

The World Resources Institute recommends developed nations cut beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 40% to meet global emissions goals for 2050. The Institute is an environmental research group. I’m not sure I can commit to a 100% vegan diet. I can certainly substantially reduce my consumption of meat, dairy and eggs. Such efforts will reduce my carbon footprint, improve my health and save money. By helping the planet, we can help ourselves.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, March 4, 2020. Email Dave Casey at:

DamNation – March SR Film

FILM SERIES: Sustainable Rossmoor
Wednesday, March 11, 7 pm

A look at the benefits of removing obsolete dams.

An audience award winner at the Telluride Film Festival, this powerful film explores the transformation of America’s national attitude of pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers.

Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access.

DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.

87 min. Captions.   Trailer:

Vote Climate to Save Our Earth

By Anne Foreman

Every vote counts.  Our planet, its forests, oceans, air and earth, can’t vote.  We can.  It’s time to Vote Climate to save our earth.

The bad news is unrelenting. A few examples: plastics are filling up our oceans. Next, air pollution is worsening. Additionally, our lakes and rivers are becoming more polluted. Moreover, forests worldwide are burning and being cut down. Arctic glaciers are rapidly melting. Sea levels are rising. More species are facing extinction. At the top of the calamities is global warming.

U.N. Report Contained a Dire Warning

Time is running out. That’s the warning from the latest United Nations report on global warming. For instance, our planet is still heating up with greenhouse gas emissions at an alarming rate. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells us the “point of no return” is in sight. “Climate change” has become “climate crisis.”

Individuals Are Heeding the Warnings

On an individual level, many people are doing their best to try to save our planet Earth. Here are some examples, in no particular order: first, many are composting. Secondly, people are refusing to buy food and beverages sold in plastic. Thirdly, investors are divesting their stock portfolios of oil and gas stocks, in favor of renewable energy companies — solar, wind, and geothermal. Fourthly, home owners are installing solar panels on their roofs. Additionally, they are planting trees. Lastly, people are buying electric cars.

Governments Need to Step Up
Vote Climate
The fate of the earth is in every voter’s hands

All these efforts by individuals are laudable, but the reality is individual efforts aren’t enough to significantly stop global warming. Only decisive measures taken by national governments will be able to curb the rise in global temperatures. The world’s 20 richest countries are responsible for more than three-quarters (75%) of worldwide emissions. And of these countries, China and the United States are the worst polluters.

We need leadership at the top to acknowledge the reality of global warming – leadership that will fight aggressively for legislation to stop it. Vote climate to save our earth. How we vote in 2020 will be crucial in the fight to save our Earth. For indeed – time is running out.

Here are some resources to help you decide: Climate Voters Guide, Politico report, USA Today, SF Chronicle, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Dec. 25, 2019.  Email Anne Foreman at


February 2020 SR Movie


When:  Wednesday, February 12, 7 pm  

Where: Peacock Hall

The essential nature of biodiversity and how we can help maintain it is the subject of a film presentation to be shown by Sustainable Rossmoor.
This film, CALL OF LIFE: FACING THE MASS EXTINCTION, will be immediately followed by two speakers from the Center for a Biological Diversity.

Our Film

CALL OF LIFE investigates the growing threat to earth’s life-support systems from the loss of biodiversity. If current trends continue, scientists warn that half or more of all plant and animal species on Earth will become extinct within the next few decades. Call of Life investigates the scope, the causes, and the predicted effects of this unprecedented loss of life, but also looks deeper, at the ways in which both culture and psychology have helped to create and perpetuate the situation. The film not only tells the story of a crisis in nature, but also in human nature, a crisis more complex and threatening than anything human beings have ever faced before.

60 minutes, with captions.


Our Speakers:  Chase Martin and Maureen Forney

Maureen Forney
Chase Martin

will share information about solutions and actions to take, and legal battles that have been successful. Chase worked with the Center for Biological Diversity on last year‘s petition drive to save the Endangered Species Act and has a professional background in Historic Preservation and lobbying.  Maureen is a Certified California Naturalist and volunteers with both the Center for Biological Diversity ( and Great Old Broads for Wilderness (

The Center for Biological Diversity

The CBD is an international nonprofit organization which promotes legal actions, global policy advocacy, scientific studies, and creative media with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. Working to secure a future for all species of animals and plants, great and small, these advocates want those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive.

