California

This is a list of links to information resources related to sustainable agriculture, organic farming and gardening, and growing and buying good, safe food.

Image created by Matt FarrarThese resources are organized into the following general categories (though some are relevant to more than one category): Organizations, Magazines and Blogs, Educational Programs, Funding & Investing, Permaculture, Urban Farms, Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours, International/Non-U.S. Initiatives, Films and Books.

At the end, you will find a few suggestions of simple ways to get involved in the good food movement.

Organizations

Magazines and Blogs

Educational Programs

Funding and Investing

(including some crowdfunding sites)

Permaculture

[Partial list; please mention other groups in the Comments.]

Urban Farms

[This is just a small selection; there are many, many more. Please mention other urban farms you are familiar with in the Comments.]

Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours

International/Non-U.S. Initiatives

Films and Books

Many films about food and farming have come out recently. One of the most recent is Symphony of the Soil.

There are also many good books on these topics. One new one is called Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, by Daphne Miller, MD.

I also recommend reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, as well as books by Wendell Berry, Michael Ableman, Michael Pollan, Frances Moore Lappe, Anna Lappe, and Marion Nestle.

For other relevant books, check out the offerings from Chelsea Green Publishing, Mother Earth News, and New Society Publishers.

Taking Part

You don’t have to be a farmer to be involved in sustainable agriculture and the good food movement. Here are just a few of the steps that almost anyone can take, to create a healthier family, healthier community, and a healthier planet:

  • Buy organic, non-GMO, and locally grown foods whenever possible (from the grocery, a farmer’s market, local farms, a CSA, etc.) To find local farms, farmer’s markets, or food providers, go to LocalHarvest.org, and if you live in California or New York, check out Farmigo.com, which is basically an online Farmer’s Market or CSA for small or large groups.
  • If/when you buy meat (from stores or at restaurants), avoid getting factory-farmed meats. Look for and ask for meats from grass-fed and grass-finished animals, that are free of antibiotics and added hormones, and that also, ideally, have third-party certifications (such as Animal Welfare Approved) verifying that the animals were raised and slaughtered humanely. Boosting the demand for such products will help shift the industry away from factory farming. (We’ll be adding a blog post with more information on humanely raised meat in the future.)
  • Buy organic, non-GMO seeds and organically grown plants, and plant them in a kitchen garden, window boxes, porch pots, raised beds, a greenhouse, a community garden, or wherever you can.  Use organic/natural rather than toxic chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. It’s fun and satisfying to swap your surplus harvest with friends and neighbors.
  • Replace water-intensive, conventional grass lawns with a garden, or no-mow native grasses or groundcovers. Choose low-water (drought-tolerant), native or adapted (climate-appropriate) plants and flowers, including those that attract and feed pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

 

Related posts:

Sustainable Agriculture in the Spotlight: Fresh films, books, etc.  [August 2009]

Sustainable Ag: Marin and Sonoma County Resources

Recent Films with Green Themes: Food, farming, energy, etc.  [2011]

Quotations for Gardeners, Farmers, and Others  [MotherEarthNews.com blog]

Chocolates of Choice: Organic, Fair Trade, and Delicious

 

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July 24, 2013
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In addition to writing posts for this blog (The Green Spotlight), I write articles and blog posts for MotherEarthNews.com and other publications, and I do writing and editing work for clients. I almost never mention my other work activities here on my blog, but it occurred to me that some readers might like to know a little about my other writings and my professional background.

I have been a published writer for more than two decades. I was a writer, reporter, and producer for public radio’s Living on Earth program for several years. More recently, I was a contributing author for the book Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing (2nd edition, edited by Global Green USA, published by Island Press). I wrote the chapter on Green Operations and Maintenance, as well as one of the case studies featured in the book.

