Berkeley Gets Tough on Takeout

Berkeley Gets Tough on Takeout

From the January 24,2019 San Francisco Chronicle By Jonathan Kauffman

Click here to view the original article

The Berkeley City Council has voted unanimously to adopt what may well be the strictest regulations on disposable food ware in the country. The new ordinance, passed unanimously this week, requires all takeout cups, straws, cartons and forks to be compostable, but that’s only the opening salvo.

By next year, Berkeley restaurants will be required to charge a 25-cent fee for each disposable cup, even if it’s compostable, and forbidden to give diners eating in the restaurant anything but reusable plates and silverware.

As Berkeley restaurants puzzle over how they will comply with the new law, the city sets in place an even more ambitious plan to eliminate single-use containers altogether.

Martin Bourque, executive director of the Berkeley Ecology Center, which has operated Berkeley’s recycling program since 1973, helped propose the initial legislation two years ago to present to the City Council.

Bourque pointed out that Berkeley was the first city in the nation to ban polystyrene cups and takeout containers in 1989. Yet plastic continues to accumulate in the streets and oceans, and when China stopped allowing imports of recyclable plastics from other countries in 2016, the ban sent many recycling programs, including his, scrambling for alternate solutions. Reducing demand was the logical step.

(Food ware) “is two-thirds of street litter,” Bourque said. “It’s commonplace and unnecessary and, in many cases, has exploded in the last decades. It’s something that municipalities have a high degree of control over, whereas packaging is more difficult.”

A number of Northern California municipalities, such as San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Alameda, already have banned plastic takeout containers and utensils in favor of recyclable or compostable ones. California banned plastic bags in 2014, and in September banned plastic straws at dine-in restaurants unless customers request them.

“We have studied those approaches, but we felt like we needed to address the issue comprehensively,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Councilwoman Sophie Hahn. “We need to also change behavior. I think that was a critical component of this ordinance.”

The new requirements will be rolled out in several steps. By the end of the month, Berkeley restaurants must stop giving out disposable utensils automatically. Customers must either request them or find them at a self-serve station.

Starting in January 2020, restaurants must use compostable food ware certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute. In addition, the city will impose a 25-cent fee on each compostable cup that a customer requests, and restaurants will not be able to reject customers who bring their own to be filled. Berkeley’s Environmental Health Department will oversee enforcement.

In July 2020, Berkeley will require all businesses to use durable, reusable plates, cups and utensils for all dine-in meals. Fast-food restaurants, barbecue shops, sandwich places: All must comply.

Representatives from several local restaurants, including Comal, Flaco’s and Jupiter, said the new legislation won’t necessitate major changes.

“For us, honestly, I don’t think it will affect us that much, since we’ve been using compostables for a while,” said Jupiter manager Jessica Tung, who pointed out that her restaurant was green-certified. “We don’t ‘auto straw’ — we offer water only by request and utensils to go by request.”

Comal co-owner Andrew Hoffman said, “We’re not sold on the idea that 25 cents is a deterrent to get people to carry their own glass around, but we’re in agreement that there’s too much plastic crap and litter out there.” He added, “Berkeley’s got a laundry list of issues that are worth dealing with ahead of this, but I’m not on the City Council.”

Other restaurateurs are throwing up their hands at the strictures the ordinance will impose.

“My whole model is based, and been created, on food to go,” said Gregoire Jacquet, owner of Gregoire’s, which has three seats inside and five outdoors and has used compostable takeout containers since opening 16 years ago. “I accommodate people with a few seats. I can’t say you can’t eat here. I don’t have the means to wash dishes.”

“There’s a lot of options,” Hahn countered when asked about concerns like Jacquet’s. “They don’t have to put in a dishwasher.”

The ordinance allows restaurants to wash dishes in the type of sink the health department already requires, for instance. And because the law will disproportionately affect small places, restaurants can apply for a waiver.

“If 90 percent of the businesses can get 90 percent there, then we’ll have achieved something great,” Hahn said.

She has even more ambitious plans for Berkeley’s future. The ordinance directs city staff members to develop a program that will introduce several sizes and shapes of reusable containers citywide in 2022, with the ideal of eliminating single-use food ware altogether.

“We hope that this becomes a model for other jurisdictions,” Hahn said. “We have already had other cities reach out.”

Bits and Pieces Jan 4, 2019 by Shanti Moorjani

Bits and Pieces

January 4, 2019

Cheers and blessings for the New Year. Thank you for being a Person of the Planet. I hope you have attended some of the talks, movies or possibly the Green Bazaar in December. 2018 started with a series of movies in January and 2019 is no different. We are happy to show two popular afternoon movies this coming Sunday, January 6 at 1:00. The theme is plastic. I have seen these before but am anxious to review them again as there is so much to learn about plastic in our lives, how it effects our health, and how it is effecting our planet.   What can we do about it?  Personally it is an albatross in my own life; to use or not to use. What are the alternatives for produce bags, and plastic containers for everything.  Where does this plastic go when you think you are re-cycling the stuff? 

