Radon in the Valley

  I recently wrote an article for the new ChatsworthPatch website about the potential dangers of radon in Chatsworth.
  What I learned was astounding. First, that radon is a very commonly-occurring substance throughout the United States. Second, that radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America. (Smoking is the first). Third, that throughout the San Fernando Valley radon levels considered unsafe by the EPA have been documented in LOTS of residences.
  The statistics come from a California Dept. of Public Health database that is available to all. It lists the results of tests done on residences by zip code. There is no information on specific addresses or actual radon levels -- it just shows how many tests have been reported in a zip code and how many were at or above the unsafe level of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter.)
  I work in Chatsworth (16%) live in Northridge (30%), and have relatives living in Granada Hills (16%) and Woodland Hills (32%), so I immediately ordered test kits for home and office and relatives from the Dr. Home Air website as mentioned in the article. It took about a week for the kits to arrive.
  The test kit directions state that your home test should be done with all the doors and windows closed. This is not a condition that is normal for my home most of the year -- but it just happened that 100 degree-plus temperatures conspired to keep the a/c running and all doors and windows closed. (There were no directions about air conditioning.)
  The test was easy -- take the little plastic container filled with activated charcoal out of a poly bag and set it on a surface off of the floor in a living space inside the house. 
   We set the kit out on top of the piano in the living room on Friday and on Monday morning popped it into its little bag and sent it off to the lab for analysis. (The cost of analysis is included in the $5 test kit fee -- a bargain.) Today we received the results by e-mail, which we had requested.
  They were NOT good. Our home showed a level of 4.2 pCi/L. While you might say that's just a fraction over the line of safe/unsafe, you might want to know that the World Health Organization recently lowered what it considers a "safe" level to 2.7 percent. Which means our home is definitely in the red zone.
  The next step will be to run another test (I got an extra kit just in case) and see what the results from that are. If we get two "bad" tests, then we'll have to call in the pros to decide what our next step is.
  Most likely, we'll install a radon mitigation system. In my view, you can't be too careful with a toxin in your home that, if left untreated, means me and my family would have the same chance of dying of lung cancer as we would of dying in a car crash. For more crazy statistics like this, and more info on radon, check out the very informative and easy to navigate EPA Radon website.
  If you live in the Valley and you haven't ordered your test kit yet, do it. Or make sure you have really good health insurance.


Native Plant Sale & Free Garden Talks

  The hubby and I have decided to kill the lawn and create a drought-tolerant landscape in our front yard. That darned Bermuda grass just doesn't want to go away! No water for nearly 9 months and there's still green sprouts (but not enough to leave it.
  So I was very excited to learn about the Native Plant Sale this weekend. The extremely knowledgeable volunteers from the California Native Plant Society will be selling seeds, shrubs, irises, mints, sages, berries and more plus books, posters, and other paraphernalia on Saturday and Sunday, October 2 and 3.
  The event takes place at the Sepulveda Garden Center at 16633 Magnolia Blvd. in Encino, just west of Hayvenhurst.
On Saturday, at 1pm, noted landscape architect Bob Perry will discuss his latest book, Landscape Plants for California Gardens. Of course copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.
  Then at noon on Sunday, Emily Green, who writes the "Dry Garden" column for the LA Times, will talk about the 10-year evolution of a native garden.
  If you haven't visited yet, the Sepulveda Garden Center is made up of community garden plots and touring through that is worth the trip in and of itself.
  Later in the month the Theodore Payne Foundation will be hosting its own sale so if you don't find what you're looking for this weekend, there's a fallback!

Chatsworth Solar Manufacturer Pitches the Mayor

Great story in the Daily News about Chatsworth-based International Solar Electric Technology meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday.
ISET president Vijay Kapur reportedly asked the mayor for assistance in getting a Dept. of Energy loan guarantee. It certainly seems like a reasonable request, especially considering the company would generate 250 new manufacturing jobs.

Solar Powered Microturbine Test is Successful

Chatsworth-based Capstone Turbine Corporation recently announced that they have been successful in converting sunlight to electricity with a solar receiver driving a microturbine.

They did so with a product developed by HelioFocus, an Israeli company. The two companies are working together to develop a microturbine engine that can use solar power.

The HelioFocus Solar Concentrator focuses enough sunlight energy to provide heat to drive the microturbine.

Company executives maintain that this new system is more efficient and requires less space than traditional photovoltaic systems.

"The commercial Concentrated Solar Power product should compare favorably in cost to photovoltaic," said Mark Gilbreth, Capstone's chief technology officer. 

Food Justice with Patt Morrison - Town Hall Event

Local public radio station KPCC will be hosting a special Town Hall event with Patt Morrison on July 15 with a mouthful of a title: Navigating L.A.’s Food Deserts: How to Ensure Equal Access to Healthy Food & Fresh Produce.

The event takes place Thursday, July 15, in Pasadena at the Crawford Family Forum and Mohn Broadcast Center. A press release said that Morrison ..."will spend an hour with those on the front lines of food justice to explore L.A.'s food deserts and the efforts to attract more grocery stores, farmers' markets and community gardens into these underserved, and often forgotten, communities."

There's no charge to attend but reservations are required. To learn more about this event, or to RSVP, visit scpr.org/forum.

Photo Credit: David McNew, Getty Images

Environmental Curriculum Approved Statewide

The Cal/EPA announced today that the California Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) Curriculum was approved for use in K-12 classrooms statewide. The State Board of Education voted for it unanimously.