I’ve written numerous articles and commentaries on green building and other environmental topics. My articles have been published by more than a dozen media outlets (e.g., magazines, newspapers, public radio, and online media), including:

  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • Natural Home magazine
  • Environmental Design + Construction magazine
  • Urban Land’s GreenTech magazine
  • Living on Earth radio program
  • GreenBuildingAdvisor.com
  • GreenHomeGuide.com
  • KQED.org, and
  • Environmental News Network (ENN.com)

I’ve also written and/or edited guides, manuals, newsletters, reports, website content, marketing materials, case studies, and other types of publications on behalf of companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. My clients have included: New Leaf Community Markets (I am the proofreader for their monthly magazine, Flavor), the David Brower Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Enterprise Community Partners, Simon & Associates Green Building Consultants, Global Green USA, the National Building Museum, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Northern California Chapter, EduTracks, ICLEI, Industrial Economics, Lehrer Design, Compendia, the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, Ecobanca, and the Resource Renewal Institute.

Here’s a small selection of some of my writing work in recent years:

  • Case studies on a few of the campus projects and programs that received the 2010 and 2012 University of California/CSU/CCC Best Practices Award: UC Santa Cruz Campus’ Water Efficiency and Water Management Improvements; UC Irvine’s Medical Education Building; and CSU Sacramento’s American River Courtyard residence hall. Written on behalf of the UC Berkeley Green Building Research Center / Lehrer Design, 2011-2012
  • Green Operations & Maintenance Manual for the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, along with a Healthy Home Guide for SMHA residents, December 2011
  • “Chemical cleaners can introduce poisons, health risks into the home,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2007

And the following are a few of my stories that were broadcast on public radio’s Living on Earth:

 

I invite you to visit my PUBLICATIONS page for a more comprehensive list of writings and broadcast pieces that I’ve written, edited, or produced.

For information about the editorial services that I offer, please visit my Writing and Editing page, and feel free to contact me with any questions.

-Miriam

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May 30, 2012
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Platinum is the highest rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification program. Building projects that have attained this rating are among the greenest in the world.*

I recently added newly certified Platinum-rated projects (buildings, homes, offices, and stores) to my online listing of LEED Platinum Certified Building Projects Worldwide, which I had last updated a year ago. The listing is organized by country and—within the U.S.—by state. Some of the listed projects are linked to online case studies. The listing includes projects of all types, from every LEED rating system: New Construction (and Major Renovations), Existing Buildings/Operations & Maintenance, Neighborhood Developments, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Homes, Schools, and Retail.

As of my latest review of the data (at the beginning of January 2012), it appears that there are now more than 1,045 LEED Platinum rated projects worldwide.

While the vast majority of these LEED projects—about 950 of them—are located in the United States (where LEED was created), Platinum rated projects now exist in 25 countries; a year ago only 16 countries had LEED Platinum rated projects. The nine countries that gained their first LEED Platinum projects over the past year are: France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey. The other countries with LEED Platinum projects are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and of course the United States. After the U.S., India is the country with the most Platinum projects, with about 35 projects so far (up from 20 a year ago). Canada and China also have many Platinum projects.

Within the United States, 49 of the 50 U.S. states (all states except North Dakota)—plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico—now have building projects that have achieved the LEED Platinum rating. A year ago, Alabama and West Virginia did not yet have any LEED Platinum projects, but now they do.

In terms of the absolute number of LEED Platinum certified projects in each state, here are the top 5 states with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects (at last count):

So California has more than 2.5 times more Platinum projects than any other state—but that’s not too surprising since it’s the most populous state in the country.  On a per capita basis (i.e., as a percentage of population size), Washington D.C. has more LEED Platinum rated projects than any of the states. And when you add in the 50 states, here are the Top 5 with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects per capita:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Oregon
  3. Montana
  4. Vermont
  5. New Mexico

The range of Platinum project types is very broad. In addition to high-profile projects (such as the iconic TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco, which got the Platinum rating for its upgrades under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system) and a number of high-end offices, retail spaces, and luxury residences, LEED Platinum projects also include several public buildings and many modest homes and affordable housing developments. For example, there are dozens of Habitat for Humanity-built LEED Platinum homes around the country, and more than 75 affordable Platinum homes built in New Orleans alone through various initiatives, including Make It Right.

* Another green building certification, which is widely considered to be an even higher bar to reach than LEED Platinum, is the Living Building Challenge. To date, four projects have achieved the Living Building Challenge certification: the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York (which also got a LEED Platinum certification); and the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia. The latest project to achieve this certification (along with a LEED Platinum certification) is the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab in Kamuela, Hawaii.

