Green & Natural

Writers’ Picks

Effie Yeaw Nature Center: Come for the Maidu village, stay for the salmon spawning.

Effie Yeaw Nature Center: Come for the Maidu village, stay for the salmon spawning.

Photo By Larry Dalton

Best way to make a big impact with a little thing

Reusable bags
Cities worldwide are taking the initiative to ban the environmentally unfriendly plastic shopping bag. Why should you ban it, too? Because bringing reusable bags is not only responsible, it’s easy. Local grocery stores offer customers incentives to do so: Safeway, a 10-cent refund per bag; Bel Air, 5 cents; Whole Foods, 5 cents; Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, a 55-cent donation to charities. Most grocery stores also sell reusable bags, if you don’t already have a tote. Keeping a few in the car or a compact one in your purse assures preparedness. Use it at the pharmacy, clothing shop, auto-parts store, etc., to create a positive impact on the environment, one bag at a time.

Best place to put your garbage

Sacramento County’s Backyard Composting Program
Let the Sacramento County Master Gardeners teach you how to compost all your green waste at one of its free monthly workshops. Composting keeps trash out of landfills and provides plenty of free, nutrient-rich soil for your garden. The Gardeners will even give you a free composting bin to get you started. Now that’s a deal you can’t afford to trash. Monthly workshops at various locations, (916) 875-7165,

Best way to abandon your auto

Critical Mass
We can no longer afford our excessive use of cars, economically or environmentally. We need an alternative, but what about those who haven’t stepped on a gasless pedal in more years than they’d care to admit? We’ve got just the place to get your fix(ie)! Sacramento’s Critical Mass is one of many events held internationally to educate drivers, pedestrians and cyclists about the rules of the road. A leaderless group takes to the pavement once a month, promoting safety and making a statement about two-wheelers’ right to ride. It’s a great way for newcomers to reacquaint themselves with the bicycle and to meet others of similar interest. You know what they say—it’s just like riding a bike. 5:30 p.m. last Friday of every month at Fremont Park, 16th and P streets;



City code sections 9.44.330–9.44.340: No edible critters
Some of the lengthiest sections of city and county codes concern the keeping of livestock and critters. As Muriel Strand can tell you, it’s generally illegal to keep chickens up in your crib, along with donkeys, geese and goats. You may, however, keep two beehives and seven cats.


Best excuse to get liquored up

Sacramento Green Drinks
Looking for a way to truly drink responsibly? Then check out Sacramento Green Drinks, an informal networking event that takes place one evening a month at local bars. The chapter brings together a collection of green-oriented people from the business sector, government, academia and nonprofit organizations to discuss pressing environmental issues and build our burgeoning green community. Since the meet-ups started in July, the group has consistently hosted about 20 people. The majority of attendees work in an environmental field, but Green Drinks is open to anyone interested in creating a more sustainable world. First Thursday of the month at various locations,

Best place to get back to nature (in the city)

Effie Yeaw Nature Center
Nestled inside Ancil Hoffman County Park, the Effie Yeaw Nature Center is the gateway to three self-guided trails along the American River. On the seemingly endless, winding paths, it’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of Carmichael. The Nature Center hosts a variety of exhibits and hands-on activities year-round, and this fall, salmon will migrate past the park to breed after spending years in the ocean. The entrance to the center is a replica of a Nisenan Maidu village that transports visitors back in time. Walking quietly down the trails, you’ll have an idea of how the area would have looked without the interference of modern life. Ancil Hoffman County Park, 2850 San Lorenzo Way; (916) 489-4918;



Best poultry plan

Chickens in the backyard
In Sacramento’s not-so-distant past, most folks did get their eggs fresh out of the backyard. When mayoral candidate Muriel Strand brought up the idea at a candidate’s forum this year, some people made fun of her—those would be the folks who don’t understand how the necessity of a healthy, protein-rich diet will collide catastrophically with rising oil prices. The simple fact is that, with a bit of careful preparation, chickens are remarkably well-adapted to living in close proximity to people. And fresh eggs are tasty. Check out the book Chickens In Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide, by Rick and Gail Luttmann. Of course, until the city ordinances allow chickens, it might be better to start with a square-foot garden to feed your tomato jones.


