Welcome to Green Gal's blog, where you'll find stories, recipes, gardening updates, and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems. This blog is written by a young woman entrepreneur who is also a beginning farmer-gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My Multimodal Adventure to the Silicon Valley Transportation Choices and Healthy Communities Summit

By 6:15 AM today, I was biking down the hill from campus, enjoying the moments of stillness right before the sun rose. Lights twinkled in the city below, a familiar view that has been part of my experience at UC Santa Cruz for the last four years. Most of the time when I see the city's twinkling lights, though, it's at night.

Seeing it this early in the morning dispelled any lingering desire to be in my warm bed, and it prepared me for a day of engagement with transportation issues. I was on my way to the Silicon Valley Transportation Choices and Healthy Communities Summit in Palo Alto, and this 15-minute bike ride was leg one of a multi-modal journey!

After biking fast down the hill with my bright yellow jacket on, I arrived at the Santa Cruz Metro Station downtown with about 5 minutes to spare. I put my bike on the bus rack, paid my $5 for the trip over the hill, and sat down to breathe. I promptly closed my eyes and half-slept while sitting and not letting my pannier bag fall over for the next hour on my way to San Jose.

As the bus pulled into the San Jose Diridon Station, I saw Green Guy's adorable red BMW 2002 (Rojito) parked in the circle waiting. (You may remember Rojito from this story!) Vehicle number three for my multi-modal journey! We took the wheels off my bike to store it in the car and then drove to the store for breakfast ingredients and coffee. We spent some of the morning with his family, and he made everyone yummy egg cheese ham muffins modeled after the Egg McMuffin but much tastier. Then we were off to Palo Alto!

Upon arriving near University Avenue, I asked Green Guy to take some photos of me with my bike for my new column "It's Wheely Easy Being Green" on Pedal Love. I modeled in front of some flowers for a few minutes, striking different poses with my beloved bike. Helmet on, or off? These are serious fashion considerations, so we took a ton of different pictures.

I still haven't decided which one I'm using for Pedal Love, but perhaps this one?

Once I felt we must have at least one good photo, we said good bye and he drove off to his job at Tesla Motors. Evidently, we're both advocates for the coolest methods of transportation, bikes and electric sports cars--but let's be honest, bikes are way cooler. I headed into the conference, which took place at the Avenidas Senior Center in downtown Palo Alto, and found a seat.

For the sake of space, I won't go into too much detail here about the conference. I will say, though, that it was awesome to be around that many transportation advocates, and it was a perfect opportunity to meet people who are working on bike advocacy and other transportation topics in the Silicon Valley. I learned about local organizations, met some new friends, and discovered potential opportunities to pursue after I graduate in June.

To learn more about the conference, please view my photo essay here.

After the conference, I biked to the Caltrain station in Palo Alto. It was only the fourth or so time I've used Caltrain, and my first time bringing a bike onboard. I had read the information online about it, but I still gravitated toward some other folks with bikes waiting at the platform. They showed me what to do, and it was so easy!

As I sat in the bike car, I glanced around at the other bikes and noticed a really cute red one (above). I snapped a photo of the bikes, and a few stops later, a fashionably dressed woman in dark purple tights, black heels, and a red coat approached the bike. I instantly recognized her as the blogger for One Woman. Many bicycles. Of course, I couldn't remember her name or the name of her blog at the time, so I didn't approach her to say hi. I receive her blog posts in my email, and I knew she lived in the area and used Caltrain between bike rides. It was cool to see her in person, especially because now we both write for Pedal Love, and she's one of only three or so Northern California writers for the site.

When I arrived in San Jose, I waited in line for my second to last leg of my journey: the Highway 17 Express back to Santa Cruz. I fell asleep on this one again, too.

Upon arriving back in Santa Cruz, I considered biking back to campus... but given my sleepiness and the paper that I have due Monday (0/5 pages complete), I opted to save my energy and waited for the bus. Fortunately, I got a spot in the bus bike rack, and then I was headed home to my dorm.

Wow, what a day filled with transportation, connections (between people and modes of transit), and a sense of community that spans the Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley communities. I feel myself being pulled somewhat toward my future in the Silicon Valley area where I'll likely move after graduating, but I also feel rooted in Santa Cruz. This morning's sunrise and a walk around my college before the sun set tugged at my heart and sense of home. It is beautiful here, the air is fresh and full of natural sounds, and I know this place. I have lived and learned and loved life in this forest for four years.

