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Green Drinks in
Juneau, Alaska

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Want to improve sustainability and food security of Juneau, Alaska?

Help us grow a substantial portion of our vegetables, fruit and herbs in year-round local greenhouses.

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Disposable Plastics and You

Are plastics recyclable? What’s better, plastic or paper? How do they affect your health? Our planet, including me? Should you avoid them? Is it OK to cook with plastic?

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Recent Posts

    • About Juneau Community Greenhouses

      A. Mission The mission of Juneau Community Greenhouses is to demonstrate how to improve Juneau’s sustainability and food security during a period of rapid environmental change. B. Vision Ten years from now, 10% of Juneau’s 13,000 households will grow a substantial portion of their vegetables, fruit and herbs in local greenhouse structures, operating year-round, and in home gardens. C. Desired Outcomes Residents will learn what edible crops can be grown successfully in this climate. The growing season will be extended to 10 months a year or more. New crops will be introduced to the area, such as mushrooms. Permaculture principles will be demonstrated. Carbon-negative practices such as biochar will be introduced.  Juneau’s dependency on imported food will be reduced. Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. Local waste products will be used in food production. Principles of sustainability will be embraced and propagated. Growers around Juneau will have active community support. The indigenous community’s subsistence knowledge and practices will be preserved. Plant varieties appropriate for this latitude will be determined and shared. Pitfalls will be identified, overcome and made known. Local youth will understand and value principles of ecology.  A network of community greenhouses in CBJ will be established. Demand for local agricultural products will increase. Local food producers will experience wide government support. Everyone in Juneau will have access to local, affordable, fresh food. Services offered by Cooperative Extension will be better utilized. Use of pesticides and weedkillers will be reduced or eliminated. Energy sources such as wind and solar will become more common. Gardening will become more popular among homeowners and renters. The quantity of foodstuffs imported to Juneau will decrease. More imports will arrive via sustainable transport modes (such as sail). Seed-saving techniques and practices will be more widespread. Preservation of food (canning, drying, pickling etc.) will become more common. Unsustainable practices in food procurement will be reduced through greater reliance on the plant kingdom for calories. There will be increased appreciation for the natural environment, and a higher degree of custodianship (less dumping of litter and other pollutants). Use of plastic will decrease and plastic wastes will not enter our waters. The percentage of households recycling and repurposing waste products will increase. Consumption of disposable products will decrease. Local ecosystems will thrive. Diet-related health trends (obesity, diabetes, heart disease) will improve. Seedlings nurtured in the Community Greenhouse will be available to other growers. III. GOALS A. Improve Sustainability: Improving quality of life for present and future generations, balancing social, environmental and economic interests.(1) Approach: Adopt measures that render Juneau more self-sufficient in the long term and reduce its environmental impacts. Greenhouses: Increase gardening activities in Juneau, lengthen local food production season, increase yield through intensive practices, and demonstrate feasibility and desirability of greenhouse agriculture. B. Mitigate Climate Change: Climate models predict that the City and Borough of Juneau will see overall continued warmer and wetter weather, particularly in fall and winter. The Juneau Icefield will continue to retreat. The land surface, rising as a result of isostatic rebound, will decrease the relative sea level between 1.0 and 3.6 ft over the next century.(2) However, Growing Degree Days (GDDs) will increase. Approach: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through natural methods such as biochar production and prepare for coming environmental changes. Greenhouses: Every edible grown locally reduces the need for one to be barged in, reducing emissions; warmer climate permits greater variety of crops; more rain means the protection of a greenhouse structure is critical in providing an adequate growing season. C. Increase Food Security: “Danny Consenstein, state executive director of the Alaska Farm Service Agency, [...] also a member of the Alaska Food Policy Council, said that in 1955, about half of Alaska's food came from outside the state. Now that number is up to 95 percent.” (3) Our supply chain can be broken or threatened by extreme weather or man-caused events both farand near, or even a breakdown in one vessel. We are completely dependent on others to bring us our food or the fuel we’ll use to get it. And we know the system isn't always reliable — planes don’t always fly and boats don’t always come in. (4) The population of Alaska grew from 128,643 in 1950 to 710,231 in 2010, more than 550%. In Juneau the 1950 population was 5,956, in 2010 - 31,275; this is growth of 525%.(5) Stockpiling food is difficult in average housing stock which tends to be crowded due to chronic shortage of affordable housing.(6) Approach: Increase local food sourcing in a sustainable manner. Greenhouses: Improve capacity of CBJ to grow its own food and demonstrate principles of organic horticulture, permaculture, and carbon-negative impacts. References 1 CBJ Comprehensive Plan, Policy 2.1. 2 CLIMATE CHANGE: PREDICTED IMPACTS ON JUNEAU 3 4 Food for Thought UAS Cooperative Extension, Darren Snyder 5 6 CBJ Comprehensive Plan, pg. 29 ff
    • Ring of Fire 2016

