Famous speakers to beer drinkers

A look at some of the best environmental stories of 2009

What’s the connection between (above and below) Scott McNall, Chet Vogt, Sierra Nevada ale, farmers’ markets, the Gateway Science Museum and Daryl Hannah? All have been a GreenWays topic in 2009.

What’s the connection between (above and below) Scott McNall, Chet Vogt, Sierra Nevada ale, farmers’ markets, the Gateway Science Museum and Daryl Hannah? All have been a GreenWays topic in 2009.

1. Big names come to Chico

In March, New Yorker writer and climate-change expert Elizabeth Kolbert gave a lecture in Chico State’s Laxson Auditorium as part of the university’s On the Creek lecture series, and Nicolette Hahn Niman, sustainable-farming advocate and author of Righteous Porkchop, appeared on campus in April.

In early November, radical California environmentalist/author Derrick Jensen and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Capt. Paul Watson both appeared at Chico State’s This Way to Sustainability V conference as keynote speakers, and actress/environmental activist Daryl Hannah gave a Nov. 6 talk on pressing sustainability issues.

2. Local construction goes green

Green buildings popped up all over town in 2009. Chico even has a new green subdivision.

At Chico State: the Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC) and the Gateway Science Museum (see number eight).

At Butte College: the Arts Building and the Student and Administrative Services Building.

Another big project: Habitat for Humanity’s impressive East 16th Street Infill Project. (See page 11 for more on these structures.)

3. This Way to Sustainability V

Chico State’s fifth annual This Way to Sustainability conference in November was notable for the widely known environmentalists it brought to town, including Sea Shepherd’s Watson and German climate-change expert Nico Stehr, as well as the appearance of several speakers who addressed the issue of nuclear energy, both pro and con. Gwyneth Cravens and Rip Anderson proved to be two of the more controversial nuclear-power speakers, in part because both pro-nuclear activists were previously against nuclear power.

4. High school gets green light

Chico Green School, Chico’s first sustainability-themed high school, got the thumbs-up in October when the Chico Unified School District’s Board of Trustees approved its charter, subject to some minor revisions in wording. Chico Green School plans to open its doors to 50 students next fall, teaching a curriculum that emphasizes environmental and social responsibility.

5. More farmers’ markets!

Chicoans love their farmers’ markets. The CN&R took note of a number of relatively new places—in addition to the tried-and-true Thursday-evening and Saturday-morning downtown markets—where Chicoans can go for farm-fresh and organic produce.

Enloe Medical Center started up a new farmers’ market this past summer in the parking lot of the Enloe Conference Center, which ran every Tuesday through September. Chico State’s Organic Vegetable Project garden, out at the University Farm off Hegan Lane, offered organic veggies for sale every Friday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. through December, when it was expected to reapply for funding.

And local healthful-food activist Richard Roth weighed in with his year-round Chapmantown Food & Fitness Festival (Fridays, 2-6 p.m. at the Dorothy F. Johnson Center), which takes food stamps.

6. New store for ReStore

One of the biggest pieces of news in the area of recycling this year was the ReStore’s move over the summer to a more spacious location on Meyers Street. The store had outgrown its old storefront on Park Avenue big time, so operators are thrilled to have three times the space, allowing them to expand the program.

Run by Habitat for Humanity of Butte County, the store sells donated gently used household appliances, construction materials and other items. Proceeds from the store help fund Habitat projects, such as affordable homes for low-income folks.

7. Local green hero

The North Valley is home to plenty of people doing great things for the environment, but one of the more remarkable characters written about this year is Chet Vogt.

A bona-fide cowboy, Vogt’s Three Creeks Ranch is a model for sustainable ranching. The Elk Creek cattleman rotates his grassing cattle so that the animals are gentle on the land.

His method has worked. Springs that had gone dry flow once again, and the once-dead Glenn County ranch is now a haven for wildlife. Vogt was chosen as the California winner of the 2008 Leopold Conservation Award—an honor named after pioneering, world-renowned conservationist and writer Aldo Leopold.

8. Gateway to learning

One of Chico State’s newest buildings is the Gateway Science Museum. The structure is impressive, because it’s a green building.

But what may be more impressive is the thought in its design. The structure is oriented to mimic the landscape of the Northern Sacramento Valley. In addition to being surrounded by plant species native to the region, it has several indoor features, such as a volcano-like skylight, that are representative of the area’s natural landscapes. What a way to learn!

9. Environmental champion announces departure

In his role as executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Development at Chico State, Scott McNall is like king of all things environmental.

McNall served as the university’s provost for about 13 years before helping to establish the institute 2 1/2 years ago, and is the first person at the university to head up the center.

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Chico State has some big shoes to fill this spring when he departs from that post. McNall not only served as de-facto spokesman for the university’s environmental initiatives, but he also was instrumental in bringing together a range of partners for the good of the earth.

10. Drinking, locally

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. gets props in a major way for all of its many outstanding eco-friendly efforts. There’s no shortage: a solar array, fuel cells, etc.

This year, the CN&R would like to say kudos for three things. First off is the brewery’s new rail spur, which allows the beermaker to transport its grains by train, cutting down on the consumption of fossil fuels. Second, the company processes its used vegetable oil into an alternative fuel through its biodiesel processor.

And last, but not least, is the company’s production of an entirely estate-grown Estate Brewers Harvest Ale. Diving into a niche filled only by winemakers (terroir), Sierra Nevada’s new craft ale (from locally grown hops and barley) allows beer drinkers to get a little taste of Chico.

We’ll drink to that!