Please tell your environmentally conscious friends to come and be a part of this learning process. With the current cold and (maybe) rainy weather, you will find our fireside room warm and cozy. We will have hot water for tea, tangerines, and popcorn. See below for the dates of other movie dates and activities.  


Bits & Pieces November 9, 2018 by Shanti Moorjani

Bits & Pieces November 9, 2018

By Shanti Moorjani 

Thank you for being a "Voice for the Planet". Thank you for asking the question "Is this good for the planet?" for every decision you make. Thank you for doing the best you can with what knowledge, what resources, what influence you have. Our Earth thanks you for giving voice to her needs.

I would highly recommend a children's book called "The Wizard that Saved the World" (ages 7 and up) by Jeffrey Bennett. Mr. Bennett is an astrophysicist and former NASA scientist, who has taught all ages, even writing text books for college. You have heard the name before, because we have mention his popular book called the "A Global Warming Primer" many times. The former book brings an imaginative child on a quest to save the planet, and side sections that go into more details if one is at a certain level of understand. With the holidays coming up, gifts like these can be transformative.

Our second "Holiday Green Bazaar" will be at the Arlington community Church social Hall, at 52 Arlington, Kensington from 11am - 3pm on Saturday, November 24 (two days after Thanksgiving). You will find various artists, woodcraftsman, candle makers, knitters, clothes, textiles, and more. There will be live music, nature movies for kids and parents, and food.

Buying gifts that have a low impact on the earth and do not end up in a landfill is very important. It is "good for the planet". Our best advertising is us, word of mouth, emailing all friends, asking them to email their friends. Can you take a moment and pass the information on? We look forward to seeing you.

If anyone is interested in the above books "The Wizard that Saved the World" and/or "A Global Warming Primer" by Jeffrey Bennett, let me know via an email to: I would happy to order and bring them for pick up at the Green Bazaar on November 24th. You may pay on pick-up, $15.00 each copy.

Looking ahead, we are planning to do a children's musical on Earth Day in April (22nd is the official date). We will perform "Project Rescue, Save the Planet". We would like to invite children ages 7 and up to sign up and participate. There is minimal material fee of $40.00 per participant. This is a great opportunity for kids to perform in front of an audience. Rehearsals begin at 5:15pm on Wednesday, January 23st. Please contact Person of the Planet email or leave a message at the office number (510) 526-9146. Be part of this important movement.




There is an enormous area of debris being collected in a whirlpool in the Pacific Ocean.  It is formally known as The North Pacific Gyre, and more commonly, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  We need to clean it up!

What is a Gyre?

“Gyres are large systems of circulating ocean currents, kind of like slow-moving whirlpools. There are five gyres —the North Atlantic Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Pacific Gyre, and the Indian Ocean Gyre—that have a significant impact on the ocean.  These help drive the so-called oceanic conveyor belt that helps circulate ocean waters around the globe. While they circulate ocean waters, they’re also drawing in the pollution that we release in coastal areas, known as marine debris.

“The most famous example of a gyre’s tendency to take out our trash is the Great Pacific Garbage patch located in the North Pacific Gyre.  The patch is an area of concentrated (and mostly plastic) marine debris.  While this is certainly the most talked about garbage patch, it is not the only garbage patch in the ocean. . . ..  As with the North Pacific Garbage Patch, plastic can circulate in this part of the ocean for years, posing health risks to marine animals, fish, and seabirds.”  (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Podcast #14)

What can we do about the  Garbage Patch?

This month, one promising answer is being put to the test.  Ocean Cleanup is the brainchild of Boylon Slat, a 24-year-old Dutchman who has been an inventor since he was a toddler and who has been working on the problem of plastic debris in the ocean since he was 16.    He came up with the idea to build a passive system, using the circulating ocean currents to his advantage, which he presented at a TEDx talk in Delft in 2012. (Wikipedia)

The system Boyon Slat invented has been in research and development since 2011, and in October this year a full-scale model, System 001,was put into action for the first time in the Pacific Ocean.  System 001 consists of a 600-meter-long floater that sits in a U shape at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below.  The floater provides buoyancy to the system and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath.   Marine creatures do not get trapped in the floater; they can swim away from it or dive under it.  The floating systems are designed to capture plastics ranging from small pieces just millimeters in size, up to large debris, including massive discarded fishing nets (ghost nets), which can be tens of meters wide.  Periodically, ships acting as marine garbage trucks will visit System 001 and collect the captured debris, carrying it back to land for sorting and recycling.