      RING OF FIRE Musicians, actors, scientists, Native Americans and a former U.S. Commander of the Atlantic Fleet - are brainstorming a Pacific wide concert – Ring of Fire – to take place Ocean Day – June 6, 2016 – in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – the Pacific Garbage Patch - on naval ships – and on other Pacific sites. Envisioned as a wake-up call to the importance of the ocean to the life of the planet, it features rock, tribal drumming, gospel choirs and children's choruses – integrating singers and musicians around the Rim. The ocean is in trouble – and since it provides up to 85% of the world's oxygen – so are we. RING OF FIRE – FIRST HALF HOUR A two hour musical production that raises awareness about what's happening to the Pacific Ocean, staged with bands on navy ships in the Pacific Garbage Patch – together with groups performing from Pacific islands and coastlines. Ring of Fire integrates rock with tribal music, gospel choirs and the songs of whales and other sea life and is envisioned as a wake-up call to the importance of the ocean to life on land. It inspires a massive effort to clean up the ocean, and announces the start of a Pacific Rim environmental corps. Using music as a common language, it has the potential to inspire and unify – to bring diverse peoples together to work towards the health of the earth. Ring of Fire begins with Hawaiian conch shells and moves to Samoa where drummers, in typical Samoan fashion, leap – screaming – from palm trees – to their drums. Other Pacific Rim drummers add on – joined by rock bands in the middle of the ocean. It moves to a Micronesian chief, on an island flooded by a rising ocean, who states that the loss of South Pacific islands and northern Eskimo coastal communities, is a warning – that rising oceans will soon affect coastal towns and cities everywhere – and calls for the support of the world in this effort to save the ocean, its lands and peoples. He recounts the dependency of all life on the health of the ocean and states that up to 85% of the world's oxygen is produced by ocean microorganisms – now 43% dead. He says that the continued poisoning of the seas is the primary emergency of the twenty-first century – that if not resolved, will end life as we know it. He states that the destruction of the ocean forces us to recognize that everyone is responsible for the life or death of the planet - that this emergency exists because humanity has lost its ability to feel the pain of the earth and its peoples. He says that no one holds the whole answer, but that each of us holds a part. He offers the ancient Polynesian knowledge of the heart – learned over thousands of years – as crucial towards an understanding of the health of the planet. Ring of Fire continues with choruses, bands and indigenous and other leaders around the Pacific. WHY A HEALTHY FUNCTIONING OCEAN IS IMPORTANT The ocean is in crisis. Two thirds of the coral reefs are dead or dying, significant fish populations have crashed, ocean birds and mammals are dwindling – some precipitously – huge parts of the ocean bottom – where nutrients essential to humans are produced – are covered with layers of plastic bags. Microscopic plastic – ground up plastic bags – is now found in fish and shellfish. Scientists have identified 150 “dead zones” - the largest 45,000 square miles- in which nothing except algae and jellyfish can live. Garbage is everywhere seen floating on the surface, while fish and other life die beneath. Many ocean scientists are calling their work “documenting the decline”. The general public has little idea of the seriousness of this situation. If all life on land were to disappear, ocean creatures could still live. But if the opposite happened – if all life in the ocean died – then the plants and animals on land – including humans – would also die. For thousands of years we have believed that the ocean is ours to use as we see fit. But biologically – we are alive because of the ocean. Ocean phytoplankton provide every second breath of oxygen we take. The ocean determines our weather and is responsible for the world's carbon cycle. It is our main life support system. How we live and what we do severely – and negatively – impacts this interconnected global system that is our primary source of life. The state of the ocean is due to thousands of tons of agricultural, industrial and nuclear poisons that pour into it every day. Ordinary citizens contribute with household cleaners, detergents, hair sprays and many other products that are flushed down drains with little thought as to where they go and what effect they have. We are in this predicament because of a lack of sensitivity to and ignorance about the inter-connectedness of the planet and the part each of us plays in its health or demise. Indigenous values of nurturing, honoring and cherishing the systems that sustain us are not part of the Western world view. With enough public awareness and political will, it is possible to slow and eventually reverse this slide into ecological devastation. ENVIRONMENTAL CORPS Simple and inexpensive – but labor intensive - techniques exist that promote the re-absorption of carbon dioxide and can slow, stop - and even reverse climate change and the acidification of the oceans. All are being used, on a small scale, on six continents. They include the greening of deserts (1/3 of the world's land mass is now desert), biochar, and tree planting everywhere. Other simple techniques help to restore water – both fresh and salt - and soil. Effective Microorganisms (EM) – a combination of anaerobic and aerobic bacteria put together by a Japanese agricultural engineer, are helping to restore the health of lakes, streams and seawater around the world. Mushrooms and grasses are being used to clean chemical toxins from soil – poisons that would otherwise drain to the ocean. Many others simple techniques help to restore health to the natural systems of the earth, and are effective and inexpensive – and labor intensive. Millions of young people around the world are without jobs and looking at a bleak future. A Pacific wide environmental corps could provide training in sustainable technologies - and help to brainstorm new ways of living – and thinking. An environmental corps would benefit the students that take part, the countries that sponsor them and the Pacific Ocean – vital to all life. We propose bringing together scientists expert in sustainable technologies - with native elders who know how to work with the natural intelligence of the earth – with students experimenting with sustainable visions for the future – with musicians that can inspire and unite - to initiate a Pacific wide environmental corps – and invite universities, government agencies and environmental non-profits, already working on these issues, to join. PEOPLE INVOLVED Dixie Belcher, initiator of RING OF FIRE, is a community activist, musical director and producer in Juneau, Alaska who accidentally discovered the power of music to effect change. She founded and directed a 65 member folk/rock group in Alaska that, in 1981 moved a hostile audience 180 degrees, politically, in 25 minutes. That very unexpected event dramatized for her the power of music to effect change. In 1986, at the height of the Cold War, she led 67 Alaskan Eskimos, Black gospel singers, Native Americans and Whites across the former Soviet Union in a successful effort to open the Soviet/American border and reunite Eskimo families. She has since brought together Christians, Muslims and Jews in a musical context, and has experimented using music to bridge people with the natural world. She believes that music has the potential to inspire diverse peoples to work together in an effort to save the ocean – and the earth.
    • Green Drinks on December 22, 2014

