School Children Could Lead Way On Sustainability

Many children are not only passionate about environmental issues, but more than capable of driving forward sustainability initiatives, argues new research into the role of schools in developing more sustainable communities. Children already play a key role in becoming more sustainable by encouraging changes in behavour of those around them whether in terms of recycling, saving energy, growing vegetables and healthy eating etc.  Read more.

Riverside Recognized As One Of 21 Smartest Cities In World

The City of Riverside has earned a distinction that only five other communities in the United States received.

Mayor of Riverside and Chair of Smart Riverside’s Board of Directors Ron Loveridge celebrated this extraordinary accomplishment saying, “The Smart21 designation is a significant honor recognizing that Riverside is a world leader in innovation and municipal technologies.”

The Smart21 Communities Award specifically cited Mayor Loveridge’s focus and leadership on technology initiatives which has produced a plan for tech-based transformation. Other achievements contributing to the award include partnerships with the City and universities to develop tech parks, incubators, business accelerations and mentoring programs; fiber and wireless networks reaching 80 percent of the City, and innovative programs that connect citizens with technology.

In case you missed it, The Press-Enterprise reports on the story:

City named one of 21 smartest in world

Riverside has been named one of 21 cities worldwide to receive the Smart21 Communities award.

New York-based think tank The Intelligent Community Forum recognized the city for its commitment to broadband, innovation, knowledge-economy, municipal WiFi, Digital Inclusion Program, SmartRiverside technology initiatives, e-waste processing, and collaboration with universities and CEOs.

Riverside shares the distinction with Dundee, Scotland; Tel Aviv, Israel; Ottawa, Canada; and Tallinn, Estonia.

The think tank seeks to share the best practices of communities in adapting to a broadband economy. For more information, go to www.intelligentcommunity.org

EPA Anticipates Acrolein Levels Likely Elevated At Most Schools

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 announced today that the first set of results from recent air monitoring studies at three Southern California schools are now available and have been posted on the agency’s Web site. These schools were selected as part of the EPA’s national Schools Air Toxics Initiative. The initiative, which is monitoring 63 schools in 22 states, is designed to help EPA and the states learn whether long-term exposure to toxics in the outdoor air poses health concerns for children and staff at the schools.
The three Southern California schools are: Felton Elementary School (Lennox); Santa Anita Christian Academy (El Monte); and Soto Street Elementary School (LA). EPA has been monitoring the air at these schools since early August for several air toxics, most of which are associated with mobile sources (cars, trucks, and airplanes). EPA has also been monitoring the air at Stevens Creek Elementary School (Cupertino) for hexavalent chromium, and has been releasing results for that location since early August. Data are posted at http://www.epa.gov/schoolair/. Additional information on the schools is available at http://www.epa.gov/region09/air/schools-monitor/.
Outdoor air at each of the schools will be monitored for 60 days, and air quality monitors will take a minimum of 10 daily samples during the sampling period. EPA will use the information gathered in this initial stage of the initiative to help determine next steps, which could include additional monitoring where appropriate.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA RESULTS
The first results available for the three Southern California schools show that levels of air toxics are below levels of short-term concern. EPA scientists warn against drawing conclusions at this point as the study is designed to determine whether long-term, not short-term, exposure poses health risks to school children and staff. Once monitoring is complete, the full set of results from all of the schools will be analyzed to evaluate the potential for health concerns related to long-term exposure to these pollutants. EPA will post this analysis to the Web once it is complete.
ACROLEIN RESULTS NATIONWIDE
While monitoring is not complete at most schools, including these three Southern California schools, EPA is providing early information about acrolein, a widespread pollutant that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat.  Acrolein primarily enters the air when things burn.  There are many sources of acrolein, including fires; exhaust from cars, trucks, boats, planes, wood heating; and industrial boilers. Acrolein is also found in cigarette smoke and smoke from cooking animal fats. Preliminary results from the 40 schools that are monitoring for acrolein are similar to levels from air toxics monitors in other areas of the country.  EPA anticipates that long-term levels of acrolein are likely to be elevated at most of the schools.
EPA has been regulating the emissions of acrolein from industrial facilities and vehicles since 1990. The agency already has seen reductions in acrolein emissions and expects to see more reductions in the future as rules such as the mobile source air toxics and heavy duty highway vehicle rules are phased in.

