Sustainable Solano Seeks Lead Landscape Designer

By Sustainable Solano

One thing nature teaches us with each season is that change is an inevitable part of the cycle of growth.

At Sustainable Solano, we have been lucky to have Kathleen Huffman, owner of The RePurposed Okie, as a central force in our sustainable landscaping work. Kathleen and the program have grown together and she has played a key role as our lead landscape designer.

Now, as Kathleen plans to move back to Oklahoma this summer to take care of family, we are seeking someone who understands permaculture and uses its principles in food forest garden design to step into that role.

Kathleen started her journey with Sustainable Solano when she attended the Land Caretaker Training in 2015. From there she took a Permaculture Design Certificate course and transformed her landscape career from mow and blow to a sustainable landscape business that is now thriving. She became our lead designer for the Solano Sustainable Backyard program and designed 12 demonstration food forest gardens in Vallejo, Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville. She has taught sustainable landscape classes throughout the county and guided the installations with the community through teaching educational workshops. We have been so honored to have her with us for four years.

For Kathleen, the move back to Oklahoma creates an opportunity to re-open her 10-acre family farm to showcase sustainability and permaculture and bring all that she has learned from her time in California. As we plan for her departure this summer, we are entering a transition phase of searching for the right person to step into the role Kathleen has filled. As we’ve often learned, such transitions can open up new opportunities at the right time for someone who will be a natural fit with the aspirations of Sustainable Solano for the programs we offer to transform our communities.

We are looking for someone local who can take on the lead landscape designer role and all that it entails. We need someone comfortable with teaching the community about sustainable landscapes who will be able to guide community members through installation workshops.

The ideal candidate would have a PDC, business license and liability insurance and would be knowledgeable about greywater systems and irrigation.

We are looking for someone who not only has an interest in sustainable landscaping, but also has an interest in growing their practice with us while continuing to learn and share that knowledge with the community.

If interested, please contact Nicole Newell at nicole@sustainablesolano.org

Interested in Sustainable Landscaping and Community-Building? Tell Us!

By Sustainable Solano

Have you ever wondered how Sustainable Solano makes the connections that lead to our involvement in the community? Whether it is the planning and planting of a sustainable garden, the installation of a greywater system, urban forests to bring food and shade to residents or bringing local communities together around these sustainability efforts, the process to find sites can be a long one.

Now, you can help! We know that the best way to find the perfect site for a future project is through the people we meet. That’s why we’ve created a quick and easy form for Solano County residents to let us know how they want to get involved and help us identify where programs and projects are needed.

We want to hear your vision and look for opportunities that Sustainable Solano can support. We’ll use this information to identify which of our current programs best fit your interests, and it will give us insight as we expand our programs and help to shape future initiatives.

We are seeking both private residents and public sites to be part of our green infrastructure programs that take a restorative approach to our environment and include Sustainable Backyards, Solano Gardens and Urban Forests.

We’re also actively starting our search for the first Resilient Neighborhood site in Vallejo. Our vision for the Resilient Neighborhoods program is to unite neighbors to work collaboratively, with the support of the greater community, to install low-cost, low-tech sustainability elements that restore valuable services back to our built environment, like producing food, filtering air and cycling water. Let us know if you are interested in exploring this opportunity in your neighborhood — or let us know what other programs fit your interests.

Filling out the interest form is the first step. Become part of the conversation on sustainability and building community. We hope you’ll take a moment to fill out the form yourself and share it with neighbors and friends.

Download the form here and send your completed form to nicole@sustainablesolano.org

Or fill out our interactive online form here.

Planting an Urban Forest: Harvesting The Power of Community

By Gabriela Estrada

“Planting trees can be very rewarding,” Dr. Muick told her class. She was a professor at Solano Community College, whose class I was giving a presentation to. I had never thought about the planting of trees as anything other than practical. Her words however, invited me to reflect on exactly what part of working on the Urban Forest project I found rewarding.

 

After deep reflection, I concluded that the rewarding part about this project so far has been the chance to strategically support community members who are seeking opportunities to take action and activate their power as community members. For there is true strength in diverse community members collectively working on a project that will create a positive change in the world. 