If current trends continue, scientists warn that half or more of all plant and animal species on Earth will become extinct within the next few decades. In the words of the famous biologist Paul Ehrlich, “When we wipe out populations and species of other organisms, we’re sawing off the limb we’re sitting on”.

A New Look at Bio-degradable Plastic

By Bob Hanson

It’s time to take a new look at bio-degradable plastic. The news these days is full of articles about the evils of plastic.  Plastic threatens the oceans and landfills, health concerns, litter problems, difficulties in recycling, waste of fossil fuels, etc. On the other hand, we have become hooked, and ever more dependent, on plastic.  Consider the ball point pens we use, the combs we pull through our hair and dozens of other items we use daily.  Plastic is ubiquitous and has many uses.

Certainly, we should use less and recycle more. But wouldn’t it be sweet if we developed a plastic that would bio-degrade in less than a 1,000 years? I was happy to discover scientists are working on that. Someday your table scraps could turn from trash to plastic bottles, medical equipment and other beneficial objects, and when they are discarded, they can return to the soil.

Bio-degradable Plastic

bio-degradable plastic
Bio-degradable utensils and straws are already available and can be recycled

Leading the way on this effort is a Canadian woman, Luna Yu. Her Toronto-based business is converting low-value waste into high-value materials. Soon your table scraps may turn into all sorts of plastic items, which will be compostable when discarded.

This new second-generation plastic is called polyhydroxyalkanoates (don’t ask me how to pronounce that!) Let’s just call it PHA.

The scientists who are perfecting the process have developed bacteria, which can break down the food waste into small carbon-building blocks. PHA-assembling bacteria eat the carbon and store bioplastic granules in their cells. Scientists chemically extract the bioplastic from the bacteria. Some other companies are making the new plastic from methanol, sugar and oil. All of these new ventures developing bio-degradable plastic are finding the process more expensive than making it from petroleum. Yet, if consumers are willing to pay a bit more and insist plastic items be bio-degradable, demand will go up and prices will come down.

Europe Leads the Way (again)

bio-degradable plastic
While convenient, single use plastics are deadly contaminants

European countries are leading the way in ridding themselves of single-use plastics. European parliament committees have approved banning a number of single-use plastic products by 2021. Scientists are developing a number of other bio-degradable plastics. Unfortunately, so far only PHA will break-down in the ocean water, where a great deal of plastic ends up.

Bio-plastics currently only constitute about 1% of the 320 million tons of plastic produced each year, but this percentage is certain to rise. We can help speed up the conversion by working with legislative bodies and pressuring retailers to eliminate non-biodegradable plastic packaging and outlaw plastic items, such as drinking straws and eating utensils, unless they are bio-degradable.

California has always been a leader in environmental legislation, and we should be on this issue.

More research and development is necessary.  Moreover, the Ecology Center cautions us not to get ahead of ourselves.

If this, or other environmental, issues interest you, such as taking a new look at bio-degradable plastic, please consider joining Sustainable Rossmoor.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Nov 13, 2019.  Email Bob Hanson at

A Call for Climate Activism

By Brad Waite

This is a call for climate activism! We owe it to our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren to take very serious action to combat the climate crisis. And to do it now! Why?

The climate crisis is causing a rapid increase in the number of kids suffering from what therapists call “eco-anxiety.” They share a growing sense of fear over climate change and impending environmental disasters.

The Power of One

climate activism
Our youth are at risk, get involved!

This anxiety became so severe for one 15-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, that she became depressed. Fortunately, she decided to take action to help deal with it.

With the blessing of her parents, in August of 2018 she started skipping school every Friday to sit on the steps of the Swedish parliament to lobby for action on the climate crisis. Soon other kids joined her for the same reason. She quickly became the leader of world-wide student-led climate strikes.

In March of this year, the strike she led drew over a million kids to 2,200 actions in over 120 countries. The strike she led on Sept. 20 of this year drew over 5 million people over even more countries. Two members of the Norwegian parliament nominated her for the Noble Prize this year.  Learn more about Greta.