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January 19, 2012
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Take a peek at The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page to see our daily blurbs and links. Anyone can view the page, whether or not you have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, be sure to click on the “Like” button to join our growing online community (if you haven’t already); then you should be able to see The Green Spotlight’s posts in your daily Facebook news feed.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that are featured. Here’s a sampling of a few of the solutions, efforts, and success stories that we’ve spotlighted on the page in recent weeks:

  • the electric DeLorean, coming out in 2013
  • LEED for Homes Awards: this year’s winning projects
  • hybrid wind/solar systems
  • Reinventing Fire, the new book by Amory Lovins
  • Earthjustice
  • Global Community Monitor
  • Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
  • Green Corps’ Field School for Environmental Organizing
  • Silent Spring Institute
  • Arctic Live
  • Revenge of the Electric Car (new documentary)
  • CleanTech Open: this year’s finalists and Forum
  • Brower Youth Awards: videos and info about this year’s winners
  • Solar Decathlon home design competition’s winning projects
  • DIY solar installations in Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • how to size a solar PV system for charging an electric car
  • B Corporation legislation passed in California
  • quotations from Ray Anderson, Buckminster Fuller, Annie Dillard, and others
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October 26, 2011
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The following resource list provides links to organizations and websites that provide valuable information on green affordable housing. Many of these resources are focused on multi-family low-income housing developments, but some also apply to single-family affordable homes.


 

Global Green USA: Greening Affordable Housing Initiative *

Global Green USA, Holy Cross project

A few of Global Green’s projects and resources:

 

Affordable Housing Design Advisor

Architecture for Humanity

Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor (HUD / Energy Star)

Enterprise Green Communities *

Green Affordable Housing Coalition (Build It Green, CA)

Habitat for Humanity: Sustainable Building / Construction Technologies

Home Depot Foundation’s Affordable Housing Built Responsibly grant/awards program

LEED for Homes’ Initiative for Affordable Housing

LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation): Sustainable Communities programs

LISC Green Development Center

National Center for Healthy Housing

New Ecology, Inc.

Partnership for Sustainable Communities *

Tiny House Blog

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities , and
HUD Green Homes and Communities information

U.S. Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities (HUD/EPA/DOT)

*  =  I have worked on writing projects for the organizations that are marked with an asterisk. I also used to work for an architecture firm that specializes in designing green affordable housing projects in the Boston metropolitan area: Davis Square Architects.

 

If you know of other relevant resources, please mention them in the Comments below. Thanks!

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July 25, 2011
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UPDATE: The post below has been superceded by a newer post with updated data.
Please click here for the more recent (2012) update and analysis of LEED Platinum projects.

This is the older post:

Platinum is the highest rating in the LEED green building rating system; it’s one level higher than Gold. Building projects that have attained this rigorous level of certification are among the greenest in the world.

I recently added the latest set of Platinum-rated projects (buildings, homes, offices, and stores) to my listing of LEED Platinum Certified Building Projects Worldwide. This unique listing is organized by country and—within the U.S.—by state. Some of the listed projects are linked to online case studies. The listing includes projects of all types, from every LEED rating system: New Construction (and Major Renovations), Existing Buildings/Operations & Maintenance, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Homes, Schools, and Retail. It is primarily compiled from the data provided in the USGBC/GBCI’s directory of LEED certified projects and the USGBC’s most recently posted list of LEED for Homes certified residences.

There are now hundreds of LEED Platinum certified projects. As of my latest review of the data (at the very beginning of 2011), it appears that projects in 47 of the 50 U.S. states (all states except Alabama, North Dakota, and West Virginia) have achieved the LEED Platinum rating to date, along with projects in Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

California has more than 130 LEED Platinum certified projects (at last count), which is more than twice as many as there are in any other state, and it’s also more than twice as many as California had only a year ago.  In terms of the absolute number of LEED Platinum certified projects in each state, California is followed by Oregon (with almost 60 projects), and then Texas, New York, and Massachusetts (each of which has between 30-40 projects). If you take state populations into account, Oregon clearly has the lead (for the greatest number of LEED Platinum certified projects per capita).

