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By Napa Waste Prevention Specialist Kendra Bruno
What’s hotter than Napa’s recent summer heat or those fidget spinners? Composting. And it has never been easier to do before in the City of Napa then it is now. Instead of putting all those food scraps and soiled paper (napkins, paper towels, tissues, etc.) into your landfill/trash can in the kitchen, collect them in a different container and then dispose of them in your (residential) brown cart.
Sounds easy, right?
And yet, even with compost being so hot right now, I have met quite a few people in Napa who say they do not compost. Which left me wondering -- why? Thus began my journey of asking almost everyone I interacted with as a City official (and if I am being honest with you, in my regular social gatherings as well) if they composted and if not – why? I also put out a call on my (personal) Facebook page and asked a variety of co-workers from different departments for their concerns composting. Here are some of the reasons (followed by my solutions) below:
Concern #1: It’s going to attract rodents.
Answer #1: Remember, you are generating the same amount and type of materials as before, but you are just putting them into a different container. As long as you empty out your inside compost container the same frequency you were emptying out your trash – you should not need to worry about rodents.
Concern #2: I used the container you (NRWS/City of Napa) gave me and after a few uses, it was gross inside!
Answer #2: There are a couple solutions to keep your kitchen compost pail clean and not “gross.” First, make sure to empty your compost pail every few days – especially if you are filling it with fresh vegetables and fruits scraps (which decompose quickly). The kitchen pails the City of Napa gave out are dishwasher safe with a removable lid, so run it through the dishwasher when needed. Second, use shredded newspaper or soiled tissues/paper towels as a “bedding” for the bottom of your kitchen pail. Our foods have more moisture than you realize and it is primarily the liquids from your “wet” foods that cause odors and accelerate the decomposition process. Lining the bottom of your pail is a quick, easy and effective way to minimize the “gross” factor and keep odors down too! Third, consider purchasing the certified compostable bag liners. Relatively inexpensive and able to be composted in our commercial facility, they ensure a clean compost pail! You can find them at Ben & Jerry’s, Home Depot, Whole Foods and more. Check out NapaRecycling.com for a full list of locations and helpful tips for composting.
Concern #3: Whenever I put my food scraps in my brown cart, it seems to attract gnats or bugs.
Answer #3: There is a bunch of answers for this problem. One is to make sure your cart is kept in the shade and not in direct sunlight. Second, try using those compostable bags we talked about earlier – a compostable bag will help reduce any odor and the attraction of bugs. Third, add some leafy greens (if you have any) or some cardboard or shredded paper (from the office) to help with the quick decomposition of food. Consider requesting a 35-gallon brown residential compost cart, in addition to (or instead of) the current 95 gallon compost cart you have from Napa Recycling & Waste Services (remember: you can have up to two brown carts, free of charge). The smaller cart is easier to clean and if you do not have any yard waste allows for easy disposal. Lastly, consider adding some rosemary, tea tree oil, or baking soda intermittently. By diverting all your compost into the proper bin, you will reduce your landfill/trash hugely – to the point where you may be able to reduce your outside landfill bin (and have some financial savings).
Since the introduction of food composting in residential brown compost carts, NRWS and the City of Napa saw on average a 13% decrease in trash/landfill tonnage in 2015 and 2016! That equates to approximately 150 tons/month less of organics going to the landfill!
What does that means to you? It means 1,800 tons annually of organic materials did not decompose without oxygen in our landfill and create carbon dioxide and methane gas (one of the most potent greenhouse gases) – which also equals taking 343 cars off the road a month or 4,107 cars off the road a year!
Additionally, it means you are giving your food another life – compost! And that compost is purchased by local landscapers, vineyards, and your neighbor for their garden. Remember, in the City of Napa you can put all food (including meats, bones, dairy, shells, etc), soiled paper (napkins with food or cleaning solution, parchment paper, etc) and yard trimmings in your brown residential curbside cart from NRWS. A full list and printable poster is available at here. Note: backyard composting should not have meat or dairy included in it (interested in learning more) Happy Composting!