Best green spectacle

Sustainable Living Circus
These aren’t your typical environmentalists. They’re actually 10 times cooler. The ever-changing members of the Sustainable Living Circus in Davis don’t just talk about global warming and climate change; they perform interpretative dances demonstrating the carbon cycle and sing songs explaining how to compost food waste. Members—typically composed of residents of the UC Davis Co-ops and the Domes community—have performed at the annual Whole Earth Festival, the Davis Food Co-op Sustainability Fair and campus events. The circus delights audiences with wheelbarrow tricks, fire dancing, shovel balancing and gas-free unicycle rides, all to draw attention to environmental issues while bringing smiles to people’s faces. Concern for Mother Earth doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

Best reminder of the food web

Hunting in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Next time you groan over the fact that the jerk in line in front of you at the grocery store exceeded the “10 Items or Less” limit, consider the alternative: If we didn’t have supermarkets, we’d have to admit that human beings are part of the food web. Hunting in Sacramento’s National Wildlife Refuge Complex affords us a chance to reconnect with the animal instincts we once relied on. Quail, ducks, geese, snipe, deer and turkey are all on the seasonal menu. Certain prey can only be taken down with archery, but isn’t that more challenging? Hiding in the bushes, covered in deer urine at 6 a.m.? That’s how nature intended it! If you don’t catch anything, there’s a Safeway on the way home. Various locations, (530) 934-2801, .



Best place to ‘monkey wrench’ a major polluter

The nearest auto mall
The coolest thing about the Earth Liberation Front, the mysterious radical environmentalist group, is that the authorities don’t know who they are. That makes them the perfect patsy for your excursion to the nearest auto mall. All you need is an aluminum baseball bat and a can of spray paint and voilà! You’re an eco-terrorist. Of course, if you do get nabbed, you’ll be sent to Guantanamo Bay, where you’ll be tortured until you give up the names of ELF’s ringleaders and then shot. But hey, it’s for a good cause. Providing you with the address of the nearest auto mall could be seen as aiding and abetting a terrorist. Try Google.


Best poster boy for the new environmental movement

Graham Brownstein
Let’s face it: The local environmental movement isn’t really green. It’s mostly white—and increasingly gray. Not that we have anything against Caucasians or baby boomers—we love ’em. But protecting the environment isn’t just about bird watchers and kayakers. It’s about kids breathing polluted air. It’s about the environmental and social degradation that comes when we let some neighborhoods fail while we’re building shiny new neighborhoods down the road. Graham Brownstein, the 30-something director of the Environmental Council of Sacramento, gets all this. Think of him as more of an urban environmentalist. He might hug a tree, if it asked, but his heart is really with the people.

Best way to keep your belly full and the planet green

Food preservation
If it wasn’t your grandmother, then it was your great-grandmother. Chances are someone in the not-so-distant branches of your family tree had the knack for food preservation, considering how many homes in Sac’s older neighborhoods have built-in pantries for food storage. One of summer’s oldest rituals—canning fresh local fruits and vegetables; making pickles, relishes, sauces and jams—is also one of the wisest. It ensures our food supply, and our access to tasty treats during the winter months, without relying on rapidly depleting fossil fuels. It’s not too late to learn this close-to-home-and-garden craft. Or is it an art? Only your taste buds will know for sure. For classes and instructional materials, contact the Sacramento County Cooperative Extension Master Food Preservers. (916) 875-6913,

Brian Baker is the god of cob.


Best reason to get muddy

Cob building
Advocates call it a meditative and healing experience, but that’s not why we like cob building. We enjoy it because you get all muddy, and it’s actually socially acceptable. The ancient, sustainable practice of building with cob—a nontoxic, natural material composed of clay, sand, straw and water—remains a fringe method in this country. We do have a cob bench outside the Good Project housing development in West Sacramento. In East Sacramento, a woman built a small structure using the soil right outside her house. Our city’s clay-heavy soil is ripe for cob building, and expert Brian Baker lives in town, offering workshops for people interested in learning how to work with cob. But be prepared. It’ll definitely be messy.

Best green idea

Sacramento Freecycle
Repurposing items is a good and wise use of materials, and recycling the materials themselves keeps them out of landfills, but reusing items as long and as well as possible is the holy grail of conservation. If you have something that still has some life in it, Freecycle it. That means instead of dropping it off at a charity thrift store (which still beats the heck out of throwing it away), you list the item on the Sacramento Freecycle e-mail list and see if someone out there wants it. You’ll get rid of it; they’ll put it to use; zero waste. Of course, the opposite is true as well. You can list items you need and see if anyone has ’em. With more than 6,000 active list members, somebody just might. Freecycle is well-organized and moderated, and it’s good karma.