November 27, 2007

Calendar additions: fill your mind

If you stuffed your belly last week, fill your mind over the course of the next two weeks. Here are two more events. Thursday, November 30 12 pm - 1:30 pm, Morgan Hall Lounge (UC Berkeley campus) Green Collar Jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area: Can the green economy reduce global warming and fight poverty? Raquel Rivera Pinderhughes, Professor of Urban Studies, San Francisco State University Ian Kim, Reclaim the Future Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Social Change, UC Berkeley Labor Center, and the College of Natural Resources. Sunday, December 9 3 pm - 6 pm, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall (Cedar at Bonita) A celebration of community activists Karl Linn and Louise Dunlap Thanks to Eric Broder for the event information! Read more about Karl Linn's book, Building Commons and Community.

November 26, 2007

Calendar: Weeks of Nov. 29 - Dec. 3, 2007

Thursday, November 29 7pm The Legacy of Berkeley Parks: A Century of Planning and Making Marcia McNally, Sadie Graham, and Louise Mozingo (UC Berkeley, Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning professor, graduate student, and professor)* Berkeley Art Center, Live Oak Park, 125 Walnut Street Tuesday, December 4 5:30 pm - 7 pm A Camera Aloft: California’s Wetlands and Streams from a Bird’s Perspective Charles Benton, UC Berkeley Professor of Architecture Wurster Hall 112 Sponsored by the Water Resources Center Archives. Wednesday, December 5 7:30 pm - 9 pm Honoring Our Peacetime Veterans: The New Deal Legacy in Berkeley's Parks and Recreational Facilities Gray Brechin, PhD and author of Imperial San Francisco Live Oak Park Center Theatre, 1201 Shattuck Avenue Sponsored by Berkeley Partners for Parks/ BPFP ($5 - $10 benefit at the door). Contact BPFP or me for more details. Thursday, December 6 5:30 - 7:30pm Combating Gentrification and Displacement: Building a Bay Area Urban Justice Movement 55 Second Street, 24th Floor, San Francisco Sponsored by Just Cause Oakland, POWER, PODER, and St. Peter's Housing Committee. Details available at Urban Alliance for Sustainability. Saturday, December 8 Friends of Five Creeks (F5C) Field Trip to restored Guadalupe River in downtown San Jose 10:30 am - 12:30 pm $10 per person plus Details are provided on the F5C calendar. * If you have an opportunity to take a course at the UCB Department of Landscape Architecture, I recommend courses by Marcia McNally and Louise Mozingo; both are dynamic and nurturing professors.