“Students of all grade levels love learning about the environment around them,” said Linda Adams, Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. “With the approval of the State Board of Education, the EEI Curriculum takes important science and history-social science academic standards that every student needs to understand and uses the environment to teach those standards to mastery.  Along the way, the EEI makes learning relevant and fun, and we’re pleased that this new curriculum will be an in-depth resource for California educators statewide.”

Visit www.CaliforniaEEI.org to see all of the 85 EEI Curriculum units.  Many are still in their “final draft” version, but final versions are being posted weekly.  By Fall of 2010, the entire curriculum will be available for download free of charge.

Amgen Tour Finale in the Conejo Valley

It's hard to believe, but a major sporting event is going to have its grand finale' in Thousand Oaks this weekend.

That's right, professional cyclists on the Amgen Tour of California will cross the finish line on Westlake Boulevard near the Hyatt on Sunday (May 23).Even if you're not a cycling enthusiast, don't miss this opportunity to watch the best of the best zoom past as they take on a tough mountain course.

Eateries in the Oaks Shopping Center will be opening early to accommodate spectators and other activities are planning throughout the weekend. Click here for details.

The King of Cycling, Lance Armstrong is out of the race after taking a tumble and requiring stitches on Thursday but chances are excellent he'll make some kind of appearance. 

Sunday Food Harvest Volunteers Needed

This weekend, May 1st and 2nd Food Forward will participate in Big Sunday with its Big Pick event.

Help harvest fruit trees in neighborhoods in the North San Fernando Valley to feed the hungry. There are multiple trees on multiple properties just ready to be harvested! EXTRA trees have come through so we need EXTRA help!

Volunteers are needed on Saturday, May 1 from 9am to noon in Granada Hills, and on Sunday from 9am to noon in Northridge. Please RSVP to marie@foodforward.org if you are free to help out! Let her know which day/location you will report to.

In addition to getting the warm and fuzzies, you'll also be eligible for donuts and coffee both days plus FREE Big Sunday t-shirts for all who help!

Read more about the massive amount of fresh fruits and veggies being offered to L.A. area food banks by Food Forward in this Los Angeles Times article.

Vote for Environmental High by Thursday

The students at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale are asking for YOUR vote in Obama's Commencement Challenge.

You must vote by Thursday evening for your vote to count.

Environmental Charter is a college prep charter school in South Los Angeles. Of the five finalists in the Commencement Challenge it is the only West Coast school, and it is the only institution that focuses on sustainability in its curriculum.

Give the kids at high 5 by voting NOW at http://www.whitehouse.gov/commencement.

Whole Child Whole Planet Earth Day Extravaganza

I spent a couple of hours this evening helping Kathy Arnos and her gang of volunteers set up for the Whole Child, Whole Planet Expo taking place on Saturday from 9:30a.m. to 6 p.m. The venue is truly beautiful -- the Highland Hall Waldorf  School in Northridge feels more like a summer camp than a primary school campus.

Beautiful venue, free admission, free childcare, workshops, lots of freebies and great giveaways, music and entertainment, kids crafts -- I can't imagine a better way to spend the day which promises to feature our best weather all week.

Earth Day Water Expo at Balboa Park

I'm really excited about the Earth Day Water Expo happening Thursday, April 22, at Balboa Park.

For one thing, it starts at 6 p.m. so those of us who work all day can still celebrate Earth Day.

For another, they are going to have a whole mess o' vendors there with water-saving devices, landscaping tips, plant consultations, and the like.

DWP reps will be there too and I'm very interested in learning more about the so-called "Cash for Grass" program. (Think front lawns, not 4/20 folks). It's also referred to as the SoCal Water Smart program or the LADWP/MWD Residential Water Conservation Rebate Program.

The Expo is free and with more than 20 valuable raffle prizes you could actually end up in the plus column. Of course you'll for sure at least learn one useful thing you can take home regardless.

Do Earth Day right and take the Orange Line to avoid parking hassles or ride your bike (make sure your lights are charged up). The Sports Center building is on the Burbank end of the park on the West side of Balboa.

Stop Phone Books Before They Are Delivered

After just receiving pounds of phone books delivered to my home and office -- phone books that will never be used -- I was pleased to receive this electronic news from Smart 2 Be Green, about how to stop them from coming in the first place.

Visit YellowPagesGoesGreen and Paperless Petition.

In the meantime, phone books can be recycled with all your other paper recycling. Or you can reuse them as these enterprising college men did, courtesy of College Humor.com.

Go Green Expo This Weekend

I'm looking forward to the Go Green Expo this weekend. Last year's event had something for everyone -- families, homeowners, renters, pet lovers, hard-core greenies and people just getting informed. I've been informed that Made in the Valley will have a number of its member companies exhibiting including spa treatments by Bee Gorgeous Organics, organic coffee tasting by Aha Chocolate and pastries from Divine Delights.

There's a whole raft of workshops, yoga sessions, a drum circle, film screenings and seminars. Also, for some reason, there are a lot of events about pets including a pet rescue hosted by Linda Blair. Check the schedule here.

Tickets are $10 for adults which covers both Saturday and Sunday. Kids under 12 are free, seniors and students with valid IDs get in for just $5. The event is at the Los Angeles Convention Center so you can take the Metro. If you drive down, expect to pay at least $12 to park. Saturday the hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday it's 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (But from past experience, some vendors start packing up around 3 p.m. on Sunday so don't wait until the last minute.