New Program in Fairfield Will Tackle Poor Air Quality

By Alex Lunine, Resilient Communities Program Manager

Interstate 80 cuts through Fairfield / Photo Credit: Tony Webster, Flickr

For too long, residents of Fairfield have had to shoulder a burden that, in large part, remains unseen by the naked eye — poor air quality. Despite its lack of visibility, this threat follows many residents in all aspects of their lives in the form of increased rates of asthma and higher rates of cardiovascular disease. This strain prevents children from playing outside, ruins family barbeques, and makes it harder for residents to connect and enjoy our community spaces. A new program from Sustainable Solano, with funding from the California Air Resources Board, invites you to join the grassroots movement to ensure everyone in Fairfield can breathe clean and safe air. 

Being wedged between Interstate 80 and Highway 12, Fairfield is vulnerable to the pollutants produced by high volumes of traffic. Additionally, wildfires fill our air with dangerous smoke that can make simply going outside a risk to our health. Through the new air quality program, Sustainable Solano will collaborate with Fairfield residents through the establishment of a high school Youth Air Protectors Program and an extensive community outreach campaign. 

The Youth Air Protectors program will assist Fairfield in reclaiming the clean air we all have a right to, inspiring a new generation of activists. High school students will have the opportunity to problem solve as a tight-knit team to tackle air pollution. Each team of up to 10 students will make a five-month commitment to the program, with the first group starting work this fall. Youth Air Protectors will be empowered to collect air quality data in Fairfield, analyze the sustainability of Fairfield’s urban planning, and reflect on how environmental hazards disproportionately impact different communities. Students will play a pivotal role in spreading air quality awareness in Fairfield and will help spearhead the movement for a more walkable and sustainable future. SuSol will share more information on how to apply for the Air Protectors program in the coming weeks.

We are excited to form bridges with Fairfield residents to forge a community-centered push for clean, breathable air. We hope to see collaborations with passionate Fairfield residents that will inspire widespread participation in clean air advocacy. In conjunction with the Youth Air Protectors, we will draw upon the needs of the community and will work with local leaders to provide beautification projects that can encourage more walking and biking, as opposed to driving. Finally, using direct community feedback and conversations, we will assist the people of Fairfield in constructing an Air Quality Action Plan that will serve as a blueprint for continued efforts in addressing air quality within the city and serve as a model for other cities.

The air quality program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Fairfield needs active community members to make our city a safe, green, and beautiful community for all of us. If you are interested in becoming a sustainability leader – as a student or concerned resident – or if you have any questions, please reach out! I can be contacted directly via email at alex@sustainablesolano.org. I look forward to building a brighter Fairfield, together.

Youth Air Protectors Program

The program is a five-month commitment with priority given to Fairfield students, though open to any high school students in Solano County.

The program will

Create valuable leadership experiences;
Prepare you to effectively communicate the importance of sustainability;
Serve as a gateway for a future career in environmental science;
Provide impactful and engaging volunteer hours;
Offer a stipend for successfully completing the program.

Interested in joining the fall group? Contact alex@sustainablesolano.org 

Community Day Along Rocky Hill Trail Highlights Native Plants, Rainwater Capture as Environmental Solutions

Aug. 10, 2022
For immediate release

Media Contact: Allison Nagel
805-512-0901
allison@sustainablesolano.org
Interviews, photos and other materials available upon request

Community Day Along Rocky Hill Trail Highlights Native Plants, Rainwater Capture as Environmental Solutions

Sustainable Solano will offer an Environmental Justice Fellowship this fall that will work on a hands-on planting project along the Rocky Hill Trail

Vacaville community members and others interested in learning about local environmental challenges and possible solutions are invited to the Rocky Hill Trail Community Day from 11 am to 3 pm Saturday, Aug. 20.