November 24, 2007

Vacant lots: weeds and seed-eating birds

Vacant lots are not so much vacant (= empty) as disinvested, by humans. In the wonderful children's book, The City Kid's Field Guide, published by WGBH Boston, Ethan Herberman wrote,
Is there any place in the city where the wildlife lives undisturbed? How about a so-called vacant lot?
Today's Chronicle reported on the housing development that will replace 14-acres of abandoned Japanese American greenhouses in Richmond. I wrote about this project in a discussion of local nurseries as green open space. In that post I noted that the existing vegetation at the greenhouse site did not provide any psychological satisfactions for me, but it is a source of food for seed-eating birds like sparrows and juncos. The Chronicle reporter noted that while preservationists and developers debate the final design of the 14-acre project,
the tough, persistent rosebushes, [that have] gone wild over a decade of neglect, climb toward the glass ceilings, putting out fragrant blossoms. Sparrows and juncos twitter in and out of the broken panes, pecking seeds from the profusion of weeds.
Source: Ken Thomas via Wikimedia Commons Sparrows and juncos (a subfamily of sparrows) are common to the San Francisco Bay Area. The newspaper article was not specific about species, but the Fox, Song, White-crowned, and Golden-crowned Sparrows, and Dark-eyed or Oregon Junco (see above) are present in the area. According to the authors of Birds of San Francisco and the Bay Area, Chris C. Fisher and Joseph Morlan, the fox sparrow is common in the fall and winter (it winters here) and inhabits tangles and brush piles. The song sparrow is a year-round resident, is more common than the fox sparrow, and inhabits "marshes, thickets, blackberry brambles, weedy fields, and woodland edges." The white-crowned sparrow winters here and is more common than the fox sparrow, while a subspecies is a year-round resident, both "feed a short distance from thickets and tall grasses." The golden-crowned sparrow also winters here. Finally, the dark-eyed junco is very common; none of the birds thus far are listed as abundant. The junco lives on the ground and is a year-round resident. Sparrows and the subfamily of juncos are "primarily ground feeding seed eaters" and have "heavy bills well adapted to crushing seeds" (Alexander C. Martin, Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson, 1951, American Wildlife and Plants). Furthermore, juncos "are partial to seeds of common weeds" (Ibid.). What are the common weeds on urban lots in the Bay Area? I sought help at the central branch of the library and found Anne Ophelia Dowden's Wild Green Things in the City: A Book of Weeds. The book contains plants found in Manhattan, Denver (to represent dry areas) and Los Angeles (to represent the warm southwest), but not the Bay Area. However, I recognized some of the plants, like milkweed (see above) and crabgrass. I've also seen bindweed in my Berkeley garden and dandelion, California poppy, and nasturtiums in street tree lawns. Henry Thoreau (pen name), of the Wild Grass blog, has observed slender wild oat, red brome, and plaintain, among other grasses in San Francisco. In addition to birds, Alexander C. Martin has also written about weeds. His 1972 book, Weeds, describes over 100 weedy plant species. Martin critically observes that the common definition of a weed - "plant out of place" - is human-centric and that so-called weeds "often serve useful functions" which is echoed by the another source on "weedy" plant species (see below). Finally, an internet search yielded a rich source of information specific to this region - the Wild, Wild Weeds Field Guide developed by the Greenbelt Alliance of San Francisco. According to the guide, the most commonly seen wild plants in the cities of the San Francisco Bay Area are: California Burclover (Medicago polymorpha) Storksbill (Erodium spp.) Sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus) Chickweed (Stellaria media) Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) - eaten by sparrows Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) Oxalis (Sour Grass) (Oxalis pes-caprae) Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) Mallow (Malva spp.) The Wild, Wild Weeds Field Guide concludes with a list of helpful things to do, one of which is to "teach three friends about a weed and what it’s good for."

November 23, 2007

The world with(out) us

The World Without Us was the title of the first hour of today's Science Friday on NPR. It is also the title of a book by Alan Weisman. Weisman argues that if humans disappeared from Earth, the NYC subway system would flood, power plants would run out of coolant or melt (which would have serious consequences), cockroaches would become extinct in northern climates (they rely on heat to survive winters), rats would also face difficult times with the disappearance of human refuse, raptors would increase in numbers due to increases in woodland cover (and prey on the rats), agricultural fields would undergo succession, and "carrots would revert to Queen Anne's Lace." How interesting! Weisman also talked about things that will remain, like plastic: "all the plastic that has been made is still is there - it's just in smaller bits." I was listening to show as I ran some errands this morning. Going out into Berkeley this morning, the sidewalks and streets were relatively empty. Normally car-packed streets were pleasant to travel on. Berkeley Bowl is closed so I shopped at Whole Foods on Telegraph which was a more pleasant experience with fewer cars navigating the small parking lot. The predominant noise and movement was wind: blowing through trees and blowing leaves across the sidewalks and streets. I enjoy the street life that comes from people on the street, but it was relaxing to experience not only more space, but the wind and other elements without distraction. Weisman concluded his remarks by emphasizing the need to share the world with non-humans, like bee species on which we depend. He asked whether we want to manage our population (he predicts a population crash) or have nature do it for us. I think an earlier point he made would have been a better end to the show, at least a more hopeful one. He mentioned the "inadvertent nature preserve" that was created in the DMZ between North and South Korea. Although the nature contained within the Korean DMZ is present because of the absence of humans within the zone, the zone is a human construction (though a product of war). Arguably much of the nature we enjoy, for example in the Bay Area, is strongly influenced by human (in)action: Yosemite was wrested from Native Americans and designated a national park, the East Bay Regional Parks were also preserved as places of nature through human action, Save the SF Bay works to undo the human-induced damage to the SF Bay. Finally, natural parks in Berkeley, like Live Oak Park and Indian Rock, were put into place by us - City Council bought the former in 1914 and the latter was gifted to the city by Mason-McDuffie Real Estate Company in 1921.