She has awakened the world to the need to take massive action now, while there is at least a fighting chance of saving our planet from becoming uninhabitable. If you don’t believe the risk is real, you may be drinking the  disinformation kool-aid campaign of the fossil fuel industry to deny, delay and obfuscate on this issue, a playbook they took from Big Tobacco. Exxon scientists informed senior management in the 1970s that extracting and burning fossil fuels would create a climate crisis. Yet they have never admitted it while continuing to reap huge profits.

Join the Movement

climate activism
Join the movement, get involved!

I’ll bet you’re asking how you can answer the call for climate activism. What you can do to help? Start by learning enough about the topic to be able to speak with others about it. Then continue to talk with anyone and everyone, starting with your grandkids. Ask them what they think you can do to help. Ask them and their parents what they are doing to help themselves and future generations.

How can you start learning about this crisis? There are plenty of really great books, starting with Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken. One of the best things about the book is it lists 80 solutions and ranks them by effectiveness. Read Drawdown and pick a solution that works for you. Find an organization that is active and effective in that area and join them, be involved and contribute. They will help to educate you while providing support and camaraderie while you help them move forward.

For example, there are several very effective groups that were started and run by youth, such as Earth Guardians, Sunrise Movement and Youth vs Apocalypse. These three groups all have Bay Area chapters and they all could use mentorship and money. They will supply the energy, passion and courage. I’ve engaged with some of these youth climate activists and can tell you that they are fearless and totally committed to this fight.

Don’t Forget You Have A Personal Part to Play

climate activism
Find an issue you support and get involved!

On a more personal level, you can work to reduce your own household’s carbon footprint. One of the best ways to do that is to use a good online carbon footprint calculator. Contra Costa County has launched its own, which you can access at They call it the Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge and it allows groups or friends/neighbors to form a team to compete for honors by having the largest reduction in carbon footprint. On this website, once you have completed your profile, you will be shown several actions you can take and how much each is expected to cost, if anything, and the expected reduction in carbon.

One very fast and easy step is to opt up to MCE’s Deep Green program from our local community choice energy provider. Their plan delivers electricity from 100% renewable sources. The cost is minimal, with the average MCE customer paying only about five dollars more per month for pollution-free power. Get your account number from your PG& E bill and go to to sign up. For extra credit, use that clean electricity to charge an electric vehicle.

These are just some of the ways you can get motivated and involved. The most important thing is to do something that makes a difference. Respond to the call for climate activism. And remember: keep talking about this issue with others and talk about ways to solve it.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Oct. 30, 2019. Email Brad Waite at

Recycling, Composting, Trash Disposal and Much More

By Dale J. Harrington

The ubiquitous dilemma of “how to and what to” place in recycling, composting and trash disposal containers continues to baffle most of us. I’ve been methodically researching such matters in hopes of finding “the correct” answers to this decision-making process. I hope you will benefit from my research as I share some of my findings.

Use cloth bags or netting bags, instead of plastic, when grocery shopping. This reduces the amount of waste you bring into your house. You can wash the bags and use them over and over.

recycling, composting, trash disposal
Avoid pre-packaged fruits, vegetables , etc. and take your own reuseable bags to market

Buy food that has less packaging. Purchase bulk instead of pre-packaged items. Many pre-packaged vegetables are available in vegetable bins. Selecting items from the bins, allows you to control the quantity and thereby reduce waste. Most plastic wrapping on the pre-packaged items ends up in landfills.  Even if the tray  the vegetables are in is recyclable, by using your cloth or netting bags, you reduce recycling.

Don’t use bottled drinks unless you have to. Mix your drinks into your juice container to save on recycling plastic or glass.

Buy milk in plastic containers since they can be recycled. Milk in cardboard containers cannot be recycled because they have a film on them (prevents leaking), which means they are not recyclable.

My wife was excited when I shared the following sustainable practices for everyday use.

All-Purpose Cleaning Solution:

Consider making your own household cleaners and detergents (as provided on the Family Trip blog): All-Purpose Cleaning Solution

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar 1/2 cup distilled water drops preferred essential oil ** Toilet Cleaning Solution

• Sprinkle baking soda in toilet

– Spray distilled white vinegar on top

• Allow to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing. With your toilets, prevention is key. Once you get nasty mildew build up, it gets a lot tougher to clean. So clean quickly, yet often.