Yet, I know that I need some adventure in other places and communities, and I want to bring what I have learned and experienced on this campus and in this community to other communities. Today's conversations taught me that there are so many people in other places that are working for sustainable and just solutions; Santa Cruz is not the only place. There are dialogues and people and struggles happening in the Silicon Valley that I want to learn about and be part of, so I look forward to the future, yet I am doing my best to remain present in this coastal, redwood filled world.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

John Muir: Conservationist & Walker of the California Landscape

"I stood for a while at the lookout, taking in the state of California. For a moment, it all made sense. No wonder Muir stayed here. No wonder he came up with a powerful and personal philosophy about conservation. He walked the state. More than once. He knew the details, from rock to plant to person and up to mountain top. He attached a significance to the story of the land itself that few others could. He inserted himself into that story bodily, intellectually, and spiritually, beginning in his second day in the state." -- Alex McInturff, California Transect, 2009

Do you walk often? How does walking influence your understanding of the landscape, cityscape, or neighborhood around you? How is walking different from driving, biking, or taking a bus? What can it teach us about patience, progression, life?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why Monterey Bay Aquarium Deserves a High Five

To celebrate 30 years of oceanic wonder and opportunity to learn about the secret world of the sea, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California had a week of free admission for residents of Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties. My co-residential adviser and I decided to bring two van-loads of our residents to the aquarium because as UCSC students, we also had access to free admission.

See all photos from my visit here.

We headed to Monterey today in the rain with 12 residents and 3 RAs including myself. I took tons of photos and enjoyed learning about and observing jellyfish, puffins, penguins, sun fish, sea stars, and ton of other interesting creatures.

It was really crowded because of the free admission, but I was inspired by how many people took the opportunity to visit the Aquarium, which normally costs about $40 per person. Free admission allowed community members and families of all means to visit and experience the wonder of the Aquarium.

Seeing children, teens, and adults of all ages admiring, asking questions about, and experiencing the wonderful creatures of our oceans was awesome. What a great way to engage people with the Aquarium and create bonds with the community. Certainly opening their doors to the community in this way encourages better stewardship of our oceans and appreciation of the wonders of the world right beyond our coastline. While visiting the Aquarium doesn't automatically convert you into an environmental activist, it opens the doors to thinking about these issues. Taking care of the planet isn't just something that people with money should or do care about; the oceans are part of our community, especially as residents of these counties, and we all have a relationship with them through the actions we take to neglect or protect them. It's awesome that the Aquarium created that opportunity for those who cannot usually visit.

Upside-down jellies, part of "The Jellies Experience" exhibit. The exhibit itself was retro/psychedelic-inspired and the jellies were of course totally awesome.

The Aquarium has a nice blend of awe-inspiring creatures, information, and displays, as well as information about the necessity of better conservation, stewardship, and regulation to protect these animals and their watery ecosystems. There was an entire exhibit about tuna and other fish that are overfished for consumption. It urged visitors to be more mindful consumers and abide by the Seafood Watch guide that the Aquarium produces and updates each year. In the water tank exhibit in that room enormous tuna were swimming around, a real-life reminder of the animals affected by our food choices. The display also provided solutions to other problems, like shrimp nets catching sea turtles and seahorses, and other problems associated with how we catch our fish and in what quantity.

One display that stood out to me the most was a graphics-based video showing how driving and industrial emissions release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and how this then enters our oceans. It was essentially showing ocean acidification, but it didn't need to use any words to describe what was happening to the creatures in the oceans. I found it particularly eye catching, and it took a complex concept and made it simple enough for anyone of any age, in any language to understand.

Here's a short video set to some groovy music with clips from my visit today. At least watch the awesome dancing jelly fish at the beginning!
I had a great time exploring the Aquarium today, and I highly encourage visiting if you have the chance. There is a slight student discount, but otherwise it's about $40 per person. Might be a great gift to give someone! The Aquarium website also has some web cams, information, and activities here if you can't make it out to Monterey.

See all photos from today, along with information about some of the animals, here.

Happy Sunday!
Green Gal

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Forest Trails Talk: A Speaker Panel on Upper Campus Mountain Biking

Last quarter, I participated in a Girls Gone Wilder mountain bike ride (Wilder as in Wilder Ranch State Park, of course). It was my first time joining them. The Facebook description for the group reads, "We're a Santa Cruz women's mountain biking group with a lust for the great outdoors. We're fun, welcoming, beginner-friendly and beer-positive. Join us!" I had a blast, and afterwards, everyone celebrated the awesome turnout with a beer at the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery.

While enjoying the bike-induced endorphins and beer,  I met some really awesome people, Traci and Eric of Hilltromper, "the nature-worshiping, fun-loving adventurer's guide" to Santa Cruz and Dave Robinson of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, "a non-profit mountain bike advocacy organization and a chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA)." We got to talking about how many of the trails in Santa Cruz, and particularly those in the upper campus of UCSC, are illegal and the many issues surrounding this: criminalizing biking, people ride there anyway but trails can't be maintained for safety and environmental protection, Santa Cruz bike industry is huge largely because of these trails but they're illegal, etc. Someone suggested that there ought to be an event to talk about the issue and get all the stakeholders involved. I suggested hosting it on campus, and since I'm a residential adviser in Stevenson, I could easily create a program around the event and get the students there. We decided that night to make the speaker panel happen.

The panel was designed, planned, and ready to go (though we hadn't gotten confirmation from any UCSC administrators, despite our attempts). The Facebook page was exploding with comments, concerns, excitement, anger. We were stoked for the event to happen, and it was scheduled for November 20. But there was also a labor strike scheduled for that day. Given the uncertainty of when the picket line would end, we ultimately cancelled the event and promised to reschedule.