Last Thursday, 50 Napa County businesses were recognized for their commitment to environmental sustainability at the inaugural Napa County Green Business Celebration. Co-hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), Sustainable Napa County and Napa County, the celebration acknowledged local businesses and organizations that received their Green Business Certifications or were recertified in the past 18 months. Attendees included more than 100 business leaders, vintners and community officials.
To preserve and enhance the unique place that is the Napa Valley, Napa County was one of the first participants in the Bay Area Green Business Program, which later became the statewide California Green Business Program. In 2008, the NVV and other industry partners launched Napa Green Certified Winery, customizing the program specifically for wine producers.
Through these programs, businesses demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship by going above and beyond environmental compliance. Today, there are more than 90 Napa County Certified Green Businesses, including more than 60 wineries. Re-certification is every three years based on tracking water and energy use and waste diversion and demonstrating continuous improvement in resource conservation.
Click here to learn more.
Congratulations to BottleRock Napa Valley with support from ZeroHero for achieving 75 percent landfill diversion for the first time in the event’s history. The event generated 225 total tons of material, up about 80 tons from last year, but still managed to send 10 tons less to landfill than in 2016. In addition to an increase in recycling amounts, there were nearly 20 tons of material that went to composting, and 10 pallets of edible food were gleaned by a Leadership Napa Valley practicum group and distributed to local organizations including the Food Bank and The Table.
84.82 tons recycling
19.32 tons compost
7.50 tons food rescue
56.86 tons wood recycling (to renewable energy)
56.90 tons landfill
Results: 75% diversion rate
Sierra Minchaca has joined the City of American Canyon as its first sustainability coordinator. Previously, she worked for the City of Napa for four years, first as a recycling assistant, then as a recycling specialist, where she managed the implementation and monitoring of composting and recycling for all of the private and public schools within the city.
In her new position, Sierra is working on water conservation and energy efficiency programs in American Canyon. She works with residents on the City’s Cash For Grass and toilet retrofit rebate programs, and with commercial customers converting their irrigation systems to recycled water. Sierra is also working with businesses to convert solid waste and increase recycling.
“I’m still coming up to speed with a lot of the programming,” said Sierra, “Recycling, water conservation, and energy efficiency are all aspects of resource conservation; they each have their own set of regulations and management practices that need to be properly executed and monitored. I’m continuing to learn everything I can, and I am incredibly excited to be here and a part of all of the awesome conservation practices taking place in American Canyon.”
Sierra serves as the chair of the Environmental Education Coalition of Napa County (EECNC), which presents the annual Earth Day event. EECNC also hosts a film series (the next movie is Watermark on Thursday, July 27).
As part of the Town of Yountville’s environmental stewardship and commitment to environmental sustainability practices consistent with its adopted Climate Action Plan, the town has begun installing solar arrays at the Community Center, the Wastewater Treatment Plant/Corporation Yard, and the Wastewater Pump Station. When complete there will be 22,900 square feet of solar arrays, with a combined wattage of the three projects producing about 290 KW of electricity.
The project will provide fixed costs of electricity and help avoid the annual increase in cost for power over the 20-year solar contract. It is estimated to save the town over $2.2 million in energy costs over 25 years.
The project was part of the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) program, a regional grant-funded effort to create a collaborative Request for Proposals (RFP) for solar projects in Napa, Marin, and Sonoma counties. The effort was spearheaded by the City of San Rafael and included solar projects from seven other municipalities in the North Bay, where agencies benefitted from a 12 percent reduction in bid prices through group purchasing costs. The program is modeled on a similar successful project that was implemented in the Silicon Valley.
The Yountville Solar Array Project began construction at the Community Center and Wastewater Treatment Plant the week of May 22 with conduit boring and trench, and moved into full construction of the parking canopy at the Community Center May 30. Construction of the steel structures and assembly of the modules are estimated to take about six weeks; they are scheduled to be energized in late August.