The community day will give participants an opportunity to visit the Rocky Hill Trail — a walking and biking trail that connects neighborhoods in Vacaville’s Markham neighborhood — while learning about the environmental challenges that face our urban spaces, including poor air quality, water quality and the heat-island effect. Hosted by Sustainable Solano, the event will include two opportunities to hear presentations from SuSol interns on the topics of native plants and rainwater capture — two possible solutions that can help to address some of those environmental concerns.

The talks will be at 12 pm and again at 1:30 pm, with time allowed for Q&A.

The day will include family-friendly activities, and high school students from throughout Solano County are invited to learn about Sustainable Solano’s Environmental Justice Leadership Fellowship planned for later this fall in Vacaville. Through the Fellowship, high school students interested in exploring environmental issues will be able to study environmental and health information for the local community, discuss challenges and potential solutions, and participate in four hands-on workshops to help beautify the Rocky Hill Trail while planting native plants and capturing rainwater to mitigate some of those challenges. The program is funded through generous support from the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, administered by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The Fellowship will focus on the Rocky Hill Trail, with Vacaville students given enrollment priority, but is open to any Solano County high school students who are able to attend the in-person workshops in Vacaville. Participating students will receive a stipend upon completion of the Fellowship.

Rocky Hill Trail Community Day

11 am-3 pm Saturday, Aug. 20

715 Markham Ave. (entrance to the Rocky Hill Trail)

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rocky-hill-trail-community-day-tickets-392631179427

Talks on native plants and rainwater capture: 12 pm & 1:30 pm

About Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano is a countywide nonprofit organization that is dedicated to “Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole.” The organization, now in its second decade, brings together programs that support and sustain one another and the Solano County community. Initiatives include sustainable landscaping, local food, resilient neighborhoods, youth leadership, sustaining conversations and community gardens.

For more information, visit sustainablesolano.org 

Community Resilience Workshop Builds Awareness of Environmental Hazards and Community-Based Solutions

By Alex Lunine, Resilient Communities Program Manager

Resilient Communities Program Manager Alex Lunine (left) instructs Suisun City interns on how to lead a Flood Walk

Suisun residents place a high value on their community’s natural beauty, its diversity, and its tight-knit network of publicly active residents. Despite these communal strengths, participants in a collective dialogue on environmental resilience determined that climate change, flooding, wildfires, windstorms and earthquakes all pose a significant threat to their neighborhoods.

Sustainable Solano, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, hosted a Community Resilience Building Workshop with more than 20 concerned community members, local officials and environmental professionals to strategize and collaboratively discuss solutions to the environmental hazards facing Suisun City. The June 15 workshop was held virtually, over Zoom, and was led by Dr. Adam Whelchel of The Nature Conservancy.

A core team of seven dedicated community members and local officials was instrumental in putting the workshop together. This team networked to bring a broader coalition of concerned residents to the meeting, identified community priorities, served as leaders during the workshop’s dialogues, and are continuing their efforts to ensure the findings are spread to the rest of Suisun City.

Those who attended the workshop lent their expertise, community knowledge, and passion to the conversations surrounding environmental resilience. The discourse spanned from wildfires to wind storms to flooding, and the ways in which Suisun City can tackle these environmental hazards as a community.

Flooding poses a unique obstacle for Suisun. The city, built atop and adjacent to the Suisun Marsh (the largest brackish estuarine ecosystem on the West Coast), is expected to see a rise of 6-11 inches in water level by 2030, up to 23 inches by 2050, and in a worst-case scenario, up to 66 inches by 2100. Just an additional 12 inches of water level — be it by sea level rise, storm surges, or king tides — will begin to cause flooding of the marshes and roadways. If no action is taken, residents in flood-vulnerable areas will experience unavoidable flooding of their homes at 24 inches. As sea level continues to rise over the coming decades, more and more of Suisun will find itself underwater. This issue represented the bulk of the problem-solving efforts by the workshop participants.