 

With this reward in mind, I entered on a three-month journey of event planning, of reaching out to different organizations and individuals in Fairfield who might be interested in joining the Sustainable Solano to plant an Urban Forest.

 

On the day of the event, I was delighted when about 60 volunteers from all age groups showed up; ready to plant trees and reap their own rewards. Armed with shovels, gardening gloves, water bottles and a go-getter attitude, they were ready to dig holes and serve at any capacity needed.

 

After making sure that everyone was signed-in and accounted for, we gathered to talk a little more about the importance of the project and to briefly discuss what the next three hours had in store for us. We then gathered in a circle, and while taking three deep breaths; we thanked the earth beneath our feet, the air around us and the people we were getting ready to share this tree planting journey with.

 

Afterwards, people self-assigned into two groups: one that will be moving mulch in order to prepare the soil and another team that was going to be digging the holes where the trees were going to be planted. Younger children, assisted by their parents, began to move mulch in wheel barrows. A few father and son duos soon became occupied digging holes, and removing trees from their storage containers (this task is harder than it sounds). Small groups of 20-something year olds laughed, as they met classmates for the first time in person while they struggled to dig into the hard ground.

 

As the event progressed, I then encouraged volunteers to think of names for the trees they were planting, and everyone jumped at the opportunity to do it. Tree names ranged from Groot, to Bert, to Crystal Diamond, to Snowflake. People were having fun, chuckling and discussing possible names as they struggle to dig deeper into the ground.

 

Our hard work paid off, and in a manner of two hours, eighteen trees had been planted in their new home. This, however, did not discourage many from persevering and continuing to move mulch and helped set-up the drip irrigation system for the trees until noon. As the event came to an end, volunteers then began to place shovels, garden rakes and wheel barrows next to the trailer they had gotten them out from.

 

They scuffed the mud collected underneath their shoes away on the pavement and asked when the next tree planting was going to happen.

 

The end of the event, marked a successful first installation of Fairfield’s Urban Forest, but the project is continuing through November 2019! As the project continues, I envision strategically attracting more people and organizations who are interested in working with Sustainable Solano to increase the green infrastructure in Solano County. I hope to increase the capacities of volunteers to go beyond planting trees on the ground (though this is one of the most important parts). Though I am still figuring out just how I will do this, I hope that as volunteers continue to work on this project, they will continue to harvest the power of their community and learn a couple new skills along the way. I am always excited to hear ideas and how people want to be involved!

New “Resilient Neighborhoods” Program Launches in 2019!

By Kassie Munro

Representatives from Sustainable Solano, Vallejo Commission for the Future and Greenbelt Alliance met with PG&E at the JFK Library in Vallejo on December 21st to celebrate the launch of the Resilient Neighborhoods Program

We can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate our 20th anniversary than with the announcement of a new program that will help to expand our work in improving social, economic and environmental justice in Solano County: Resilient Neighborhoods.

What is “Resilience”?
You may have noticed the term “resilience” popping up more and more in the environmental community, and increasingly in mainstream conversations.  The Community & Regional Resilience Network defines community resilience as “the ability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.” In short, resilience is about surviving and thriving, regardless of the challenge. It’s easy to understand why this topic is garnering so much attention today, as we face the reality of our changing climate – from droughts to heat waves, to the devastating fires that have ravaged our state.  There is an urgent need to strengthen our cities’ capacity to adapt to these stressors, and we see this as an inspiring opportunity to develop a new holistic sustainability program that aims to help our cities better serve the needs of our residents today and into the future.

 

The Resilient Neighborhoods Program
The Resilient Neighborhoods program will drive the restoration of regenerative ecosystem services in our urban landscape to improve the social and environmental resilience of our communities.  This program introduces a concept of shared solutions and collective actions to the community, in which a few nearby houses cooperate to install and enjoy various sustainability elements. Utilizing low-cost, low-tech measures, these clusters of homes will transform into a Resilience Hub. Informed by leading edge sciences, including biomimicry (which you can read more about here) and permaculture, we will facilitate the installation of sustainable solutions that can help transform our built environment from a resource sink, into a functioning producer of ecosystem services. This program has the potential to demonstrate that, block by block, neighborhoods can produce clean air, maintain clean water, create healthy soil, sequester carbon, reduce heat, and support biodiversity. These environmental benefits have a cascading effect into health and wellness and economic prosperity. In addition, when implemented in a cooperative model of shared services, they provide the framework for social benefits like disaster preparedness and community support networks.

