It was a very green year

2010 saw a lot of progress on the local sustainability front

The elusive fisher began to be reintroduced to Butte County in early 2010.

The elusive fisher began to be reintroduced to Butte County in early 2010.

Photo courtesy of Richard callas, dfg

It was a busy year for local sustainability issues of all sorts. Heck, we even launched a new sustainability-focused column—The GreenHouse—in early May to help fulfill the growing demand for local-focused green news.

A number of stories about animals—from local wildlife to backyard hens—made eco-news throughout the year. From an early-year piece about the elusive, weasel-like fisher being reintroduced into Butte County, to stories focusing on salmon, black bears, alpacas and cute little Northern Saw-whet owls, to piece after piece chronicling local citizens’ battles with the city of Chico to own chickens without paying exorbitant fees, our animal friends made headlines.

The topic of eggs also made news. The confluence of a bad economy, bad eggs coming out of massive factory farms and people’s increased desire for self-sufficiency seems to have renewed interest in consuming eggs straight from the good ol’ backyard henhouse. This growing trend of eating farm-fresh, humanely produced eggs was exemplified by the Chico State University Farm’s commendable foray into egg production and sales, via its brood of 100 happy Australorp hens living in a red coop in green pasture.

The subject of local food production made GreenWays news more than any single subject this year, it seems, with eco-friendly farming, gardening and CSAs—community-supported agriculture—vying with chickens and eggs for the top spot.

Former rodeo rider Tyson Heusser’s Green Beginnings CSA came on the scene in 2010 with its dazzling array of heirloom crops.

Photo By Christine g.k. lapado

In January, local organic-rice producer Lundberg Family Farms announced that 66 of its products received a coveted “Non-GMO Verified” seal from the U.S.-Canadian nonprofit Non-GMO Project. By year’s end, Lundberg Farms’ Wild Blend rice had been featured in Women’s Health magazine’s “Best Packaged Foods for Women” list.

Local gardeners David Grau, Jennifer Jewell, Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper, Bethany Johnson, Quinn Mendez and Sheena Zweigle all weighed in with their various projects.

Grau started out 2010 with a bang by offering his popular series of organic-gardening classes at the Chico Grange hall. Jewell was featured in February for her weekly KCHO radio show In a North State Garden and subsequently started contributing stories to the CN&R; Ladwig-Cooper worked with the local GRUB Cooperative to facilitate a local seed exchange; and Johnson was instrumental in converting an unused apartment-complex tennis court into a viable vegetable garden. Chico High ag teachers Mendez and Zweigle worked with students to produce a huge fall bounty at their east-Chico Henshaw Farms project.

CSAs abounded in 2010, with Tyson Heusser’s Gridley-based Green Beginnings Farm joining a local list that included Comanche Creek Farms, Freshies and Matthew Martin’s Pyramid Farms.

California native plants were newsworthy as well; we featured pieces about Germain Boivin’s popular Floral Native Nursery and regional native-plant expert and retired Chico State biology professor Wes Dempsey’s Maidu Medicine Walks in Upper Bidwell Park.

The Chico Certified Farmers’ Market celebrated its 30th anniversary in July.

Photo By kyle delmar

We also reported on the growing importance and activity of the local Slow Food movement, the growing interest in food preservation, the Chico Certified Farmers’ Market’s 30th anniversary, and the need to improve the gloomy state of local school-cafeteria lunches. Bridgette Brick-Wells’ Healthy Lunch & Lifestyle Project provided a much-needed ray of sunshine to several local schools with its fresh, healthful bento-box lunches. New charter K-8 school Sherwood Montessori—in addition to serving Brick-Wells’ lunches—came onto our good-food radar for its stellar food-centered curriculum featuring cooking and gardening instruction, as well as an on-site veggie garden and farmers’ market.

Sustainability in the schools was a hot topic this year—from Nord Country School’s emphasis on teaching kids old-fashioned techniques of farming, blacksmithing, craft-making and food processing, to Chico Green School’s digital textbooks, to Butte College’s first graduating class from its Clean Energy Workforce program.

Additionally, Chico High celebrated its brand-new wing of energy-efficient classrooms, and Chico State weighed in as usual with its annual sustainability conference, in conjunction with Butte College.

Chico State environmental-science professor Cristina Archer—named one of nine people to watch in our “Who to watch in 2010” story (Jan. 7)—did us proud with a three-week-long assignment she gave her students in the springtime requiring them to keep a journal on their attempts to conserve resources by committing to three of six categories of change: producing zero trash, not driving anything gas-powered, cutting water consumption in half, cutting electricity consumption in half, not eating meat and reducing heat consumption.

The university’s AS Recycling, headed up by Eli Goodsell, also worked hard this year toward a goal of zero-waste, teaming up with Recology Butte Colusa Counties to implement an innovative, on-campus food-scrap composting program.

Among green awards earned in 2010, Butte College took home the LEED Gold for its new Arts building, Feather Falls Casino & Lodge won the California Trane High Performance Building Showcase Award, the Arc of Butte County was given a Waste Reduction Awards Program certificate by the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was honored twice in December—by the Platinum Sacramento Area Sustainable Area program for its green transportation policies, and by none other than the Environmental Protection Agency as Green Business of the Year in its Pacific Southwest region.