November 22, 2007

Rocky connection: Berkeley and Thanksgiving

The City of Berkeley was named by Frederick Billings while he stood at Founder's Rock in 1866. One of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the U.S. was in Plymouth, MA in 1621. The town of Plymouth was found at the landing site of the Mayflower, Plymouth Rock. Source: Wikimedia Commons; Wikipedia

November 20, 2007

Tree Walk Wednesday: 2200 Block of Ward Street

My first visit to the History Room at the Berkeley Public Library was to read the Interim Tree Planting Notebook, 2000. In the notebook, I found a 1999 street tree campaign flyer from the 2200 block of Ward Street. The flyer listed five tree species (with addresses to view mature examples) recommended by the Parks Department for that block: Chinese pistache (Ashby east of College), Trident maple (1804 Grant), Chinese flame (1180 Oxford), Mayten (Shattuck between the French hotel and Bank of America), and Pagoda (2143 Woolsey at Deakin). I toured the 2200 block, but not the locations listed on the flyer. Looking west on Ward Street First, most of the newer trees on the block are Chinese pistache. The most mature trees are a linden (Tilia), a poplar (Populus), and a Zelkova, followed by a red oak (Quercus rubra), a London plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia), and two (silver?) maples (Acer), then a purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera), an apple (Malus), and Chinese pistaches (Pistacia chinensis). Also, there are several palms (?) on the south side of the block (see below). It is interesting that all the new trees are Chinese pistache. I assume the neighbors decided on a uniform streetscape design. Note: palms (?), far left There are overhead wires on the north side of the block. Most cities adhere to the "right tree in the right place" policy; large stature trees are rarely planted below overhead wires. In the case of the 2200 block of Ward, most of the older trees are large stature and planted on the north side of the block. There are a few overhead wires on the south side of the block. The pistache comprises the majority of new trees on this side of the street. The pistache can reach a height of 40 feet. The species is listed as a large stature tree by the City of Oakland. I could not find similar for the City of Berkeley, except a two-page brochure describing the city's ordinances and urban forestry program. Finally, the most interesting observation I made of the Ward block was the ribbons in the pistaches east of 2231 Ward Street (see above). I have noticed other ribboned trees in the neighborhood. Several web sites note that tying a ribbon to a tree is part of Tibetan and Scottish wish making traditions. Maybe the wish is for the wildlife affected by the recent oil spill in the bay. If you take a walk along the 2200 block of Ward between Ellsworth and Fulton, here's a list of what you can expect to see: 2201 Chinese pistache opp. 2201 Chinese pistache 2205 Chinese pistache opp. 2205 Chinese pistache 2208 Chinese pistache, other (my notes don't have a species name) 2209 two silver maples, Chinese pistache 2211 poplar 2212 Chinese pistache 2215 Chinese pistache 2216 Chinese pistache 2219 red oak 2219/21 London plane tree 2220 Chinese pistache (new - stakes are still present) 2223 Chinese pistache 2224 Chinese pistache, linden 2225 Chinese pistache 2227 Chinese pistache (new), an edible estate in the front yard 2228 Zelkova, pistache (bark damage) 2229 two Chinese pistache (new) 2230 two Chinese pistache (one of the two is new) 2231 no tree (a small apartment building) 2232 Chinese pistache 2237 Chinese pistache 2241 two Chinese pistache 2234 Chinese pistache, apple 2238 two Chinese pistache, purple leaf plum 2239 Chinese pistache 2245 no tree (a single family house) 2249 Chinese pistache 2253 no tree (3' x 3.5' tree well) at Ellsworth Chinese pistache (new)