Models show that a full-scale cleanup system roll-out (a fleet of approximately 60 systems) could clean 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.  Some of the questions being monitored during this first run of System 001 are   Can the system reorient itself when wind and wave direction changes?   Does the system maintain its U-shape under adverse conditions?   Can the system withstand the turbulent and corrosive conditions of the ocean over time?  is  the official website for the project.  There are plenty of graphs and videos, and clear descriptions of the process.  There are frequent updates about System 001 and what the project is learning.  I’m looking forward to more information about how the garbage is collected and processed, and whether much sea life gets caught in the debris.  Check out the website!  If you have a student in your life, this might be a great subject for a report or a science fair project.

How to Talk About Plastic & the Ocean

How to Talk About Plastic & the Ocean

Why prioritize action on ocean trash?

Plastic pollution poses a threat to human health, kills and harms marine life, damages and alters habitats, and can have substantial negative impacts on local economies. Unlike many ocean issues, The Ocean Project’s research shows that pollution, especially plastics pollution, is already widely accepted as a big problem that we need to and can address. The first step of avoiding disposable plastic bags is likely to be seen as a difficult but not impossible way for an individual to help. More than 80% of marine litter comes from land-based sources. Businesses and government in the US, alone, spend a combined total of $11.5 billion on cleaning up litter. The primary direct threat to marine life is entanglement or ingestion. Sea turtles, birds, and fish alike accidentally mistake plastic for food and choke or get sick by ingesting it. 

How can we effectively communicate this issue?

Make it clear that we can make a difference, especially if we work together. It’s distressing to think about how much plastic is almost unavoidable - sometimes, it can seem useless to take action. But if many of us act together, we can reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean, and show the world that we demand less disposable plastic in our everyday lives!

Show how animals are hurt by plastic. Plastic pollution affects hundreds of different types of ocean wildlife, from massive whales to microscopic corals. Telling an individual animal’s story makes it personal, like this endangered sei whale killed by a DVD case. 

Explain the link between plastic and human health. Ocean plastic trash has serious economic consequences for people, but it can also be dangerous to our health! Scientists are finding that chemicals in plastic consumed by fish may eventually travel up the food chain - and get into our bodies. 

Use photos of beautiful, clean environments. Use fewer photos of littered areas, even with an anti-littering message, as it could give people the feeling that littering is normal and accepted. Photos that show healthy oceans, or people cleaning them up, inspire. 

Encourage a positive social norm. Emphasize that it’s normal to not litter, and that it is everyone’s personal responsibility not only to not litter, but also to stop litter at the source by reducing use. Talk about how many people are switching to durable, reusable solutions, both for their health as well as for the oceans. Don’t make people feel guilty - inspire them to go further for the ocean. 

Give people more ownership over public spaces. Make it clear to the people you’re speaking with that this is their community, and it’s a matter of pride to keep it clean. Furthermore, their actions will help keep the oceans, their blue backyard, clean and healthy. 

 Talking with youth

It’s important to use age-appropriate techniques when talking with kids about environmental issues, so they’re not overwhelmed by the threats our oceans are facing. Here are some tips for helping kids learn about and getting engaged in using less, not littering, and recycling:

  • Understanding Marine Debris NOAA’s kit of games and activities for kids of all ages.

  • Plastic and Recycling Awareness Curriculum from One More Generation. 

  • Talking Trash & Taking Action a marine debris education partnership between Ocean Conservancy and the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition has compiled a list of plastic pollution curriculum for ages 5-22.  

Sponsored Article: Plastic Pollution: The Problem

Plastic Pollution: The Problem

Plastic pollution is a global problem that is growing exponentially due to both an increase in consumerism and an increase in the number of plastics used to manufacture the things we use on a daily basis. Many of these items are single-use items, which are used once and then tossed in the trash. But what happens to this plastic once the trash can gets emptied? It doesn’t simply disappear into thin air. It usually ends up in the environment in some manner or form, with a great deal of it eventually ending up in the ocean Arguably one of the most pressing environmental challenges that we are faced with today is marine plastic debris.

The two common sources marine debris originates from are:

1)    land-based, which includes litter from beach-goers, as well as debris that has either blown into the ocean or been washed in with storm-water runoff; and...

2)    Ocean-based, which includes garbage disposed at sea by ships and boats, as well as fishing debris, such as plastic strapping from bait boxes, discarded fishing line or nets, and derelict fishing gear.

While discarded fishing gear takes its toll on the marine environment by entangling marine life and destroying coral reefs, it only comprises an estimated 20% of all marine debris - a staggering 80% of all marine debris stems from land-based sources. This is not that surprising, considering that around 50% of all plastics are used to manufacture sing-use items which are discarded soon after they are first used.

