Month: April 2011

Pasadena explores nix on plastic shopping bags

It’s a long time until 2040, the date Pasadena, Calif., has set to achieve zero waste. The city sits atop current green kudos of which it can be proud, including Pasadena Water & Power customers using 15 percent less water in 2010 than the previous year, according to the Green City Report.

"Pack it in, pack it out," applies to daily urban living as well as to outdoor sojourns (Barbara Burns).

And it’s about to  wade into the plastic shopping bag ban. With bordering unincorporated area Altadena enforcing a ban on them in some markets in July, and all by 2012, the city’s environmental advisory committee meets tomorrow in special session to consider the topic.

After the 2012 deadline, Altadenans visiting the supermarket will have to stash their groceries in reusable bags or pay a dime for a paper one. (Plastic bags used for meat, poultry and fish will be exempt).

According to Jake Armstrong in the Pasadena Weekly, the committee seeks public comment on how best to craft the language of the ban, which would be based on L.A. County’s latest environmental impact report.

Trying to ban the bag without an environmental impact statement can lead a new ordinance to be overturned in the court system. That’s exactly what happened to Manhattan Beach’s ban in the California Court of Appeals in 2010.

“County officials estimate households use 1,600 bags a year and expected that figure to fall by half by 2013 and shave $4 million from cleanup costs,” according to Armstrong.

So far, single-use plastic bag bans have been approved in California in:

– Los Angeles County (unincorporated areas, of which Altadena is one)

— Long Beach

— Malibu

— Calabasas

– Marin County

– San Jose

The plastic bag has become a polarizing cry, with industry and libertarians crying “foul,” and the green movement pushing for an eventual blanket ban. Interesting trivia: they are called “witches britches” in England, apparently because of the way they unattractively flutter in the breeze.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: List of toxic fish grows

Oh boy, not really the kind of thing you want to read on a Sunday, especially this Sunday, yet there it is: Tony Barboza penned an excellent piece in today’s Los Angeles Timesoutlining species joining the unlucky White croaker on the “do not eat” list.

The familiar "no dumping" warning, featured on sewers around the city (Courtesy

From the article: “In the so-called red zone that reaches from Santa Monica to Seal Beach, four fish besides white croaker … are now considered so contaminated with the long-banned pesticide DDT, PCBs and mercury that they too are unsafe to eat.”

Added to the list:

— Barred sand bass

— Black croaker

— Topsmelt

— Barracuda

This revelation, which comes from increased scientific scrutiny, not more dumping, led me to wonder about the Los Angeles River and its carp and other fish populations. The FOLAR fish study from several years ago found surprisingly low levels of toxins in the resident fish population.

Is the L.A. River, butt of many a poo-poo joke, actually cleaner than our slice of the Pacific Ocean?

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Annual river cleanup slated for April 30

Stake out a site from this nifty cleanup flier (Courtesy Friends of the Los Angeles River).

How can sturdy shoes, a pair of work gloves and sunscreen magically turn into a free T-shirt?

Well, April 30 from 9 a.m. until noon, it’s time to clean up the river, sponsored by Friends of the Los Angeles River and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Check out this link for the deets.

See you on the river wearing my sturdy shoes, Jim Burns

Earth Quotes: Thomas Berry

Today, I’m introducing a new aspect to the blog — like the title says, earth quotes. This first one is from the book “Befriending the Earth” by Thomas Berry, CP, with Thomas Clarke, SJ.

Author Thomas Berry (Courtesy the Thomas Berry Foundation).

“Not long ago, I was talking with several hundred high school students at one of the prestigious high schools in the city of New York. I said that my generation has been an autistic generation. I asked them what autism was. Imagine asking a group of high school students what autism is!

One student got up and explained very clearly: persons being so locked up in themselves that no one and nothing else can get in. It is an isolation process.

That, I think, is what has happened to the human community in our times. We are talking to ourselves. We are not talking to the river, we are not listening to the river. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking the conversation, we have shattered the universe. All these things that are happening now are consequences of this autism.”

If you’d like to share a quote, just e-mail it to me.

See you on the river, Jim Burns