      WHAT: Come to the world-famous Green Drinks! WHEN: Wednesday, 22nd January 2014 at 6 pm (shifting this month to one week later!) WHERE: the bar at Zen (Goldbelt Hotel, 51 Egan Drive, downtown waterfront) HOW: Walk, cycle, bus. (Lots of parking if you are not car-free.) Close to Main Street Bus Stop. WHO: Anyone working on environmental issues (or studying them). WHY: Fun, contacts, alcohol (or not), info, news, inspiration, business and pleasure. NEWCOMERS: Just ask the bartender to point out "Green Drinks." ++++NOTE! ONE WEEK LATER THAN USUAL THIS MONTH ONLY!++++ Every month, all over the world, people who love Mother Earth meet up at informal sessions to enjoy Green Drinks together. We attract a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business, but credentials are not required. Come along and you'll be made welcome. It's a great way of catching up with people you know and for making new contacts. Invite someone new along, so there's always a changing crowd. These events are very simple and unstructured, but many have led to employment, new friends, new ideas, new deals and memorable moments of serendipity. It's a force for the good and a chance to schmooze in a low-stress, relaxed environment. Wouldn't it be nice if we all knew what everyone else is working on? The Zen bar is usually quiet, and there are 3 spring rolls for $5 on the appetizer menu if you get hungry! MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Third Wednesdays, 6 PM, Zen. ONLY the January meeting is one week later! REMINDERS: To get on or off this email list, PRIVACY:This list is ONLY for Green Drinks. We do not share. STATUS: Informal, local, self-organising network. NOTE: Green Drinks is not a channel to circulate announcements or news. Green Drinks is a place to go to get away from all that. We welcome speakers or a theme to help stimulate discussion (just volunteer one or the other), but the bulk of the evening is free-form and random, a chance to listen and be heard. Green Drinks itself will never endorse or have a position or stance on any topic. However, it's OK to share business cards or put flyers about your coming events on our literature table. GLOBAL: Active worldwide! Groups meet for Green Drinks in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, UK, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, USA, and Vietnam!
    • What You Can Do

