this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
Special GREEN issue to celebrate
global efforts toward conservation
in the print edition:
ONLY in the print edition:
FACES OF JAZZAFFAIR no. 35
photo gallery of Jazzaffair 2008
Working toward an
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
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
For customers who experience
anxiety about the use of plastic bags,
Tilchen said, there is a product made
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,”
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
“Those results are constantly updated
on the district’s newly redesigned
website, and the public is invited to
log on whenever they like,” said
For current water quality
information, visit: www.3riverscsd.com
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
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
What does clean
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
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
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
The chemical industry is
completely unregulated in the U.S. There
is no legislation that requires cleaning
companies to list the ingredients in their
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,
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
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
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
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
Across the globe, pharmaceutical
waste is contaminating waterways. Our
bodies do not completely metabolize all
medicinal compounds, so they are excreted
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.
WHAT WE’RE READING
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
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
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
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
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
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
Want to be part of the solution
and not the problem? Make your next read
by Sarah Elliott
This book could be written
in seven words: Eat food. Not too much.
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
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,
Then it was protein. In order to maintain
optimal health, we needed to avoid meat
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