Read the entire article by clicking here...

Micro-plastics Found in 90% of Sea Salt

Micro-plastics Found in 90% of Sea Salt  

Scientists sampled sea, rock, and lake salt from around the globe - they found micro-plastics in most of it.

So here's the thing: when we nudge 13 million metric tons of plastic into the oceans every year, it's bound to come back and haunt us. And sure enough, it's doing so in the most vexing way - returning as sneaky micro-plastics, hiding in our beloved table salt.

Last year TreeHugger reported on research that found salt samples from 8 different countries had plastic contaminants from ocean pollution. Now, a new study has taken a broader look at the problem of plastic in table salt and concludes that it's even worse than we thought.

Laura Parker writes in National Geographic that of 39 salt brands tested, 36 had micro-plastics in them, according to the new study by researchers in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia.

The new research also looks at the correlation between micro-plastics in table salt and how predominant it is in the environment where the salt came from. Not surprisingly, they were pretty well related.

"The findings suggest that human ingestion of micro-plastics via marine products is strongly related to emissions in a given region," said Seung-Kyu Kim, a marine science professor at Incheon National University in South Korea.

Read the rest of the article: 

How I Was Inspired to Take Action By Shirley Lutzky

How I Was Inspired to Take Action

By Shirley Lutzky

Message from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio 

The Global Climate Action Summit just took place, as you may know, in San Francisco. Here is a brief take-away from the mayor of New York City:

"I just left the stage at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco and I’ll tell you what I told thousands of advocates and leaders there: If we’re going to turn the tide on climate change, we must leverage our investments away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. We must act. All of us. Together. Now.

Earlier this year, New York became the first U.S. city to commit to divesting our pension funds from fossil fuels. 

We did this because it was necessary in order to move our city towards a sustainable future — and because the people demanded it. People just like you relentlessly pushed and encouraged decision makers like me and our other pension fund stakeholders.

That's how change happens. Elected officials need to hear from constituents and climate activists like you passionately and persistently urging us to do the right thing. Call on your Mayor in your city or town to step up and commit to bold climate measures today Just imagine the energy revolution such an investment could spur.

Thanks to the climate divestment movement, other cities are also now joining together to advance fossil fuel divestment. Those cities include London, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Paris, San Jose, and Oslo. This is a big deal. And it’s because of climate activists like you." - Mayor Bill de Blasio, NY City

My own personal note to add to this: I was inspired by the POP news article that summarized POP's sustainable banking talk.  I ended up investing a large portion of my savings in that bank (now part of Amalgamated Bank) and I put the rest into a social justice acting credit union. I can not express how great those actions continue to make me feel. I received a healthy energizing release of great discomfort. I was so accustomed to that discomfort, I had barely realized its cause. But it clearly was there, in my very cells it seems, all the while that my savings were working for planet destroying corporations in a big, mainstream, harmfully - investing bank!

As Mayor ce Blasio concluded:

"Together, we can invest in a safer, more sustainable world for all."

Shirley Lutzky

Rise for Climate March by Shanti Moorjani

Rise for Climate March

By Shanti Moorjani

This has been an exciting week for environmental awareness. Last Saturday, the Climate March in San Francisco saw thousands of all ages and races march down Market Street carrying banners, and signs in a congenial effort to draw attention to serious effects of Climate change on our planet. I brought our Person of the Planet banner to carry down Market Street. Many thanks to Linda Young, Joe Pratt, Shirley Lutzky and Pastor Tony for helping to carry the banner for the slow 2 mile walk from Embarcadero to the Civic Center. Grandmothers for Change was a huge coalition, Pacific Islanders join their local communities, Climate Reality group, and many other individuals and organizations were there.

Today (Friday) is the last day of the Global Action Summit at the Moscone Center in San Francisco hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown. Though it is promising to have leaders from across the country coming together to find new resolve on how to keep carbon out of our atmosphere, many protesters outside say it is still not enough. For many, they want Gov. Brown to stop approving new oil and gas drilling in California and a complete ban on fracking. This promotion of continued fossil fuel production, carbon trading markets and other incentives still allow corporations to pollute.

Earlier this week Gov. Brown signed the bill AB100 which puts California on the path to 100% renewable energy by 2045. That's one big, positive step toward a cleaner atmosphere here in California and setting a precedent for other states to follow. It reminds me of a sign carried by a young person at the Climate march last Saturday. It said "We can save our planet if we really, really, really, really hurry.

Let us continue to do our part by speaking up daily for the planet with our choices and asking the question, "Is this good for the planet?" for every decision we make. Perhaps taking a walk in a park or in the hills to remind us of the healing power of trees and nature. I am remembering a group of green-faced women on stilts at the Civic Center dress just like trees with branches, leaves and tree trunks.