      Single-Use Plastic Shopping Bags Let's start with the most obvious: plastic bags. Once manufactured, recycling these bags is a great way to reduce plastic waste. However, plastics are not truly recyclable. The "recycling" process yields a lower grade, less flexible material of limited usefulness. It draws on valuable energy and produces pollution, including climate-changing gasses. A viable solution is to get canvas bags and use them. Just possessing such bags and leaving them behind - and I know some of you who do - won't do the trick. If you keep forgetting them in your car, force yourself to walk back and get the bags, even if you're already in the store with a basket full of groceries. After doing so myself a couple of times, I rarely forget them any more. Or, simply take the cart to your car and load up your bags there. Paper bags are not a viable alternative. The production of paper bags takes much more energy, plus it involves cutting down trees. According to the Backpacker's magazine (September '07), using canvas bags will lower the carbon dioxide output by 5 pounds per year per person. Just in Juneau, it would add up to 150,000 pounds per year! There is no better time to start than now! Do you want to stand out from the crowd - maybe by getting your nose pierced or dying your hair green? Great! But add a couple of canvas bags to your arsenal. Look at arguably the hippest grocery establishment we have in town, Rainbow Foods. Kudos to them for discontinuing plastic bags and actually offering their customers canvas bags to buy or borrow! Our supermarkets have followed the trend of offering cloth bags for sale, an excellent first step in the right direction. It is up to us to take the next step. Trash Bags The use of plastic bags for trash is even more widespread, seemingly without alternatives. But even there we have options. Before discarding anything, check if it can be composted, reused, donated, or recycled. According to the city Web site, we gain one day of landfill use for every 100 tons of garbage we recycle. Biodegradable trash bags are gaining popularity. Make sure that the bags of your choice will, in fact, biodegrade, and not just break down into smaller bits. The brand I've been using is Bio-Bags, sold online and at Rainbow Foods. These bags are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable, and contain no polyethylene. They are not quite as sturdy as regular plastic bags, thus I found it best to empty the whole garbage can into the Dumpster, with the bag in it, instead of pulling the full bag out. If any spillage occurs, I just rinse the garbage can and, once dry, sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom. This surely is a small price to pay compared to the long-term negative environmental effects of plastics. Bio-bags are even available in small sizes for picking up such things as dog poop. Your dog poop is biodegradable, so why not lodge it in a biodegradable container. Water Bottles Another issue is plastic water bottles. How convenient is it to buy bottled water and toss the bottle away? Unfortunately, these bottles don't go away, but follow the same path as plastic bags. And the solution is as simple as with plastic bags: Have a couple of sturdy reusable bottles with home-bottled tap water with you while you're out. Our Juneau water is great for drinking, and it only takes a day for the chlorine to escape. I boil my water, not because I am worried about its safety, but to quickly remove oxygen and chlorine, and get the "flat" taste I am used to from childhood. I always keep a bottle of boiled water in the fridge, and carry another one with me. Juneau's tap water is great, at the very least just as good as bottled water, and using it you reduce climate-changing gasses arising from the process of bottling and transportation. Utensils Plastic utensils pose another challenge. Just carry a set of reusable utensils with you, and you can proudly do without the plastic ones offered at the eateries (which often come wrapped in plastic). See where I am going with this? You can take this type of reasoning as far as you wish: Bring your own large bottle of shampoo and conditioner with you to hotels, instead of using their little bottles. Bring your own Tupperware for leftovers to restaurants. If you regularly buy salads at the same salad bar, and must use their own plastic take-out container, why not take it home, wash it, and re-use it over and over?
    • General Information About Plastics