November 16, 2007

Books: water fowl and fouled waters

A bookworm's tribute to the fouled waters and water fowl of the Bay and Pacific.* Source: NOAA public domain image via Wikipedia Commons Children's Fiction Miss Pickerell and the Supertanker Ellen McGregor and Dora Pantell, 1978 Oil Spill! Melvin Berger, 1994 Oliver and the Oil Spill Aruna Chandrasekhar, 1991 One Wing's Gift Joan Harris, 2002 Washing the Willow Tree Loon Jacqueline Briggs Martin, 1995 Guides and References The Basics of Oil Spill Cleanup Merv Fingas, 2000 The Shorebird Guide Michael O'Brien, 2006 Water Birds of California Howard L. Cogswell, 1977 * I saw all titles available at the Berkeley Public Library, except Oliver and the Oil Spill, The Basics of Oil Spill Cleanup, and One Wing's Gift.

November 13, 2007

Calendar: Week of November 12, 2007

In lieu of a Tree Walk Wednesday post,* here is a calendar of upcoming environmental events. Wednesday, November 14 6 pm - 8 pm Green Cities, Brown Folks Sponsored by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Saturday, November 17 10 am, meet at 700 Jean Street, Oakland Oakland Paths & Steps Sponsored by Berkeley Path Wanderers Association (details) November 17, Saturday 10 am - noon Berkeley’s Downtown Parks: Real, Envisioned, and Vanished Co-sponsored by Berkeley Partners for Parks and the Berkeley Historical Society (details) Sunday, November 18 noon - 3pm, at Green City Gallery Seedball Sunday Sponsored by East Nay Permaculture Guild (details here and here) * I recently read about a 1999 campaign for trees on a block of Ward Street. My intent was to walk the block this evening and post my observations tomorrow. However, darkness descended more swiftly than I could bicycle home. My new goal is to take a walk this Thursday or Friday and prepare the post for next Wednesday's Tree Walk installment.

November 12, 2007

Neighborly acts: public gardens, private art

The two main inspirations for this blog are flora files and neighborly acts. The Tree Walk Wednesday series is an example of a flora file, while the following post illustrates neighborly acts. The big theories about neighboring, as reviewed by Unger and Wandersman (1985), focus on social interaction, neighborhood cognition (or the system you develop to physically and socially navigate your neighborhood), and affective bonds (or how you feel about your neighbors). The "social interaction" component is the most interactive and it accounts for a range of actions, from 'social support which are ordinary social activities that neighbors engage in like borrowing/lending, informal visiting, or asking for help in an emergency to social networks' at the individual or block scale. The traffic circle cum public garden/ arboretum on Webster (see top) is an example of neighboring, or a neighborly act. The installation of a traffic circle requires 65% affirmative votes from the proposed traffic circle area which is equivalent to two blocks in all four directions. If the circle receives the required vote, it is installed by the city. The next phase, transforming a bare circle into a garden, requires a range of neighborly acts: deciding to plant the circle, developing a design, and implementing and maintaining the garden. I will relate the story of the Le Conte Butterfly Habitat at the Russell/Ellsworth circle in a future post. Another instance of neighborly acts occurred this Saturday along the Ohlone Greenway. Although the coastal prairie restoration is an ongoing project, but I include it here for two reasons: (1) I mapped the addresses (to mid-block) of the co-founders and regular volunteers of the restoration project and most live within a 1/2 mile of the project (the standard neighborhood measurement is 1/4 mile and Christopher Alexander wrote that more people will visit neighborhood green space if it within a 3 minute walk, but some neighborhoods are 1/2 x 1/2 mile (a 10 minute walk) and the "1/2 mile walking/ pedestrian shed" is a planning concept) and (2) the restoration group gains self satisfaction from the project, but they are also maintaining a neighborhood social network whose efforts improve the neighborhood. While we planted on Saturday morning, the group was cheered for its efforts: "it looks great! it looks much better!" The final example, and the one that prompted this post, is the butterfly meadow designed by Patrick E, a sculptor. The meadow - a mix of butterfly and praying mantis sculptures atop a turf roof - was installed by a resident whose uphill neighbor told him of the blinding glare from his aluminum roof. Instead of building a wall or fence, the downhill resident spent $52,000 to accomplish what he described as "happy neighbor, priceless." To read the article in the SF Chronicle, click here.

