Ocean Friendly Gardens, Basic Class, Water Quality
September 23 2015

Surfrider Presents OFG To State Agencies At Brown Bag Lunch Event

by Paul Herzog

Our friends at the Assocation of Professional Landscape Designers-California Chapter were looking for a place to gather for a lunch meeting and film showing before heading to the state Capitol for informational meetings with state legislators about sustainable landscaping. They were refered to CalRecycle, the state's solid waste reduction agency that has become a leader in promoting the use of compost and mulch.

A CalRecycle staffer not only helped secure a room, but offered to turn it into a subject for their regular "brown bag lunch" series. This was a huge opportunity since CalRecycle sends out "brown bag" notices to the 4,000 employees that work for the multiple environmental agencies under the umbrella of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Seeing this opportunity to educate state agency staffers, APLD-CA part-time staffer, Maureen Decombe (at left) asked Surfrider's National Ocean Friendly Gardens Coordinator to give a presentation on the "watershed approach" to landscaping. (This approach is based on the same principles that OFG follows, and drops the reference to the receiving water body to both make it seem applicable to people who live inland and to appeal to our friends at River- and Bay-Friendly Gardens programs.) State agencies present included: water quality, water supply, air quality, pesticide regulation, food and agriculture, fish and wildlife, natural lands, and solid waste.

The presenation started with a showing of the short film, The Soil Story, created by our friends at Kiss The Ground and produced by the folks who created The Story of Stuff. The film shows how healthy, living soil (use of compost and cover crops, and eliminating tilling) can reduce water pollution, enhance soil's water holding capacity, and sequester carbon from carbon dioxide. These same principles apply to urban landscapes and soil. This film is the intellectual underpinnings of the Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration between non-profits (such as Kiss The Ground) and several state agencies. Following the film showing, the Surfrider slideshow covered the principles of the approach, efforts already promoting part or all of the approach, and the need for collaboration between government and non-profits and the private sector. A strategic plan was introduced as part of the presentation: integrate efforts of government agencies; develop a simple, common message; set standards (such as Surfrider's OFG criteria); do workforce training. Greg Weber, Executive Director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council, shared how the Council is seeking funding to hire a consultant to develop a landscape market transformation plan. (Surfrider sits on the Council's Landscape Committee as well as the Council's Board of Director.)

After a great post-film discussion, the OFG Coordinator joined APLD members in doing meetings with state legislative staff about the watershed approach. (The day before the presentation, the OFG Coordinator gave a short talk to APLD members on how to set up, conduct, and follow up a meeting with legislators and/or staff.) A part of the meetings included asking if staff would attend an educational hearing about the watershed approach, also known as a joint informational hearing. (Pictured at left: to the far right is Nicole Hisatomi, a staffer with Assemblyperson Mark Stone from Monterey/Santa Cruz, CA. Assemblymember Stone is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor who sponsored the County's successful plastic bag ban ordinance.) When we gathered after all the meetings were held, we heard that each legislator's staff reacted positively to the hearing idea. APLD will be working on scheduling a hearing for some time before the new legislative session in January 2016.

Note - the Surfrider brown bag slideshow will be posted on the OFG "Resources" webpage. A DVD was made of the event and it may be posted as well, and can be shared if desired.