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2010 Diablo Eco Awards

Diablo acknowledges the people and places in the Bay Area that are making our lives greener and more sustainable, one day at a time


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Jenny Lee FowlerThe East Bay has always been a leader in the green movement. It's now obvious that going green isn't just a chic choice, but a necessary one, on a planet with an ever-growing population and dwindling natural resources. With important issues—ranging from locally grown food to renewable fuel sources—taking center stage, the East Bay finds itself in the national epicenter of the eco-arena. With our cutting-edge national labs acting as incubators for green-tech businesses and an abundance of eco-friendly entrepreneurs, jobs and opportunity will follow. Here are the 10 people, organizations, and businesses leading the way into the bright, green future.

 


Urban Farmers

Last summer, two college kids decided to turn Lafayette into farmland, one garden at a time. Cameron Sioshansi and Alexander Agosta already control 20 mini farms, courtesy of local homeowners, and have plans to harvest 100,000 pounds of fruit by 2015.

How it works

Homeowners lend land and water, and The Urban Farmers do the rest. At harvest, homeowners get as many fresh, organic fruits and vegetables as they need. Extra produce is sold at markets and given to charities.

Why Lafayette?Renee Sweeney Photography

The city has enough sunshine to make apples blush, and it’s small—perfect for a pilot program. “There is also a real nucleus of aware and interested people in Lafayette. They helped us get the project off the ground,” says Siamack Sioshansi, executive director of The Urban Farmers, who is Cameron’s father and runs the program while the boys are away at college.

The bigger picture

The Urban Farmers have ambitions beyond plump tomatoes. The group coordinates free workshops on how to raise chickens and keep bees.

1,000 fruit trees

The Urban Farmers are campaigning for Lamorinda homeowners to plant 1,000 fruit trees within two years. Already, 338 are in the ground. The goal? “About three years from now, each tree is going to put out well over 100 pounds of fruit. That’s 100,000 pounds a season,” says Siamack. “What if we gave 20,000 of those apples to college and high school graduates to start up a jam company? All of a sudden, with local food, we are making local, entrepreneurial jobs.”

Start with a seedling

On April 25, the Urban Farmers will sell hundreds of heirloom seedlings at Lafayette’s Earth Day celebration.

Visit theurbanfarmers.org for information. 

—Hannah Craddick


Sustainable Contra Costa

Who needs Facebook and Twitter? Now, you can make new friends, share your thoughts, and help save the Earth, all on one site.

This month, Sustainable Contra Costa is launching a green social network, where users can create their own profiles, write eco-blogs, and keep a finger on the pulse of all the green goings-on in their own neighborhoods.

It will also be a one-stop resource for your go-green questions: Where is the closest drop-off for my bucket of old batteries? What should I be putting in my compost bin? Where’s the best place to buy organic cotton bedding?

And the group hopes it will be a place to debate the larger issues, including home energy efficiency, healthy food and agriculture, and transportation.

Visit sustainablecoco.org for information. 

–Hannah Craddick


EcoloBlue

Courtesy of EcoloBlueWayne Ferreira says the hardest part of selling his company’s atmospheric water generator is explaining how it works: The EcoloBlue, similar to a dehumidifier, takes water vapor and condenses it into pure, drinkable H2O. “People have a hard time grasping that water is just coming out of the air," says Ferreira.

A pro tennis player from 1989 through 2005, the Lafayette resident got the idea after seeing the number of plastic water bottles being thrown away by players. The EcoloBlue reduces the need to buy and transport environment-clogging bottles and coolers—the newest model pumps out eight gallons of water a day. It may also reduce water shortages by tapping into the atmosphere rather than land-based sources for drinking water. Ferreira would like to supply inexpensive units to places that lack access to clean water. “To provide a source of pure drinking water for everyone—it’s a huge undertaking, but little by little, I think we can get there.” 

For more information, visit ecoloblue.com. 

—Ethan Fletcher


New Home

From far-flung green specialist stores to overpriced materials, let’s face it: Eco-friendly remodeling can be more trouble than it’s worth. Enter New Home, the 30,000-square-foot store opening in Dublin, where every item—from paint to lumber to plaster—will be green as grass.

The store

New Home’s flagship eco-store is set to open in May in Dublin, with four other Bay Area locations planned within the year. Looking to mix it up with retail chains like Home Depot and Lowe's, the new store will host eco-workshops, conferences, and green building certification courses.

Why Now?

With the combination of California’s strict new green building codes and the flood of green economic incentives being dished out by the feds, the stars might be aligned for New Home and its founder Rich Rifkin. “Green is the healthiest market out there right now,” he says. "And you can’t ignore the plethora of money now available for the rebuilding of America in a green way.”

The man

Rifkin wasn’t always so green. He flipped his first house at 18, became president of a mortgage business, and worked with a company that built conventional homes. So why, finally, a green venture? “It’s true. My background is in traditional business. Not in green,” says Rifkin. “But I want to be green. Everybody wants to be green. It’s just too difficult because materials aren’t readily available and cost too much. We need a merging of the minds between big business and the green movement. New Home does that. It’s a way of making an enormous impact and solving the problems that are facing us.”

Visit newhomeinc.com for more info. 

–Hannah Craddick


 Solar Iphone Case

Apple’s eco-hip consumers and solar power seem like a natural fit. Now, San Leandro’s Novothink offers a device officially linking theCourtesy of Novothink two. The Surge hybrid solar charger powers 3G iPhones ($79.95/case) and iPod Touches ($69.95) and is certified for use by Apple. Here’s the 411.

•  Two hours of sun equals 30 minutes of gabbing.
•  The solar-powered internal battery doubles battery life.
•  A free app calculates your device’s specific solar needs. 
•  At 2.7 ounces, the sleek case won’t slow you down.

For information, go to novothink.com 

–Ethan Fletcher

 

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