November 10, 2007

Sludge in the bay and at Aquatic Park

Mulch piles along Aquatic Park shoreline, July 2007 It has been raining since noon. The coastal prairie species planted along the Ohlone Greenway today are welcoming the rain, but not the fish and birds that use Aquatic Park. The City of Berkeley Public Works Department, according to the Berkeley Daily Planet, dumped dredged sludge in a prime feeding area along the park's shoreline. In an interview, Mark Liolios of EGRET (Aquatic Park Environmental Greening, Education, and Restoration Team) stated that "as soon as the rains come the spoils will wash down and any toxic chemicals in it will kill the fish and the birds that feed on it." Compare photographs of the shoreline this summer versus its current condition. With regards to this week's oil spill in the bay, waterfowl have been killed and endangered according to reports by the San Francisco Chronicle. The latest wildlife affected by the spill: crabs; crabbers have delayed the start of the season. Both of these environmental hazards were created by human error. In the case of the oil spill, the Coast Guard concluded that "There were skilled enough individuals on board [the container] ship. They didn't carry out their missions correctly" (AP article carried by The Saratogian). In Berkeley, a public works project manager claims he did not need a permit for dumping the sludge per a conversation with the State Water Resources Board, but the SWRB told the Daily Planet that "[Public Works] definitely should have asked us first." The rain is expected to continue through the night.