Homemade Dryer Sheets

Fabric scraps – cut into approximately 4-by-4 squares 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar 10 drops preferred essential oil ** 2 tbsp water (tap is fine) Place everything in a resealable container, allow fabric to soak through, add 2 scraps to wet clothes in the dryer before starting the cycle.

You will have to add more liquid to the scraps after some time – the length of which depends on how often you do laundry. Just feel free to add the same ratios of liquid to the jar and fabric scraps.

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Solution

1 gallon of water (can use distilled, tap is fine) 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar 3 drops pH neutral dish detergent (recommended: Dawn Pure Essentials) 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol 2-3 drops preferred essential oil ** ** Essential oil: Concentrated Hydrophobic Liquid: An essential is a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.

recycling, compost and trash disposal
Reduce single use plastics and other single use containers

Here are a few other tips:

• Take anything that can be reused, such as clothing, to a secondhand store. There are numerous secondhand stores in Walnut Creek.

• Put recyclable items into recycling bins. Do not contaminate them by putting landfill or compost items there.

– Place compostable items into compost bins.

• Dispose used batteries into battery container up at MOD.

– Take fluorescent light tubes to Ace Hardware.

• Do not buy products in aerosol cans. The aerosol contaminates the environment.

As much as anything, stay tuned, share with others what’s working for you. Know we are doing the best we can to inform you about recycling, composting and trash disposal.

See Rossmoor’s recycling page.  Check out Sustainable Rossmoor’s Trash Talking page.

We depend on Republic Services, Recycle Smart, and other services to take care of what we don’t want/need. They depend on their buyers, who often face new challenges for this task. Bottom line: be flexible and know our purchasing decisions truly make a difference.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, Oct. 16, 2019.  Email Dale J. Harrington at

OVERLOAD: America’s Toxic Love Story

January SR Movie:  OVERLOAD: America’s Toxic Love Story

When: Wednesday, January 8, 7 pm,  Where: Peacock Hall

Toxics in Personal Products

OVERLOAD aims to both illuminate the real dangers of toxic chemicals found in everything from food to furniture to face cream. We learn hundreds are now found in every baby born in America. This film offers us as consumers the tools we need to make better choices that will ultimately improve our own health and public health.

Filmmaker Soozie Eastman, daughter of an industrial chemical distributor, consults world-renowned physicians and environmental leaders such as  Center for Environmental Health  founder Michael Green and the  Environmental Working Group’s  Nneka Leiba, and sits down for interviews with scientists and politicians including  NRDC  senior scientist Jennifer Sass and biologist Tyrone Hayes.
She embarks on a journey to find out the levels of toxins in her own body and explores if there is anything she can do to change them. Just as she feared, her blood tests reveal alarming levels of chemicals such as organophosphates and PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), so she undertakes a rigorous detox regimen of dietary changes, exercise and informed product choices designed to manage and minimize her toxic body burden.
She’s determined to find out: Can we hit the reset button, or is it too late?

Electric Vehicles – What’s New?

Electric vehicles are seen as the sustainable future of transportation. There are, however, two issues that have slowed their adoption. Firstly, their range (how many miles they can go on a fully charged battery).  Secondly, the ease of charging the batteries.

Researchers and businesses around the world are working to address these concerns.

The Race for a Better Battery

The Swiss start-up company Innolith claims to have developed a high-density lithium-ion battery that will give electric cars a 600 mile range. Compare that with Tesla’s batteries, which are produced by Panasonic, and can support 330 miles of range in the most expensive models. Innolith’s battery uses an inorganic solvent that is more stable and less flammable than the organic compound used in lithium-ion batteries.

However, Innolilth’s battery has not been independently verified so major car makers haven’t lined up to buy it yet. The company is starting pilot production in Germany. It admits it may take up to three (3) years to commercially launch the product.

Battery Charging…today

electric vehicle
Battery charging time will decrease as Level 3 stations become more common.

On the charging issue, most EV owners prefer the convenience of charging their vehicles at home.  Eighty percent (80%) of current owners do just that. However, they use either with Level 1 (a standard 110 volt outlet) or Level 2 (an upgrade to a 240-volt outlet). Both of these levels use AC (alternating) current. Level 1 can replenish the battery of some limited-range electrics and the hybrids – like the Chevrolet Volt or Fiat 500e – overnight. Vehicle models with larger batteries providing a range of over 200 miles require Level 2 for overnight charging.

