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In the News - Friday, April 18, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Special GREEN issue to celebrate local

and global efforts toward conservation

Only in the print edition:

Special "GREEN TIPS"


Also ONLY in the print edition:


A photo gallery of Jazzaffair 2008

Working toward an

earth-friendly 3R

   In any movement there are pioneers among the doers. Among those who pioneered going green in Three Rivers was James and Bettina Birch, who two decades ago moved to the North Fork and established FLORA BELLA FARM.

  “Back in 1989, the Birch family came to Three Rivers and offered locally grown, certified organic fruits and vegetables to the community,” Bettina said. “[The produce] was locally grown with no carbon imprint… organic, no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, yet many in the community preferred to drive to the big city to purchase their produce.”
   In retrospect, Bettina offered that perhaps green was not the “in” thing to do in 1989. James Birch has continued to offer locally-grown, certified-organic fruits and vegetables that are now available at Village Market.
   There is no doubt that supporting local businesses is key to building an earth-friendly community. But there are several factors that discourage many from joining the movement, not the least of which is added cost.
   The SEQUOIA NATURAL HISTORY ASSOCIATION (SNHA) announced recently that they are no longer offering the traditional, disposable shopping bags and are replacing the former bags with new green, reusable bags similar to what grocery stores offer.
   These new bags will sell for $1.95 and eventually there will be several sizes. The idea, according to Mark Tilchen, SNHA executive director, is that the customer can use these bags when they go shopping anywhere.
   The dilemma for all businesses, Tilchen said, is that while a greening world works to get people out of the “must have a bag habit,” most businesses realize that they must cater to their customers. SNHA is looking at other products that also decompose faster and are more earth-friendly.
   For customers who experience anxiety about the use of plastic bags, Tilchen said, there is a product made from corn.
   These bags actually have a dated shelf life as they start to decompose immediately, Tilchen said.
   It’s becoming the norm in America, Tilchen recently told his sales staff, not to ask the customer if they want a bag when making a small purchase. Now cashiers are waiting for the customer to request a bag.
   It’s practically a given that nonprofits like SNHA should be on the forefront of going green but for private businesses that must also weigh the upside versus the bottom line, there can be a costly learning curve.
   THE GATEWAY RESTAURANT, after attending several industry trade shows, voluntarily implemented some green measures upon learning about new green standards being implemented in urban areas.
Glenn McIntyre, owner of the local eatery, said besides the obvious environmental benefits, he believes that discriminating patrons feel better about eating out at an establishment that is making an effort to do their part.

  “I want to eliminate the use of Styrofoam completely,” Glenn said. “Our to-go platters are made from compostable sugar cane but they aren’t cheap,” he said. “We charge 50 cents extra for a to-go order, but so far the feedback from our customers has been all positive.”
   In-house diners can still request a free doggie bag, Glenn added.

  “We have also switched our industrial cleaners to a citrus-based product that is earth-friendly,” Glenn said. “But there were some unforeseen costs in the learning curve of that product.”
   What he was referring to is an incident that occurred shortly after the first 30-gallon drum of the natural solvent was delivered to the parking area adjacent to the rear door of the kitchen. A marauding bear treated the all-natural product more like food and pushed over the container, spilling more than $300 of the product in the parking lot.

  “Since that happened we learned our lesson and now store the container in our bear-proof garbage cage,” Glenn said.
   One other item of note relative to the local green scene is that this week’s water testing results for the Kaweah River indicates that the rivers’ waters are in very good shape. The highest readings of E. coli bacteria were measured in the South Fork and are still well below the murky thresholds of August and September.
   That according to Randy Pares, COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT (CSD) general manager, who conducted water testing earlier this week.