November 8, 2007

Local nurseries as green open space

For some time I have been considering the idea of nurseries as green open space. It's a fair assumption that current definitions of "open space" do not include this land use type. Urban open space often includes privately-owned open space like university campuses, plazas, and rooftop gardens, so why not include nurseries, greenhouses, and open-air garden centers. The Dry Garden on Shattuck Avenue, Spiral Gardens on Sacramento Street, Berkeley Hort (Berkeley Horticultural Nursery) on McGee, and Cactus Jungle on 4th Street are good examples of nurseries as green open space. Although the plant material at these nurseries are not physically rooted in the soil and they regularly rotate in/out of the nurseries, their presence does provide similar benefits to parks and less temporal green spaces. For example, a nursery could be considered a "specialty park/facility" which Lutzenhiser and Netusil defined as "primarily one use at the park and everything in the park is related to the specialty category" and observed "to have a positive statistically significant effect on a home's sale price" (2001, 297). In addition to financial benefits, open space also provides psychological benefits or satisfactions. Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, authors of With People in Mind, found that proximity and observation of nature provided psychological satisfaction. The Dry Garden and Spiral Gardens are located in residential neighborhoods. They are nearby; Christopher Alexander notes that "people need green open paces to go to; when they are close they use them. But if the greens are more than 3 minutes away, the distance overwhelms the need" (quoted by Kaplan and Kaplan, 1998, 155). Also, they can be observed from houses, apartments, and on foot. To this effect, the Kaplans point out that "looking out the window provides an opportunity to let the mind wander." In more recent studies, Rachel Kaplan and Frances Kuo, separately, observed that being in a setting with trees and other vegetation and viewing such a setting ameliorates mental fatigue. There is a wonderful plan diagram of Spiral Gardens in relation to its immediate residential neighbors on the garden's website. Finally, the diversity of flowers and fruit support local wildlife. Two recent events reminded me of this idea which I had logged in my blog notebook: (1) the closing of Asa Eden cut flowers at 5760 Shellmound Street and (2) the City of Richmond's proposal to build housing on 14-acres of former Japanese American-owned nurseries. In the case of Asa Eden, I was unable to find information on why the flower outlet closed. However, the City of Emeryville recently completed an Initial Study / Mitigated Negative Declaration as part of a remedial action plan for an area between Powell and Christie which includes the 5760 Shellmound parcel. The site is a brownfield; some of its historic uses include Western Carbonic Acid Gas Company, Western Pine Supply Company, an electronic equipment warehouse, and a plaster mix factory. While the study does not suggest potential uses post remediation, the parcel is located in a mixed-use zone. It is possible that the Bay Street mall/main street could be extended across Christie Street. The proposed housing project on the site of three former greenhouses in Richmond was reported in a Berkeley Daily Planet article. Many Japanese Americans property owners lost their properties as a direct result of the implementation of President F.D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066. (The Alien Land Law of 1913 prevented Japanese and Chinese "aliens" from owning property.) The story of these three greenhouses is linked to this presidential action. The Daily Planet reports that Richmond's Japanese American returning nursery owners faced difficult situations including severely vandalized greenhouses or nurseries converted into war housing. Unlike the Emeryville flower site, the greenhouses site supports a "natural biotic habitat," though it has been altered significantly. Baxter Creek will be daylighted and according to the developer, Milaflores (the proposed name of the housing development) will be framed by a "parklike setting." The City of Richmond's success with the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park is enabling a strong push to preserve remnants of the greenhouses and their owners. For example, according to the Daily Planet, the Sakai home, an adjacent water tower, and one greenhouse will be preserved. The Richmond greenhouses have been shuttered for some time and the existing vegetation does not provide significant satisfaction - at least for me. Green open space will be recreated on the site through the daylighting section of Baxter Creek. And the preservation of cultural remnants (with interpretation) will continue to root the community to its floral past. (It will also serve as a reminder of the negative consequences of discriminatory laws.) It is unclear if either nature or culture will be restored on the Emeryville site. According to the remediation action plan report, "the proposed project site is located in a highly urbanized area where over 100 years of development has replaced any former natural biotic habitats and natural vegetation....While common species may exist and traverse Site B, it is highly unlikely that the site is part of an established native resident or migratory wildlife corridor." Furthermore, "no conservation plans apply to Site B or vicinity." This type of language does not provide much hope for establishing nature.

November 7, 2007

Tree Walk Wednesday: Accoutrements of a new street tree

Only sometimes are the ideas for our posts planned in advance. This week's Tree Walk Wednesday post is a good example. On a recent stroll in Somerville (a city across the Charles from Boston), I walked by several newly planted street trees. The site evoked memories of administering Boston's street tree planting program: reviewing tree requests, selecting trees, watching while the contractors planted the trees, and inspecting the trees several times after they were planted. I was also struck by how different the Somerville trees looked than new street trees I have seen in Berkeley and Oakland. The significant differences are the size (dbh = diameter at breast height) of the tree, the tree gator, and the water & aeration loop. The trees in Somerville are at least 2" in diameter. Nurseries typically use a caliper measure taken 6" above the trunk flare, but other tree professionals calculate tree size by measuring diameter at breast height at approximately 4.5' above the trunk flare. The new street trees I have seen in Berkeley and Oakland are approximately 1" in diameter. The water & aeration loop (right image - white tube with black lid) is commonplace in street tree plantings in Boston. I have not noticed this for East Bay tree plantings. The water & aeration loop is installed around the root ball with an extension above the soil level. Ideally, the loop enables air exchange as well as direct watering of the root ball. There are some challenges with this system: if the lid is removed, the loop can become filled with rubbish and debris, thus preventing efficient watering and air exchange. The third major difference between the Somerville and East Bay trees is the tree gator. The tree gator is a watering bag manufactured by a company of the same name. For each inch of diameter, a tree requires approximately 10 gallons of water. According to, a full 20-gallon gator bag not only slowly releases water over a 12 hour period, it also provides sufficient water for a week. Water is necessary for trees to establish, that is, grow new roots beyond the original root ball. East Bay tree planters might forego tree gators because trees planted in the winter receive adequate - and in some years more than adequate - rain water. East Bay cities are not the only cities that do not install gators. The City of Boston - to my knowledge - does not install gators with its new street trees. The California community forestry alliance, California Releaf, recommends treegators for low run-off watering.