Worldwide, Platinum rated projects now exist in 16 countries. Outside of the U.S., there are projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates. Among these, India has the most, with 20 projects so far.

The range of Platinum project types is very broad. In addition to high-profile projects (such as the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock) and a number of high-end offices and luxury residences, LEED Platinum projects also include several public buildings (such as San Jose City Hall) and a surprising number of affordable housing projects. The following are just a few examples of the many affordable housing projects that have achieved the LEED Platinum rating: 51 single-family, detached homes built by Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis, MO; the General Colin L. Powell Apartments in the South Bronx, NY; Wisdom Way Solar Village homes in Greenfield, MA; Autumn Terrace mixed-use housing development in San Marcos, CA; Vista Dunes in La Quinta, CA; and a variety of affordable homes in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Note: Another green building certification, which is widely considered to be an even higher bar to reach than LEED Platinum, is the Living Building Challenge. To date, three projects have achieved the Living Building Challenge certification: the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York (which also got a LEED Platinum certification); and the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia.

UPDATE: Please click here for The Green Spotlight’s more recent update and analysis (from January 2012).

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January 10, 2011
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If you’re thinking about doing a major renovation of your home or building a new home, I hope you’ll avail yourself of the growing number of resources on how to design and build houses that consume very little energy and that produce at least as much energy as they consume (i.e., net-zero-energy homes).

One of the most recent books on this topic is: Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet: A comprehensive guide to the design, construction, and economics of net-zero energy homes, by Ann V. Edminster (Green Building Press, December 2009). The publisher says: “Energy Free is designed to equip building professionals and homeowners alike with a toolkit for creating homes that use no more energy than they produce—this means homes that are free from the vagaries of energy-price fluctuations and that help to free society of the high political and environmental costs of fossil fuels. The author includes…step-by-step guidance on how to make decisions that will yield an energy-free residential project, whether a single-family home or multifamily building, new or existing, in an urban or a rural setting.” For more info about the book, click here.

One approach to designing and renovating homes so that they use very little energy is the Passive House approach, espoused by the Passive House Institute. The Passive House (or Passiv Haus) standard was originally developed in Germany. Passive houses are designed to reduce energy consumption by 80-90% compared to conventional houses. The first new home being built as a Passive House in California is a project of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin (CLAM). The home, known as the Blue2 House, is an affordable second unit behind another home in Point Reyes Station; the main house was also renovated using some Passive House techniques.  CLAM is chronicling the home’s construction process and progress on a blog.

Other resources worth checking out include: GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, which has published several case studies of net-zero and near-net-zero energy homes; the Home of the Future program from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD); the Department of Energy’s Building America program; and Affordable Comfort Inc.’s Thousand Home Challenge and Deep Energy Reductions programs.

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June 3, 2010
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Several certification programs have emerged to rate the sustainability of mixed-use, neighborhood and community-scale developments—addressing a wider range of issues than previous rating systems for individual buildings have addressed. These broader-scale certification programs include: LEED for Neighborhood Development, One Planet Communities, and the Living Building Challenge. The programs’ requirements can be used as planning and design guidelines for any project, even if official third-party certification is not the goal.

1. LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND): LEED ND was developed as a collaboration between the U.S. Green Building Council, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. LEED ND integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building into neighborhood design. It aims to promote walkable, livable communities that reduce urban sprawl, decrease automobile dependence, provide housing close to jobs and services, and benefit environmental and public health. LEED ND credits are organized into the following categories: Smart Location and Linkage; Neighborhood Pattern and Design; Green Infrastructure and Buildings; Innovation and Design Process; and Regional issues.

LEED ND can be applied to developments of all sizes, and it can be applied to new developments or redevelopment projects. The first official, post-pilot version of the rating system was released at the end of 2009. A project can be recognized at any or all of the following stages, depending on where it is in the development process:

  • Stage 1: Conditional approval of a LEED-ND plan, prior to entitlement. (This can help projects get support from the local government and community.)
  • Stage 2: Pre-certification of a LEED-ND plan for fully-entitled projects. (This can help projects secure financing, expedited permitting, or tenants.)
  • Stage 3: Certification of a project once construction has been completed.