EPA plans to continue monitoring for acrolein at various locations across the country. This information will help us as we look for other ways to reduce acrolein emissions.

More information on acrolein and the School Monitoring Initiative is available on EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/schoolair/.

National Night Out Seeds Health In University Neighborhood

national_night_out_080409_thumbOur neighborhood party Tuesday, August 4th was a rousing success. Over 150 neighbors, police, fire and city councilmen attended. Mike Gardner was there early and helped set up. Too bad he and the fire crew had to leave for the next stop before all the food came. The pic is for you Mike.  Next time we’ll fix a plate. At least Andy Melendrez got to sample some of Christina Duran’s wings.

The variety and number of dishes was staggering. More than enough for the start of our neighborhood cookbook. Please post your recipes.

The event marked a fabulous opportunity to showcase the “Is It Healthy?” Game in action on a neighborhood level.

I think bringing that inquiry into our social networking endeavors  serves us well. It could make fulfilling our commitment to having UCR’s Med school sooner rather than later. I wonder what the dividends of turning an under served, under performing population for health outcomes into a national model might look like?

How quickly could we begin enrolling  residents into the game? Walking is a great first start.islander_park_trails_thumb

Getting our trails network completed for more walking would be a natural next step.  How many neighborhoods could we clean up or link up with trails?  What kind of social capital would it take to get it done this year?

“Is It Healthy ?” is showing up in the many community gardens sprouting up all over town. Seeds of Change donated free vegetable garden seeds for everyone who attended. We gave away over 100 seed packets to aspiring and veteran gardeners.

school_gardens1_thumbWhether they have a pot or a plot, neighbors want UCR to consider saving the historic house on the noll. They think it’s best use would be to anchor UCR’s Community garden with an office and tool shed.

When the rest of the dorms are finally build out, having a viable community garden acting as the buffer that defines the campus neighborhood perimeter (around Valencia Hill and Watkins Drive) would also knit together the arroyo preservation and honor UCR’s  architectural and agricultural  history.

It could also be the healthiest solution. Add some fruit trees along that walkable perimeter, include some citrus, and UCR, the students and the neighbors win. Tim White said he liked the idea when I spoke to him at the UCR community garden launch.

It’s also a real easy way to kick start the design of the Watkins “Paseo” Gateway — the neighborhood entrance as documented in our UCR Neighborhood Specific Plan. It’s a healthy solution. It’s certainly a reflection of the historic values of our neighborhood.

Goodwin’s is about to test an Organic Farmer’s Market in the parking lot on the 22nd.

We had over 150 people show up for national night out at Islander pool. Free Swim Night. That health theme isn’t going away. Many of them signed a museum petition to rethink the health of our cultural assets if the current management plan persists.

The need to better utilize our existing parks and keep scouting for opportunities to create new ones was a topic resulting from neighbors connecting and having a great place to do so.

Some of us have been discussing the acquisition of  Dr. Last’s property next to Islander Park.  He keeps trying to build high density housing and the neighbors keep opposing. In fact, that was the first issue I became aware of when we moved here in 86. Jane Block introduced me to my neighbors and the rest is history.

We’ve been brainstorming how to make it happen assuming he will sell. We think he should get a fair price. Maybe even name the center in his honor. What would a redevlopment zone look like that included a  self assessed parcel tax  to seed the purchase and the operational endowment?

Our neighborhood is grossly under served for parks and a community center. We want a multi function, LEED certified facility. Maybe we announce an architectural design contest. Film the whole process and pitch the content to one of the cable shows. My Green Riverside anyone? Isn’t the entire basis for sustainability and the green ecomony based on winning the “Is It Healthy?” Game?

What commercial opportunites could we include that offered job skill training, generated operational revenue and  hired local teens or seniors? What kind of matching funds could we expect down the road?
Mt. Vernon Park is also underutilized at this time. Why don’t we link them together? Andy Melendrez, Mike Gardner and Ralph Nunez have been asking those questions as well. We think there will be a willingness to make this happen — even in this economy. It’s a healthy solution and everyone understands that.

I think you’ll find that the results residents want for their lives and their neighborhoods starts with the possibility of vibrant, optimal health and the opportunities that foster having it occur. It’s the most relevant conversation that too many of us are not having yet.  Just a thought. Would especially love to know yours.