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Film screening inspired Michel S. to buy a Leaf

Michel Saint-Sulpice is a gentle soul who takes his responsibility for the planet seriously, and always has. Growing up in France, his family was careful with resources, and he has carried forth that strong environmental ethic into his adult life as a Santa Barbara architect.

Michel aspires to be fossil fuel free by the end of 2012, and he’s well on his way. Solar panels provide his home with electricity, and he’s been driving a Toyota Prius since the second generation first hit the market. He completely removed his lawn to make room for a beautiful drought tolerant landscape. Greywater and collected rain water (with back-up well water) will soon irrigate a “food forest.” On the drawing board is a geothermal system that will heat the entire house (with cooling option), all his domestic water and his swimming pool year round. Since Michel produces all his electricity, his carbon footprint will be zero, and he will not be paying electric and gas bills any longer. He has taken these measures to express his deep appreciation for nature and beauty.

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Isabelle G. is green to the core

Isabelle Greene could not have escaped her destiny even if she’d wanted to: it was built right into her family name. Growing up in the wilder, more open-space version of Pasadena and the granddaughter of the notable Arts and Crafts architect Henry Greene, she was exposed early on to both the built environment and the natural world. Today, at the age of 78, she is an energetic champion of “sustainable landscape architecture,” and continues to manage her private practice of 30 years.

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Eatlocal1

A month of eating (mostly) local

Suppose you had dinner guests whose trip to your table covered thousands of miles and took several weeks. Surely that would represent a special occasion, and you would probably forgive them for being a bit listless and travel weary from their journey. You might even overlook the large energy expenditure and carbon footprint it took to reach you. But what if this situation was repeated every day, for every meal? That would be crazy, right?

Indeed it would be crazy, and yet that is very nearly what happens in the average American household. Only it's not dinner guests that travel great distances, but rather the food itself. The typical meal item originates more than 1,500 miles away and spends weeks or more being processed, packaged, shipped, and stored before ever reaching your plate. Are you willing to forgive listless, travel-weary food that has a large carbon footprint?

My wife Gina and I decided we are not willing, and so for the last few years we've been eating a more local, environmentally-responsible diet. In fact, we just spent the month of October participating in the Eat Local Challenge, with a goal of eating only foods grown or produced within 100 miles of our Goleta home. The following is an accounting of all the food we ate, where it originated, and some reflections on the experience.

Food sources

The ultimate in being a locavore is to walk out into the yard and gather some food just moments before preparing and eating it. We have a productive, healthy garden which provides roughly half of our fruits and vegetables, along with abundant eggs from our happy chickens! From just outside our door we have apples, oranges, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, herbs (rosemary, time, oregano, cilantro), squash, carrots, lemons, figs, strawberries, lettuce, cabbage, beets, chard, and eggs. We also had blueberries harvested in the spring and stored in the freezer (powered by rooftop photovoltaic panels).

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The next best source of local food is the Farmers' Market, and we are fortunate to have good ones every week here on the south coast. During October we patronized those growers with farms within 100 miles. From them we bought almonds, grapes, squash, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, dry beans, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, avocados, walnuts, spinach, corn, peppers, and leeks. We also had local free-range beef and chicken, as well as cheese made from the milk of Santa Barbara county dairy cows. We used Santa Ynez honey the entire month instead of sugar, and twice we bought bread made by the Solvang Pie Company using locally-grown wheat.

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We did visit grocery stores a couple times during the month, and in particular, the Isla Vista Food Co-op was a great surrogate when we missed the Farmers' Market. From them we bought locally-grown lettuce, broccoli, and apples, as well as wine and olive oil made in Santa Barbara County.

Exceptions to the rule

I must confess that we had some "cheats" or exceptions to the 100-mile rule. We got milk and yogurt from the Straus Family Creamery, an organic dairy in Sonoma County. They use returnable glass bottles, thus cutting down on wasteful packaging. We allowed ourselves a few other small indulgences with local connections: coffee from Handlebar Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara, tortillas and chips from La Tolteca, and ice cream from McConnell's. We also made an exception for spices and condiments, although you might think our definition of a condiment was a bit liberal... for example, parmesan cheese and caramel sauce fell in this category!

Reflections

Gina and I choose to eat local for many reasons. We believe the industrial food system is too reliant on toxic chemicals and fossil fuels, so we prefer to support local farmers and ranchers who practice environmentally-responsible agriculture. There is something comforting about buying a piece of fruit directly from the farmer who grew it, knowing that it was picked recently and only a few miles away.

We also found during October that we had significantly less trash because very little of our food had packaging. Our meals didn't come from a box or jar with a lengthy ingredient list; instead we prepared everything from scratch. It took more planning and time, but the end result was worth it. Ironically, our food budget during October was lower than normal, primarily because we eliminated junk calories and processed foods, and we never wasted leftovers. Eating local doesn't need to be more expensive.

Modern society has become disconnected from food in many ways. People don't really know what they are eating and how it got to their table, and yet the negative impacts on health and the environment are profound. Choosing to eat local is a major step in the right direction. It reconnects us with our food, and perhaps most significantly, the food tastes better!

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Own a one of a kind gypsy caravan

This beautiful gypsy caravan can be yours! It is the featured auction item at CEC’s Green Gala.

Ideal as an artist studio, guest cottage, romantic getaway or over-the-top conversation piece, the Gypsy Caravan has been built in the Ledge style of gypsy caravans — a narrow base with upright sides, extended living space, and arched roof.