  “Those results are constantly updated on the district’s newly redesigned website, and the public is invited to log on whenever they like,” said Randy.
   For current water quality information, visit: www.3riverscsd.com

Chief Zapalac

enters sheriff’s race

   Woodlake Police Chief John Zapalac has accomplished a lot in his more than three decades of law enforcement. He’s been a deputy sheriff, SWAT officer, a detective, a sergeant at Bob Wiley Detention Center, a violent crimes unit supervisor, and since 1997, the chief of the Woodlake Police Department.
   In 2006, after running a hard-fought, albeit unsuccessful, campaign for the office of Tulare County’s top cop against incumbent Bill Wittman, he knew he was in for a tough row to hoe. Undeterred, he is committed to running again because meeting difficult challenges head on are nothing new for Chief Zapalac.
   Chief Zapalac’s strategy this time around is to start his campaign sooner and work even harder, hence last Tuesday’s visit to the Sequoia Cider Mill Restaurant in Three Rivers to kickoff the 2010 campaign.

  “When I look at what’s going on in the unincorporated areas like Three Rivers, I see there is a whole lot of room for improvement,” Chief Zapalac said. “When a citizen reports a crime and they are told that no officer is available until the next morning that is not acceptable.”
   During his recent visit to Three Rivers, Chief Zap, as he his known to his multitude of friends, said that response times and river trespassing will be his top priorities for Three Rivers.

  “These problems we have in communities like Three Rivers are not insurmountable,” Zapalac said. “If I’m elected sheriff in 2010, the community will know that the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department is here to serve, and I can assure all citizens that there will be a greater law enforcement presence.”

DUI a factor

in South Fork mishap

   The least distraction while driving the narrow roads around Three Rivers often figure in a major accident. Last Monday’s (April 14) mishap turned out to be a near-miss but underscored what happens all too often when a driver uses poor judgment.
   The accident occurred south of Heidi Drive on South Fork Drive at 3 p.m. when a 1995 Toyota pickup being driven up canyon by a 46-year-old Three Rivers man suddenly crossed the roadway’s centerline and sideswiped an on-coming vehicle. That pickup, a 2006 Nissan Titan being driven by a 59-year-old Three Rivers man, sustained minor damage.
   According to a preliminary report filed by the CHP investigating officer, the driver of the 1995 Toyota pickup parked his vehicle but then left the scene of the accident on foot. He was later contacted and arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
   The motorist was taken into custody and later released. The CHP reported that more than one-half of all fatalities involve a driver who is impaired and even when nobody is injured the financial impact of being charged with DUI routinely exceeds $10,000.

What does clean

really smell like?

   It’s time for spring-cleaning and selecting cleaning products has rarely required much thought. Perhaps it’s what mom and dad used. Maybe it’s on sale. Maybe it’s because it smells good.
   But since when did clean have a smell? Clean doesn’t smell like pine, lavender, or roses. Or bleach or ammonia. In other words, we’ve been taught that clean means chemicals.
   Think of the toxic cocktail that is potentially created in and around our homes that, of course, are super-insulated and airtight because that’s what we’ve been told to do to conserve on the heating and cooling. As we inhale, there are toxic fumes due to mopping, scrubbing a toilet, cleaning an oven, shampooing the carpets or upholstery, clearing a drain, dry-cleaned clothes, mothballs, spraying or “bombing” insects, and even washing the dishes and doing laundry.
   We are exposing our children to these poisons and, because they are smaller and their lungs still developing, they are much more vulnerable than adults to the negative effects. Years ago, lead, asbestos, and DDT were found to have detrimental effects and were outlawed, but there are new risks in modern homes.
   Asthma, cancer, autism, birth defects, allergies, hyperactivity, and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) are all serious health issues that may be caused by environmental factors, although there has not been sufficient testing to determine the long-term ill-health effects of exposure to commercial cleaning products. Even if for only this reason, it is time to rethink how we clean our homes.
   The chemical industry is completely unregulated in the U.S. There is no legislation that requires cleaning companies to list the ingredients in their products.
   So they don’t because they are afraid of giving their secret formulas away. In addition, they are never going to willingly admit that their products contain potential carcinogens. That would be committing economic suicide.
   Americans today spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors — at home, in school, or in our workplaces. We are most likely breathing one or all of the following on a daily basis: dust mites, bacteria, pet dander, mold and mildew, cooking and cleaning particles, cigarette smoke, carpet fibers, and pollutants brought in from outside such as pollen, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, dirt, heavy metals and, yes, animal feces.
   There is no Clean Air Act to set standards for inside the home. It’s solely up to us.
   It’s important to purchase only products that fully disclose all their ingredients, so a consumer can determine if the product consists of synthetic or vegetable-based, toxic or naturally-derived ingredients. It is advised to steer clear of products that contain nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), alkylphenol ethoxylate (APE), petroleum-derived or petrochemical blended fragrances, heavy metals, formaldehyde, synthetic pine oil, chlorine or chlorinated or brominated solvents, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phosphates, and they shouldn’t be contained in aerosol cans.
   Ultimately, products should be biodegradable (at greater than 90 percent in 30 days), derived from replenishable plant sources and renewable resources, concentrated (smaller container for more product), and have a pH level between 4 and 10.
   There are some common household items that can be used in place of toxic cleaning products. They include white vinegar, lemon, salt, olive oil, cream of tartar, ketchup, and baking soda. Also useful would be to find nontoxic soaps, including hand dishwashing liquid and automatic dishwashing products. And if clean still has to have a smell, then use antibacterial essential oil.
   Each day, more nontoxic cleaning agents finding their way onto store shelves. As consumers become educated about their cleaning products, healthier and more sustainable alternatives will become more widely available and at lower costs. And soon, we can hope that schools, hospitals, corporations, and government agencies will also implement green-cleaning programs.
   There are books that contain recipes for safe and healthy cleaning. Also, the Internet is an indispensable resource; just search “natural window cleaner,” “natural oven cleaner,” “natural drain cleaner,” and more.
   Green cleaning not only lowers a family’s exposure to dangerous chemicals; it saves money, simplifies your life, promotes healthy living, and provides alternative products for the next generation so they will use natural products like their parents did.