LEED ND pilot developments that have been constructed include: Solea Condominiums in Washington DC (Stage 3 Gold certified); Eliot Tower in Portland, OR (Stage 3 Silver certified); Excelsior and Grand in St. Louis Park, MN (Stage 3 Certified); Whistler Crossing in Riverdale (Chicago area), IL (Stage 3 Certified); and Celadon in Charlotte, NC (Stage 3 Certified). And a couple of notable LEED ND pilot projects that are well underway are: Dockside Green in Victoria, British Columbia (Stage 2 Platinum certified plan), and Tassafaronga Village in Oakland, CA (Stage 2 Gold certified plan).

2. One Planet Communities: This is an international program that is part of the One Planet Living program developed by BioRegional, a UK-based environmental organization. One Planet Communities have the ambitious goal of reducing their ecological footprint by at least 80%, which would make them some of the greenest neighborhood developments in the world. The One Planet Living program is based on 10 principles in the following categories: zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, local and sustainable materials, local and sustainable food, sustainable water, natural habitats and wildlife, culture and heritage, equity and fair trade, and health and happiness.  The first North American project to be endorsed by One Planet Communities is the 200-acre Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park, California. Sonoma Mountain Village is also registered as a LEED ND project.

3. Living Building Challenge: Like One Planet Communities, this is an international program that has developed deep-green standards that go beyond LEED requirements. This certification system can be applied to projects of any scale: from an individual building to a neighborhood or community design project.

In addition to these certification programs, many organizations are working to advance the sustainability of neighborhoods and communities in a variety of ways. Two active organizations that are focused primarily on planning, design, and development include: Partnership for Sustainable Communities (for whom I recently did some research and writing) and Urban Re:Vision. A number of local, grassroots initiatives for community sustainability, resiliency, and energy independence—such as Transition initiatives—are also gaining steam around the country and the world. Update (added 4/21/10): For a searchable database of “ecovillages” around the U.S. and the world, see the Global Ecovillage Network website.

Click here to download a more comprehensive listing of organizations and websites focused on sustainable communities (4-page, 80 KB PDF file – updated June 2010). The listing includes national, California-based, and San Francisco Bay Area resources.

For other good info on sustainable communities, smart growth, and green neighborhood design and development, check out Kaid Benfield’s NRDC blog.

In a later post, I’ll be covering larger-scale, municipal-level sustainable planning initiatives for entire cities and regions. Stay tuned.

Related Post: LEED ND Developments in the U.S., Canada, and China [August 5, 2010]

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February 22, 2010
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SCEC photo by Matt CarpenterThe recently certified Salmon Creek Falls Environmental Center is the first LEED Platinum certified K-12 public school in California, and it is also the first building in Sonoma County to achieve LEED Platinum certification. (The first commercial/non-residential building, that is. I believe that a private residence in Healdsburg was actually the first project to achieve LEED Platinum in Sonoma County.) To the best of my knowledge, the Salmon Creek Falls Environmental Center is the first Platinum rated non-residential building in the entire North Bay region of the Bay Area (Sonoma, Napa, and Marin counties). The Center is located on the site of the Harmony Union Schools (Harmony Elementary and Salmon Creek Middle School) in Occidental, CA, a town in the redwoods to the west of Santa Rosa. The building serves the school district as well as the surrounding community. It includes an auditorium, cafeteria and kitchen, and meeting rooms; and it has many green features, including a vegetated, flower-covered “living roof.”

Here is my listing of all North Bay building projects that have achieved LEED certification to date. And here’s a longer listing of green building projects (of all sorts, not only LEED projects) that I’m aware of in the North Bay.

And a quick update on the stats for LEED Platinum projects worldwide: According to my latest calculations (as of December 2009), 46 states and 12 countries (including the U.S.) now have at least one LEED Platinum certified building. China and Great Britain are the latest countries to join the ranks of those with a LEED Platinum rated project. Within the United States, California—with more than 50 Platinum certified projects so far—is home to more Platinum projects than any other state.

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December 17, 2009
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