Our Gypsy Caravan features sleeping quarters for two in a custom-built and dressed double bed, built-in desk and closet, indoor and outdoor sconces and a painted chandelier with antique Austrian crystals, powered by an off-grid solar panel. Built from the ground up using mostly reclaimed wood and found material, the entire piece features charming and eclectic recycled, bartered and repurposed items—in true gypsy fashion.

Jim Forsha of Imagine Design Studios and Jamie Nelson of Jamie Nelson Construction in Santa Barbara are the architects, visionaries and builders of this masterpiece. Galvin Painting designed the base painting. The copper roof was donated by Craig Roof Company. The caravan's entire decorative painting, antiquing, processing of the colors, and custom artwork, both inside and outside was done by renowned artist Maryvonne LaParliere. The solar panel was donated by Sun Pacific Solar Electric. Merryl Brown Events coordinated the project from conception to completion. Together, these artisans have created a unique and amazing masterpiece valued at $80,000!

Bidding starts at $20,000. Advance bidding begins Tuesday, October 11 on CEC’s Charity Buzz online auction page.

For more information, contact Kathi King at [email protected].

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Hennigan

A tech geek’s journey into electric vehicles

I never intended to be green. I confess to having owned and thoroughly enjoyed driving a Plymouth Barracuda equipped with a big-block V8 and twin four-barrel carburetors in my younger days. I'm a technology geek, so interesting and elegantly engineered technology has always appealed to me, cars included.

The Prius Era

Think back to the 2004 Prius. Yes, it got great gas mileage, but that car was thinking out of the box. It was visually different from any car on the market, a little geeky but kind of cool in a VW Bug sort of way. Plus, the tech was awesome for 2004. It had voice recognition, electronic entry, cool sound system, navigation, bluetooth, all of the bells and whistles. Technology geeks like myself were buzzing about it, so I got on the waiting lists at a couple of dealerships. As I was waiting and reading, other techies started talking delivery and my anticipation began building.

Boom - out of nowhere, I saw an online posting about a dealer in Barstow that had a red Prius, fully loaded. I was on the phone in a flash, closed the deal, and hopped on a Greyhound to Barstow the next day. It was a very cool car, a technology wonder, and a whale of a lot of fun.

The cool tech has changed me. I find myself becoming greener and greener. Watching my MPG readout has become a video game. Could I beat my old high score? Could I get 600 miles on one tank (11 gallons)? Plus, using the old line, "Come here often?" to that Hummer driver at the gas station who gave me weird looks, well *that* was sheer joy.

Fast-forward 7 years. The Prius has over 110,000 miles on it. It's never had a brake job and isn't going to need one for a long time to come. The engine, likewise, doesn't have the wear and tear that you would expect after that kind of mileage.

Into the World of EVs

The buzz shifted in 2009. Spotting another Prius on the road isn't a rare event anymore. They're everywhere. The new buzz was about going to the next level. People started talking about adding battery capacity to the Prius to increase the storage capacity and hence the mileage. I heard a lot about the electric Tesla, which was way out of my price range, but would blow the doors off of my old Barracuda. Then I started hearing rumors of an electric Chevy.

A co-worker had a chance to drive an EV-1 back in the day and still raved about it. Pretty soon the talk about the Volt really spiked. I was interested. The Prius was still going strong but I was ready to explore. I went to the GM websites, followed the buzz, and visited the local Chevrolet dealer. They had lots of slick color brochures on Chevy trucks, Corvette, Camaro, etc. but nothing solid on the Volt. I left the dealership with a black-and-white photocopy of the PDF from the GM website stapled to the guy's business card. “Not ready to take an order but I'll take your card. Don't call us, we'll call you.”

I wanted this car.

July 2010 rolls around and California is one of the first markets. They're available for pre-order and the Santa Barbara dealer is on the Volt list. Back I go. Different salesman. This time I left with a grainier photocopy copied from the first, stapled to another business card. At least he wrote my name down and said he'd call.

I returned to the fan sites and blogs. After a few weeks, people are posting confirmed order numbers and target build dates. The GM sites were exploding with new information.

Back to Graham I go. I make an appointment with the guy who previously sold me a car there. I walk into the dealership with my checkbook literally in my hand. The sharks are circling as soon as I step onto the lot. A Volt? “Well, I'll put your name on *my* list, which is better than that other guy's list, and we'll call you and you can come back in a few days and put down a $5,000 deposit. We don't know how many we're getting or when. Don't call us, we'll call you.”

Oh-kaay....

What's going on? It's now coming up on Labor Day 2010. I pick up the phone and call the Chevy dealer in Lompoc. "We have 4 Volts allocated to us out of the first build cycle and one is sold. Come on up and give us a $500 refundable deposit. We sell at sticker, no markup."

Well, Lompoc is 40 miles away but it’s worth the drive. 20 minutes after walking in the door I have my very own GM order number. 40 miles just happens to be the electric range on the Volt. Welcome to my next video game. When I pick it up fully charged, could I make it home without using any gas?

There's a $7,500 federal tax credit and my car rolls off the assembly line just before GM shuts down for Christmas. I picked up the car on December 30, 2010. I made it with 2 days to spare. I lost the video game, though. The gas engine came on at Winchester Canyon. I guess I'll have to practice my technique.

Nine months and 7,000 miles later my best all-electric range is 46 miles. I've filled the 9-gallon tank 6 times, typically on trips to Los Angeles. It's a very rare day that I use any gasoline at all tooling around town. The dashboard indicator says my oil life is down to 80% so I guess I'll need to get it changed in another year or so.

I guess I'm green now, but the cool tech made me do it.

I love this car.

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