To learn more about the flood risks facing Suisun, join SuSol’s Flood Walks, where we give guided tours of areas vulnerable to flooding around the city. The next Flood Walk will be at 10 am Sunday, August 14. You can register here.

By evaluating Suisun City’s strengths and areas for improvement, workshop participants compiled a priority list of actionable plans. A few of the highest priority actions included

  • Access grants to install preventative flood infrastructure such as living-levees and critical pump stations;
  • Implement hazard and warning signs along flood-prone roadways to increase public awareness;
  • Bring findings to City Council to get flooding prevention measures enacted and to incorporate successful actions by neighboring Bay Area communities;
  • Secure funds to continue vulnerability assessments and planning over the next 10 years;
  • Develop an action list to combat wildfires that manages open and vulnerable spaces adjacent to Suisun City.

This group conversation led to a summary report published by The Nature Conservancy. Moving forward, Sustainable Solano and the core team hope to use this document to ensure awareness of the environmental hazards facing Suisun and to provide pragmatic solutions that protect the whole community.

This workshop would not have been possible without the hard work of the workshop’s facilitation team, who mediated and conducted conversations between participants, and the Resilient Neighborhood program interns, who diligently transcribed the dialogue for the final report.

We look forward to sharing more with the community about the report in the months ahead.

Drip Irrigation Class Provides Hands-on Opportunities

By Heidi Varian

Heidi hosted the drip irrigation workshop a historic home in Benicia that she is restoring with some friends to create a site people can visit for an “eco-vacation.”  The site will also be the location for the upcoming Permaculture Design Certificate course. Learn more about that here!

The Sustainable Solano drip irrigation class started out with good feelings right from the beginning of the day. The best part of getting back to some sense of normalcy after the pandemic is to be outdoors, hands in the soil, and experiencing the camaraderie that you can’t have over Zoom.

There were familiar faces and new students. The teaching garden was quiet, shady and calm. Instructor Seth Wright of Water Service Irrigation Co. was appreciated as clear and understandable. Overheard were comments about his good energy and relatable teaching style. He came prepared with visual aids and a white board presentation to augment and clarify his lecture.

Sustainable Solano’s Michael Wedgley prepared his garden with a unique and creative guild design, sample swale area, raised bed for the class to learn, and provided a display of permaculture literature. He also presented a piece of PVC pipe cut to the length of the space desired between the drip lines to simplify and speed up the process of hands-on installation.

When Seth began the participation part of the class, the class needed very little encouragement to join in the learning and fun. Everyone had an opportunity to measure, cut, and connect the system.

Michael and Seth as a team facilitated a very efficient install and even had time to discuss troubleshooting. The culmination of the workshop was flushing the lines and the cascading water drew applause.

Drip Irrigation Basics

Unable to attend the in-person workshop, but still interested in how you can put drip irrigation to use for water savings at home? Check out this online talk with Seth Wright of Water Service.

Traditional Jamaican Sorrel (Hibiscus) Drink

Photo Credit: Unsplash

This dish spotlights hibiscus, strawberries and ginger, and was demonstrated by Chef Chantoll Williams, owner of Rasta Mama’s Kitchen in Vacaville, at the Spring 2022 Bounty of the County.

Ingredients:

1 lb. fresh sorrel (hibiscus) or equivalent dried
5 oz. fresh ginger, thinly sliced
10 whole pimento (allspice) berries
1 cinnamon stick or 3 cinnamon leaves
5 large strawberries, sliced
Optional: 1 cup white rum
About 1 ½ cups sugar (sweetened to taste)
6 cups water

Thoroughly wash the hibiscus and pour the water away.

Place the washed hibiscus in a stainless steel pot along with the ginger, strawberries, pimento berries, cinnamon and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil. Boil for 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat. Leave the mixture to steep overnight or for at least 12 hours.

Strain well and add fresh strawberry slices. Add optional rum. Sweeten to taste with sugar, and enjoy!

Serves 4-6.

Download a printable version of the recipe here.