You’ve heard it before–to act on climate, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane is one of those potent greenhouse gases with natural and human sources. In nature, methane is emitted by wetlands, termites, and the ocean. Human sources include agriculture and other organic wastes (food, paper, yard waste) that end up in landfills.
In California, 8.3 million tons of greenhouse gases are released each year from uneaten food and other sources of organic wastes, contributing to 20% of California’s total methane emissions. How can we build a cleaner future with this knowledge in mind? We can start by reducing food waste.
Here in LA, the City of LA’s sustainability pLAn is helping to reduce food waste and food insecurity in Los Angeles. The city’s RecycLA program allows food business owners and multi-family residences to donate edible surplus food. Rather than introducing more waste into the waste stream, food ineligible for donation can be tossed into green bins for composting. By 2025, LA hopes to divert 1.1 million tons of total waste from landfills annually, resulting in2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions eliminated. In the presence of local and statewide efforts to reduce food waste, even small collective actions can result in an exponential scale of greenhouse gas reduction.
The Golden State is also stepping up to reduce waste and food-related greenhouse gases. In October 2017, Governor Brown signed three new laws to help divert food from landfills, addressing everything from confusing food labeling to food donation rights.
California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
AB 1219, also known as the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, was authored by Assemblymember Susan Eggman. This new law will protect food donors. Until recently, households and businesses have been cautious about donating food due to liability issues. This bill works to clarify and expand existing protections for food donors. Before this law, food donors were not legally protected for donating directly to final recipients, nor were they protected when food was donated after the sell-by date. In general, people have been unaware of their rights and protections as food donors. Now, Californians can safely donate food that has exceeded the sell-by date, including citizens, businesses and gleaners (people who harvest crops for free distribution and donation). A key component of this law is the education aspect, in which public health inspectors are required to promote Good Samaritan laws through newsletters, bulletins, and handouts.
Food Labeling: Quality and Safety Dates
You know how hard it is to interpret the dates we see on food packaging, such as “sell by” and “best if used by” dates? To address confusion with dates on food labels, Assemblymember David Chiu authored AB 954 ( “Food labeling: quality and safety dates”). This new law will encourage food manufacturers, processors, and retailers to use uniform terms for food date labels to avoid confusion among consumers. Because the sell-by date exists as a reference for stock rotation in grocery stores, food distributors and retailers are encouraged to develop an alternative system for “sell by” dates that will not be visible to consumers. Similar to AB 1219, this law creates a Consumer Education Fund within the California Department of Food and Agriculture to educate consumers on food label jargon.
Food Donation and Schools
Food waste is also prominent in schools and educational settings. To address this issue, Senator Ed Hernandez wrote SB 557, which allows schools to donate food to food banks. Faculty, staff, and students can place unwanted food on sharing tables, which will then be donated to local food banks and charities. Categories of eligible food items include food in closed containers and protected from contamination, food that has been checked for safety on a daily basis, and unopened food in original packaging. SB 557 gives schools with the opportunity to address food insecurity, while reducing their contribution to organic waste in landfills.
Tuesday, December 19th, 2017
Davia Rivka is a certified life coach, author of Up to Something Big: Stories That Inspire Change, and a climate change warrior working with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). CCL is a nonpartisan nonprofit grassroots organization working on advocating national policies to address climate change.
How did you get started in climate work?
In 1985, I started working for RESULTS, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that focuses on ending poverty. RESULTS is the organization on which CCL was modeled, training volunteers how to use their voices in our democracy. In 2007, Marshall Saunders, also a RESULTS volunteer, founded Citizens’ Climate Lobby. I joined CCL in 2011, bringing fifteen years of experience from my work with RESULTS.
When I first started working with CCL, talking to members of Congress about climate change was challenging. There was a lot of denial and disinterest. Much has changed for the better since 2011. CCL is single issue focused. Our goal is the enactment of revenue neutral federal legislation that puts a fee on carbon. To insure success, CCL volunteers around the country network and form alliances with community, big and small business, and religious leaders from left, right and center. After doing so, CCL communicates these buy-ins to Congress members.
What is the scope of your work at Temple Israel of Hollywood?
Temple Israel has a very strong and focused social justice task force, led by Rabbi Jocee Hudson and Heidi Siegel. The three primary areas of focus are: hunger and homelessness, gun violence, and prison reform. When I joined the task force, I started making noise about how we needed to also focus on climate change. We held a participatory, informative, action event last May. I look forward to even greater focus on this work.
What are you working on now?
I am currently writing a book about how climate change has become my spiritual practice. Until the book launches, you’ll find great stories on my blog.
How do Jewish values connect to climate change?
That’s a big question. Check out a recent blogpost that I wrote in September during the Jewish High Holydays.
The short answer is: repair the Earth (world), give back to your communities, and make the world a better place by making yourself a better person.
How are you reaching out to Jewish communities?
CCL has a Jewish Action Team that focuses on developing Jewish climate leadership with lay and clergy across the country. Jews played a very central role during the civil rights movement. We want to see that same courageous commitment around climate change action. Rabbis are busy. Lay people in congregations need to take the lead, making it impossible for rabbis to ignore this conversation. Ask your rabbi to give a sermon on climate change. To hold an event. Their voices have power and can reach a wider audience.
Do you find your work challenging?
I am a relationship person. I enjoy communicating to people in person, looking at them in the eyes and understanding that we are all working toward building a better future. A few years ago, five of us met with the staffer in Washington D.C. Her boss was a member of Congress from Kentucky. We could have had a fight on our hands. But we were curious and respectful, completely disarming the staffer. A thoughtful and exploratory conversation left us all feeling hopeful.
What would make your job easier?
If we all learned how to listen with open hearts! And were better able to recognize that we’re all in this together.
A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is anything you want (sky’s the limit!).
- A carbon fee and dividend piece of legislation that is introduced to Congress by very powerful Democrat and Republican members, in the exact same language that CCL has been working toward.
- 100 members of Congress join the Climate Solutions Caucus.
- I go to a writing retreat in a beautiful setting, with a gaggle of other interesting writers—and someone else cooks amazing food!
Tuesday, December 19th, 2017
On December 7th, Climate Resolve hosted the first Path to Positive Los Angeles (P2PLA) Quarterly Meeting. The convening included participants from various sectors of the community — health, local government, business, and faith. This allowed for a fruitful discussion and networking opportunity across sectors, as participants shared their experiences on implementing climate solutions in their work.
Our guest speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Rhoades from the LA County Department of Public Health, presented on the nexus between public health and climate change. Dr. Rhoades provided attendees with an exclusive preview of the department’s Urban Heat Island Reduction Plan — the County’s comprehensive strategy to alleviate health issues triggered by climate change. One element of the strategy includes installing cool roofs and implementing cool streets, two initiatives that the City of LA has already been implementing with the key support of Climate Resolve.
Climate Resolve’s Kristina von Hoffmann presented a climate communications training, giving participants tips from ecoAmerica’s “15 Steps” and “Let’s Talk Climate” guides. The training focused on research-based methods for starting conversations on climate impacts and solutions within the community.
Thank you to all participants (both in-person and through webinar) for joining us in successfully closing off this quarter. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey to help us improve your experience for next time! We hope you can join us at our next Quarterly Meeting in February 2018.
Tuesday, December 19th, 2017