Not so cool

   Several old refrigerators are an eyesore along North Fork Drive near Finger Point, an area that is remote yet accessible enough to be popular with illegal dumpers. These appliances contain many hazardous components and ozone-depleting substances.

  To properly dispose of a refrigerated appliance, contact the county Public Works Department or the local trash-collection company, Waste Connections, and inquire about their bulky items disposal methods.

Meds on land, in water

   Over 80 percent of waterways tested by the U.S. Geological Survey show traces of medications such as acetaminophen, hormones, blood pressure medicine, codeine, and antibiotics. Currently, wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove these compounds, allowing them to enter the environment.
   Across the globe, pharmaceutical waste is contaminating waterways. Our bodies do not completely metabolize all medicinal compounds, so they are excreted into wastewater.
   Another pathway for pharmaceutical waste in the environment is through the disposal of unused and expired medications down drains, toilets, or in the trash.    Do NOT dispose of any medication down the toilet or in the trash.
   Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer as to what to do with unused medication. Hazardous waste facilities are prevented from taking them, pharmacies are forbidden by law to accept them, and they should never be thrown in the trash to end up in a landfill.
   Just as it is easier to toss an old refrigerator over an embankment than properly dispose of it, the proper disposal of medications is another dilemma for the conscientious consumer.
   Private industry and local governments need to be proactive in these issues so everyone from every walk of life has the access to and knowledge of how to properly discard no longer needed or wanted items.