November 5, 2007

Big green, little green

If you don't watch television, specifically NBC, you might have missed the announcement that this week is "Green is Universal - Green Week" on NBC. Even the company's logo, the multi-colored peacock feathers, is green. Last night's football commentary show was broadcast with candles on, lights off. Many shows that air this week will have a green theme. For example, Al Gore will be a cameo guest on "30 Rock," while David Schwimmer, will star as "Greenzo," a mascot concept created by Alec Baldwin's character, Jack Donaghy. (PG&E's "Let's Green This City" - the city is San Francisco - preceded GE-owned NBC's campaign. The PG&E's campaign has been criticized as corporate green washing.) I don't have enough information to offer an informed opinion about either campaign, but I do know that no television for at least 4 hours a day combined with a light bulb replacement (see below) can save the average household 1,920 watt hour per week in electricity use (Qingfu Xiao, UC Davis/ Land, Air and Water Resources researcher). I practice little acts of green that have significant impacts. I use the potato spoons I got with yogurt and ice-cream tastings at the Embarcadero and Downtown Berkeley farmers markets, respectively, at work instead of the plastic utensils in the office kitchen. At a recent urban forestry conference, I received a ChicoBag, made of nylon with a 20-pound capacity, which "can save the average American 3000 to 700 plastic shopping bags per year which will save 3 to 7 gallons of crude oil." In my apartment, I am replacing traditional bulbs with energy-efficient ones like the Greenlite Mini, which I picked up at the watershed festival this summer. Greenlite estimates that one 18 watt Mini will save $82 in energy costs over the life of the bulb (based on 12 cent per kilowatt hour cost). While $82 over the course of 11 years (if you use the bulb 3 hours a day) might seem trivial, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants enhances the value of this little green act. Imagine replacing all the lights in your home.

November 1, 2007

Reflections on Halloween

Not candy, but treats nevertheless (the doughnuts were baked by Voodoo Doughnut, Portland, Oregon) The cries of "trick or treat" sent me rushing towards the door beckoning to my husband that there were kids on the street. My first Halloween in Berkeley, I had candy, but no children came by. Either the following year or the year after that, children came to our door, but we had forgotten to buy candy. One year we purposefully did not participate in All Hallow's Eve. This year, we bought candy and children came to the door. One set of children to be exact; a mother came down our drive accompanying her four sons. My Halloween experiences contrast starkly with the neighborhoods west and northwest of mine. On a short run last night, we saw lots of trick or treating activity, decorated homes, and costumed groups on their way to parties. I live in census tract 4236-02. There are 5,047 individuals in my census tract, of which 152 (or 2.6%) are age 9 and under. In contrast, there are 2,370 individuals between the ages of 20 and 24! Furthermore, my block is one of three in the census tract that forms the transition between high density and low density housing. The neighborhoods (census tracts 4230, 34, and 35) in which I noticed a lot of children trick/treating had age 9 and under populations of 354 (out of 4423, or 8%), 501 (out of 4653, or 10.7%), and 228 (out of 2967, or 7.7%), respectively. Given the low numbers of children age 9 and under, I assume that there are not enough households with children to make my census tract a Halloween destination. Boo-hoo! I delight in shopping for candy, partly because I have several sweet teeth. Since I cannot change the numbers of children, I will have to develop strategies to make my place a destination. I could post fliers on Craigslist and local bulletin boards. I could place an ad in the Berkeley Daily Planet. I could devise a light that would beam a pumpkin into the night sky. I could get so Berkeley and outfit a mobile candy unit.