      Permanency and Non-renewability Plastics are made from non-renewable petroleum and natural gas. (1) With the exception of plastics that have been incinerated (bad idea! - as plastics release  toxic substances when burnt), all plastics ever manufactured is still with us. (2) Nothing in nature, not even sunlight or oxygen, can break apart the bonds that hold plastics together, so they linger on our planet indefinitely. Rather than biodegrading, plastics photodegrade into tiny particles, winding up in soil, air, our food and our bodies. (3) Environmental Pollution Plastic manufacturing is a major source of industrial pollution. Producing a 16-oz. #1 PET bottle, for instance, generates more than 100 times the toxic emissions to air and water than making the same size bottle out of glass. Major emissions from plastic production processes include sulfur oxides and nitrous oxides (both of which contribute to climate change) and the chemical compounds of styrene, benzene and trichloroethane. (4) In bodies of water, plastic particles absorb toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the pesticide DDT. Those particles then get eaten by fish and work their way up the food chain onto our dinner plates. (5) Many plastics can release toxic chemicals, those that were originally part of the manufacturing process and the chemicals that the plastics absorbed from their environment. One experiment showed that after two weeks in the ocean, the level of Persistent Organics Particles in nurdles (plastic balls used for manufacturing of plastic products) rose to up to one million times the level in the ambient seawater (Mato et. al. 2001). (6) Plastic Toxicity and Human Health Effects Phthalates Most cling-wrapped meats, cheeses and other foods sold in delis and grocery stores are wrapped in PVC. To soften the #3 PVC plastic into its flexible form, manufacturers add "plasticizers" during production. Traces of these chemicals, known as adipates and phthalates, can leak out of PVC when it comes in contact with foods, especially hot, fatty foods. Adipates and phthalates have been shown to cause birth defects and damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems in mice. Phthalates are also suspected of interfering with hormones and the reproductive development of baby boys. (7) Within this group of chemicals, two are under particularly close scrutiny -- DEHP, found mostly in medical products, and DINP, found mostly in toys -- for their potential toxic effects on the reproductive and endocrine systems. Last year, a study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that higher levels of phthalate byproducts correlated with obesity and insulin resistance. Another study in the same journal found that higher levels of phthalate byproducts in urine were associated with abnormal thyroid hormone levels in adult men. (8) Bisphenol A (BPA) Many #7 polycarbonate bottles (including baby bottles), microwave ovenware, eating utensils and plastic coatings for metal cans are made with bisphenol A (BPA). Many studies have found that BPA interferes with hormones, as phthalates do, and a March 1998 study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that BPA simulates the action of estrogen when tested in human breast cancer cells. A growing number of scientists are concluding, from animal tests, that exposure to BPA raises your risks of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and childhood behavioral problems such as hyperactivity. (9) Scientific studies on lab animals show that BPA might have adverse health impacts ranging from breast and prostate cancer, thyroid disease, early puberty in girls and ADHD. In 2006, an independent panel of experts assembled by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the EPA looked at more than 700 BPA studies and concluded that the mechanism by which it affects cells and tissues is essentially identical in animals and humans. The panel concluded that the animal studies of BPA should be taken seriously as an indicator of potential harm to humans. (10) Doses 25,000 times below what the government has labeled as safe can harm developing cells in mice. The National Toxicology Program, part of NIH, issued a draft report acknowledging "some concern" about the risk of cancer, diabetes and other serious health problems in adults. (11) Biphenol A has been detected in urine samples of nearly 93 percent(!) of 2,517 people who took part in a national health survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, women had higher average levels (2.9 micrograms per liter) than men (2.6); children age 6 to 11 had higher levels (4.5) than adults over 20 (2.5). (12) Bag Economics Each high-quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. The bag will pay for itself if your grocery store offers a $.05 or $.10 credit per bag for bringing your own bags (most large stores in Juneau do!). (13) References National Geographic, "The Green Guide": Algalita Marine Research Foundation: National Geographic, "The Green Guide": National Geographic, "The Green Guide": National Geographic, "The Green Guide": Algalita Marine Research Foundation: National Geographic, "The Green Guide": "The Plastics Revolution", Washington Post, April 22, 2008: National Geographic, "The Green Guide": The Plastics Revolution", Washington Post, April 22, 2008: "Studies on Chemical In Plastics Questioned", Washington Post, April 27, 2008: "The Plastics Revolution", Washington Post, April 22, 2008: Roots and Shoots, A program of the Jane Goodall Institute
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