Rethinking towns

by John Elliott

   In 1956, the Federal Highway Act set out to disperse our factories, our stores, our people, and in short, set in motion a revolution in this nation’s living habits. Unprecedented numbers of automobiles allowed cities to expand rapidly into rural areas.
   Within a generation, areas in the so-called Sun Belt, from Florida to California, and to some extent in the vicinity of every large urban area, were transformed into vast smog-filled deserts that were neither city, suburb, nor country. Clusters of new housing tracts, office parks, and shopping malls sprawled outward from urban centers as more families took flight from the inner cities.
   By the time the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, community planners were being challenged to meet the housing and transportation needs of a population that has been growing exponentially and consuming resources like there is no tomorrow.
   In Urban Sprawl and Public Health: Designing, Planning, and Building for Healthy Communities, the authors present a compelling argument that all is not well in these modern communities and that “tomorrow” is already here. If we don’t make some sweeping changes there will be dire consequences for future generations. For example, the proportion of Americans who are overweight has been rising at an alarming rate; in 1960 it was 24 percent; in 1980 it was 47 percent; in 2000 it was 64 percent with more than half of that number defined as obese.
   Overweight is rapidly overtaking tobacco as the major cause of death in the United States. And if obesity is the healthcare crisis of our time consider another legacy of society overly dependent on automobiles. On an average day 120 Americans are killed as a result of automobile accidents.
   Authors Frumkin, Frank, and Jackson, demonstrate that these alarming trends can be attributed to the way we have built our livable space for the last half-century.
   In the last two decades, our built environment has changed profoundly. In the more than 200 years since our nation was founded, of all the land developed, 25 percent has occurred since 1980.
   No one chooses to be obese, in poor health, or stuck in traffic. But for many people that is the reality of a lifestyle that is suffering simply because of the choices we have made in using our buildable space. For many of us, things don’t feel quite right but we are so caught up in maintaining the status quo that we don’t have a clue where to search for solutions.
   The modern America of obesity, inactivity, depression, and loss of community has not happened by chance. We have legislated, subsidized, and planned it this way, and that’s the bad news. The good news, according to the authors, is that we can also plan our way out of this predicament.
   But to do that it’s going to take some lifestyle changes and a vision of a very different world. It’s a world where people can walk to shops, schools, friends’ homes, or transit stations, mingle with neighbors and admire trees, plants and waterways; the air and the water is clean; and there are parks for children and activity centers for teens and senior citizens; and convenient work and recreation places for the rest of us.
   As the mistakes of poor planning begin to affect a greater segment of society, some will call for policies of no growth. But “no growth” is not an option; the challenge is to grow in ways that are healthy, socially just, and environmentally sustainable.
   Want to be part of the solution and not the problem? Make your next read this one.

Rethinking food

by Sarah Elliott

   This book could be written in seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
   But since we’ve gotten away from this obvious, basic-sense diet, author Michael Pollan needs more pages to re-explain to us how to eat. Necessary, yes, because we, as a nation, are confused and very disconnected about this issue of sustenance.
   Following The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which traced food from farm to table and was not always appetizing, In Defense of Food is a thoroughly researched description of why we should not eat anything that our great-grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food and how we face an uphill battle against a multi-billion-dollar industry of food manufacturers (two words that do not belong together), marketers, and nutritional scientists.
   To illustrate the power of the food industry, as of 1938 it was illegal to market any food product that could be confused with a natural food item without having the word “imitation” on the package (think butter and margarine). But to slap this label on was a death knell for the product because shoppers thus informed would choose real over fake.
   Today, the “imitation” label should be prevalent in every supermarket aisle, but is nowhere to be found. That’s because, according to the book, the FDA repealed the regulation in 1973 in a rather omnibus way. This was a turning point for the processed-foods industry because the law now stated that if the manufactured food was perceived as a nutritional equal to its natural counterpart it was no longer considered imitation… or fake (consider fat-free half and half; it’s actually possible with the help of a lab).
   This book also reveals the fallacy of the diets that we have been programmed to observe. We know that all food is comprised of one or more of the organic compounds known as fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Now think back on how we’ve been told to eat, or not to eat, over the years.
   Remember when fat was the enemy? If we eliminated fat from our diets we wouldn’t be fat.
   So we ate fat-free and lots of it. And we got fatter. Many didn’t realize that fat-free actually had as many calories and, to preserve the flavor, more sugar.
Then it was protein. In order to maintain optimal health, we needed to avoid meat and eggs.
   More recently, it’s carbohydrates that are evil. Eliminate the carbs and the weight will melt away.
   These days, we really ought to know better. And Pollan’s not convinced that it’s the individual nutrients that keep us healthy (some calcium here, vitamin D there, iron, C, folic acid…), but rather, the reaction in our bodies of all the nutrients together as they occur naturally in the whole food.
   Since the second half of the 20th century, we have tended to define healthy food by what’s not in it. When trying to find out what a healthy diet is, we don’t ask, “What should we eat?” It’s always, “What should we not eat?”
   Today, the choice is between food and processed food. And if it has more than five ingredients, it’s probably not food.
   Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.



THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
© Copyright 2003-2008 The Kaweah Commonwealth