Fast forward to January, when we re-secured the location and retraced our steps for outreach and communication with speakers. Since we essentially had a test-run back in November, we were more effective this time at promoting the event. We also conducted a survey so we'd have some data to share about people who ride in upper campus. We were still, unfortunately, unsuccessful at getting UCSC administrators to participate, but we had an awesome line-up of speakers from various perspectives, tablers, and awesome press coverage.

Rather than rehash the story of the incredibly successful event, which happened on January 29, 2014, I'll share some links to articles covering the panel below. I will say, though, that I was amazed at the turn-out and the enthusiasm, as well as hope, that came out of the event. Seeing students, staff, faculty, and community members represented in large numbers at this event was awesome, and hearing the conversation and interest in exploring this topic between mountain bikers, hikers, environmental advocates, and others in the room was inspiring. There are ways to support and care for the environment while also allowing people the freedom to engage with the environment in ways that speak to them. It was clear that the mountain biking community in general is willing to lend a hand in making trails more environmentally protected and to work with those who have the knowledge of how to protect ecosystems. This event brought those different perspectives and voices together and created an opening for conversation and action regarding ways to work together.

Ultimately, it seemed that everyone in the room that night values and cares about the beautiful land of upper campus at UCSC and wants to see it protected. If we can rally behind that cause as a collective group, working together to share the places up there will be more likely to happen.

Thank you to Traci, Eric, Dave, and the UCSC students from Stevenson College to helped make this possible. This is just the beginning of a really important conversation and action regarding this issue. To continue this conversation and share your thoughts, visit the Civinomics workshop here.

Here are stories and articles about the panel, in chronological order:

Forest Trails Talk: A Speaker Panel on Upper Campus Mountain Biking (Facebook)

Mountain Bike Access at UCSC: A Panel (Hilltromper)

Survey: Mountain Bikers and Upper UCSC (Hilltromper)

Video recording of the panel (YouTube)

Panel at UC Santa Cruz to address illegal mountain biking (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Hope for Solutions at Trails Talk (Hilltromper)

Illegal single-track trails at UC Santa Cruz subject of talk (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Forest Trails Talk - A Narrative on Addressing the Elephant in the Room (Civinomics Tipping Point blog)

Panel Discussion Examines Unauthorized Trail Use on Campus, Draws Full Crowd (Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz)

How should we deal with illegal mountain biking trails at UCSC? (Civinomics workshop, where you can continue the conversation and share your thoughts)

Photographs from the event (Facebook)

Bike love in the air & How I became a blogger for Pedal Love

It's not Valentine's Day yet, but bike love is in the air! It's rainy in Santa Cruz today and I have a cold, though, so I'll share some bike love through writing instead of riding.

A couple weeks ago, I submitted some photos of myself with my bike to the website Pedal Love to be included in their Valentine's Day feature. Little did I know that my submissions would lead to an opportunity to write blogs for this awesome site, an initiative of the California Bicycle Coalition.

Their website states, "Women on Bikes California marries active living advocacy for women with an ever evolving new media communications platform 'Pedal Love' to share dynamic and compelling stories of how ordinary people are making extraordinary changes to their lives by bike."

After I emailed my photos in, I received an email back from Melissa Balmer, Editor/Director of Pedal Love and Women on Bikes. The first thing her email said was "You made my day!" and then she asked me for more information about the photos I'd sent in. One was of me in my neon yellow bike jacket and matching helmet with my bike (and helmet) decked out in Christmas lights and spoke lights.

The other was of me and Green Guy at last spring's Bike Prom Bike Party ride in Santa Cruz. She especially wanted to know more about Green Guy, since I said in my original email "The guy in the photo is my boyfriend, a fellow bike enthusiast. Meeting him last fall and spending time with him motivated me to get back into biking more, and now I bike everywhere that I can!"

The part that really made my day was her invitation to write a blog column for Pedal Love. I absolutely loved her enthusiasm and willingness to invite me to write for them. I don't think she had any idea that I'm a writer, blogger, and major bike enthusiast (perhaps the photos said it all!). 

In response to her request for more information and invitation to write a blog post, I typed up the story of how Green Guy bike blended some smoothies for me at a sustainability event and then motivated me to fall back in love with biking. You can read the story here because it was just posted today on the Pedal Love site today!

The Pedal Love mission totally speaks to the work that I have been involved in the past couple years to empower women and also get more people on bikes: "Women on Bikes California focuses on the bike as a tool for optimism in the lives of women. We work to engage, connect and cultivate opportunity for women of all ages, races and walks of life interested in bicycling, active living advocacy and bike-related/bike-friendly industries."

I look forward to writing more blogs with them, and I already have an idea for my next one: a feature story of the many inspiring women of the bike advocacy world in Santa Cruz. If you're interested in being featured or know someone who should be featured in my next story, send me an email at greenbeangal [at] gmail.com!

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

Popular Posts