The Resilient Neighborhoods program will be a collaborative effort with community partners, from city leadership to like-minded organizations, and, most importantly, the residents.  This work is about empowering our citizens to take an active role in the stewardship of their local environment.  By providing education, skill building, and much-needed resources, we hope to foster local champions that will help expand grass-roots movements and create more resilient cities across our county.

 

The Vallejo Pilot
The inaugural phase of this program will be launched this year in Vallejo, made possible by generous funding from PG&E and support from our partners at the Vallejo Commission for the Future and Greenbelt Alliance. Over the next twelve months we will complete two demonstration installations, each consisting of a small cluster of three to five residences in traditionally disadvantaged communities in need of revitalization. Each pilot Resilience Hub will receive a suite of sustainability measures tailored to its unique composition, addressing both the individual homes and surrounding communal areas.

Example measures that will be utilized to create these Resilience Hubs include: 

  • Laundry to landscape greywater systems
  • Roofwater diversion & capture
  • Bioswales
  • Tree planting
  • Shade structures
  • Edible landscaping
  • Adopting “cool” building colors
  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Solar power
  • Water efficiency measures
  • Disaster preparedness

By linking our Resilience Hubs with nearby community organizations we can also encourage engagement and collaboration within the larger neighborhood.  Incorporating the same sustainability measures applied to the residences, these “Resilience Centers” will have the potential to serve as an oasis of shade and moisture during heat waves, offer a community garden space, facilitate disaster response and preparedness, and act as a central point for organizing neighborhood resources and communication.

All installations will serve as free educational workshops, open to the community at large. The work will be completed entirely by the community, for the community. The completed pilot Resilience Hubs will also serve as public educational platforms for years to come.

We have formed a skilled Advisory Board comprised of local experts and passionate partners to help us carry out this pilot program in Vallejo.  The Board will provide guidance as we continue to hone our vision, aid in selecting locations and participants, and support efforts to build our capacity for expansion.

We will begin holding collaborative planning discussions with Vallejo residents in early February, and look forward to working with our neighbors to create meaningful change in the community. 

Onward and Upward
These installations will demonstrate the social, environmental, and economic impact possible through small-scale collective action, and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to show proof of concept for this approach to community resilience, which we hope to expand across Solano County.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please contact Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager, Kassie Munro at kassie@sustainablesolano.org.

Sustainable Solano Receives Funding For Local Urban Forestry Project

Last December, we expanded our mission to promote environmental, economic, and socially just communities by partnering with Mission Solano, a local Fairfield homeless shelter, to install a demonstration food forest garden. We are pleased to announce that Sustainable Solano has received a grant from the California ReLeaf Social Equity Tree Planting Program that will fund the planting of 54 additional trees throughout the Mission Solano campus!

The project titled “Vision Solano”, will convert this 3.5 acre campus into a resilient, mixed-canopy urban forest complete with 37 California Native drought-tolerant trees and 17 fruit trees. These trees will be fed through secondary water sources such as a laundry-to-landscape greywater system, rain barrels and roof water where possible. This urban forestry project will provide greenhouse gas reduction benefits, healthy “zero carbon footprint” produce, educational and job training opportunities for over 150 Mission Solano residents and a beautified shared space for all of Solano County to enjoy and learn from.

In fall of 2018, a series of hands-on workshops, free and open to all, will be offered where community members can help participate in the creation of this urban forest that will serve as a living lab on the campus: a teaching ground on sustainable landscaping practices and urban forestry for local communities.

Long-term benefits of this project will include soil and soul restoration, water and energy conservation and groundwater recharge. We are thrilled to create a place of peace and beauty for the most vulnerable members of our community.

If you would like to take an active role in this project, please consider applying for a Sustainable Landscaping Project Coordinator position: your key job responsibility will be to create this urban forest and another four sustainable edible gardens throughout the county. For more details, click here.