Pleasanton Weekly

- November 30, 2012

Sustainable Danville Area

Environmental Stewardship

by Jessica Lipsky

While doing a "green" remodel of her kitchen, Cynthia Ruzzi fielded many questions from curious neighbors eager to learn what made the job sustainable. Finding that people generally want to learn from friends, despite a plethora of sustainability-focused publications, Ruzzi co-founded Sustainable Danville Area as a local resource to connect and share information about sustainable practices

Inspired by Sustainable Lafayette, Ruzzi and co-founders Darlene Gayler and Tracy Bauer first kicked off Sustainable Danville on Earth Day in 2010 and held an opening meeting to hear resident concerns. More than 40 people came to the gathering, which is now a monthly topical event dedicated to discussion, networking and learning about alternative practices for home and business. Topics run the gamut from dwindling water resources to organic wines, and occasionally include a field trip to get hands-on experience picking organic produce for canning.

Shortly thereafter, SDA launched its Green Your Schools program as an opportunity for high school students, teachers, parents and administrators to connect and brainstorm sustainable campus programs. In addition to hosting discussions on waste reduction and recycling, SDA spearheaded a school supply drive that gathered 675 pounds of gently used materials for schools in east Contra Costa County. Trash collected at San Ramon Valley High during the drive was reduced by half, Ruzzi added.

Sustainable Danville hopes to work with San Ramon Valley Unified School District to create a composting program to help power East Bay Municipal Utility District facilities through methane trapping.

The group also partnered with The Urban Farmers to collect unwanted backyard fruit for donation to local food pantries and has collected over 2,000 pounds of fruit since August. SDA collects food at the Danville farmers market and at 822 Hartz Way.

"What we find is people start to adopt one measure and they kind of decide, 'Wow this is taking care of our neighborhood, our community,' then they start to adopt more and more measures," Ruzzi said. "I think what we teach is we can be sustainable without sacrifice."

After working to certify the Town of Danville with the Bay Area Green Business Program, Ruzzi decided to encourage local businesses to become certified as green. Certified businesses must adopt 25 sustainable practices to be certified in what Ruzzi called a very stringent program.

"I felt that many of our businesses weren't being recognized for what they were doing right and perhaps they needed a stepping stone to get to that Bay Area Green Business Program," Ruzzi said.

Over 40 local businesses -- from Heritage Bank of Commerce to Cottage Jewel in downtown Danville -- have been certified since 2011 and, to Ruzzi's surprise, many had already gone green. The average participating business uses around 50 reduce, reuse or recycle measures.

In addition to working with an Eagle Scout to build portable bike racks for use at San Ramon Valley High and town events, Sustainable Danville was instrumental in instituting a bicycle parking study. As a result of the study, the town installed 39 new racks -- a change SDA members can really see.

"I'm very proud of work we've done among different organizations. Our programs might be working with schools and with the town and the Chamber and it would be impossible for a county organization to really bring that kind of depth to community activities," Ruzzi said. "It's really important to support individual communities as they enact local ordinances and practices and enforce those practices."

Although Sustainable Danville focuses specifically on its namesake town, Ruzzi said SDA is happy to be a resource or mentor for individuals looking to create similar communities throughout the Tri-Valley.

"When you really get down to it, the reason we do this is because we really love Danville and our community and we want to make sure we preserve what we have for future generations," Ruzzi said. "The biggest way we can give back to the rest of the Tri-Valley area is to share our story, share our resources, meet and talk."

Hero FYI

* Sustainable Danville Area supported a local clean water program at various events, including a screening of "Blue Gold" at San Ramon Valley High to educate residents on conservation of the limited resource. The group also hosted hydrologist Leslie Dumas, of RMC Water & Environment, who spoke about local water resources and future vulnerabilities.

* SDA supports the Bounty Garden, a nonprofit community garden that operates out of Hap Magee Ranch Park in Alamo. The Bounty Garden will kick off its winter season in January and donate food from its nine garden beds to food banks.

* The average American uses between 330 and 500 plastic bags a year for an average of 12 minutes before throwing them out. Bring a reusable bag to the store and cut down on the approximately 150 billion bags used each year in the U.S.

* Food consumed in the U.S. typically travels 1,500-2,500 miles to reach our plates and accounts for about 20% of all fossil fuel consumption. Eat locally sourced food and reduce carbon emissions while supporting the local economy.

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