Level 3 fast charging is 480 volts and uses a DC (direct current) plug. It is available at some commercial locations, such as Whole Foods markets, parking garages and car dealerships.

Battery Charging…looking forward

What if Level 3 fast charging were to become available for individual homeowners at a reasonable cost? And better yet, what if the electricity could come directly from solar panels to a storage battery, to the car, and bypass the local utility company completely?

The online publication Off Grid Energy Independence reports TU DELFT, along with the companies Power Research Electronics and Last Mile Solutions, has developed a quick charger that can charge cars directly from solar panels using DC current. The product is still in development stage.

electric vehicle
Roof top solar panels would enable residents to more easily and cheaply charge electric vehicles

Such a technology would be a boon for places like Rossmoor. For example, many living units and carports at Rossmoor have limited electricity. Certainly not enough to support multiple EV charging outlets. If solar panels could be installed on carport or garage roofs to provide electricity for EVs without the need to connect to the utility grid, that problem would be solved.

Major car companies are investing heavily in electric vehicles. For example, Volkswagen is converting a gas engine car factory into an electric car factory. The factory will produce over 300,000 cars per year. Hopefully major technological advances in residential charging via solar energy won’t be far behind.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, Sept. 18, 2019.  Email Anne Foreman at


December SR Movie:


When: Wednesday, December 11, 7 pm.  Where:  Peacock Hall

IDLE THREAT is a look at one man’s spirited struggle to improve public health by raising awareness about the impact of vehicle idling exhaust. His mission: draw attention to legislation making it illegal in New York City to idle a parked car or truck for more than 3 minutes — and put some teeth behind the enforcement of the law.

Idling engines consume more than 6 billion gallons of gasoline annually in the U.S., a significant but little-known contributor to local air pollution, respiratory and other diseases, and global climate change. The fumes contain several GHGs, including nitrous oxide which damages airways, blood vessels, and affects mental function. Other cities and some States have similar laws, but staff time for enforcement is lacking. Below are details about California and the Bay Area.

In a white shirt and tie, Wall Street banker George Pakenham has walked the streets of New York since 2003, courteously confronting over 3,000 drivers to explain idling’s impact and the 1971 NYC law prohibiting running a parked vehicle for more than 3 minutes. He has gained world-wide recognition for the anti-idling cause, with articles featured in the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker magazine, the Financial Times, and on TV. 

He has found that over 70% of drivers will turn off their engines, no matter the weather, after discussion of a card he’s had printed that lists the public health impacts of idling on one side and quotes the law on the other. Those drivers that don’t comply can be subject to a fine that starts at $350 and goes up to $2,000. When documented with photos or videos, he and others are eligible to receive 20% of the fine. He personally has collected more than $10,000 this way and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection now receives over 1,000 documented complaints annually.

65 minutes with SDH captions.


Several US states have some sort of restrictions on both truck and car idling. 

In California, there is a 5 minute idling restriction for diesel trucks or if an idling vehicle is unattended, and a 30 second restriction on commercial vehicles (e.g. buses) parked near schools. Palo Alto passed the most restrictive US law this summer, with a “2 or 3 minute” idling limit on all stationary vehicles (e.g. not in traffic). The UK has the most restrictive idling laws.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has had a campaign for several years, organized by the Spare-the-Air team. They created a cute video and a “toolkit”.  Because the toxic fumes are heavier than air and children are low to the ground, they are more at risk. A few school systems and some merchants with drive-thru lanes have created “idle-free zones”. At Pittsburg and Martinez schools, children volunteer to stand at the curb and enforce posted signs where parents line up their cars. Most Walnut Creek and Lamorinda schools have yet to take action.

The fumes enter through the front of your car if your engine is running and the car in front if you is idling. The gaseous toxins are concentrated more than 10-fold inside your car. Your air filter only works on particulate matter, not these toxic gases. Idling engines burn gasoline much less efficiently than when in motion, upping the hazards. Hybrid vehicles and EVs produce no such pollution, but are vulnerable to cars with internal combustion engines in front.