Halloween waste: pumpkins, plastic, paper
After every Halloween, callers ask me whether pumpkins can go in their yard waste cart. The answer is “yes.” Even though vegetables and other food scraps are not allowed in local curbside yard waste collection programs, pumpkins are an exception. Someday, we will have local compost facilities legally and operationally able to handle mixed streams of curbside-collected yard clippings and food scraps, but for now, pumpkins are the only exception. So enjoy this brief, exceptional time of year, and toss your pumpkin in your yard waste cart. Just remove candles, candle holders and other decorations that could contaminate compost or mulch.

Another typical Halloween waste is candy wrappers. These are plastic, not paper, and they are a type of plastic that cannot be recycled in local curbside programs. Put wrappers in your garbage cart, not your recycling barrel.


Ramp up your energy efficiency
October is known for Halloween, but it is also “Energy Awareness Month.” If your home gets too cold, drafty or stuffy in the winter, or if your energy bills are too high, this is a good time to consider your home’s insulation. Winter is coming, and poorly installed, degraded or missing insulation can lead to drafts and loss of home heating energy. Proper insulation conserves energy, saves money and also reduces noise from outside the home.

Simply sealing holes and ducts also goes a long way. All of those little cracks and crevices in your house likely add up to a big hole. Plugging up all of that could save the average homeowner 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.

The emPower program’s “Energy Coaches” can conduct free home site visits, offer free expert energy advice, put you in touch with a qualified contractor or help you access utility rebates or low-interest loans.

The next home energy workshops, including free refreshments, will be Nov. 17 at the Santa Paula Community Center, or RSVP for a workshop online at www.emPowerSBC.org or by calling 654-3834.

Palms are falling, fronds can be recycled
Wind and dry weather have been combining recently to cause many palm fronds to fall. In the past, palm fronds, along with ivy and yucca, were banned from yard waste carts. There were three reasons for this discrimination against palms. First, palm fronds are fibrous. Grinders must operate longer and risk jamming when they handle palm. Also, palm fronds take a long time to break down, making them good as mulch but bad as compost. Facilities (such as Agromin, near Oxnard) making both compost and mulch have to sort out the fronds. Palms are still harder to handle than regular yard clippings, so companies such as Agromin charge more to accept loads of palm. Due to grinder improvements, however, you can now include palm fronds in your yard waste cart. Palm trunk pieces are still banned from yard waste carts as they are still too hard on grinders.

A ribbon-cutting for a new parking lot surface?
Rarely do ribbon-cutting ceremonies inaugurate invisible structures, but on the day this issue of the Ventura County Reporter hits newsstands, Oct. 30, at 1:30 p.m., the Ventura County Watershed Protection District will host an event by parking lot E-1 of the County Government Center, celebrating the new infrastructure below the surface of the 39-acre parking lot.

The recently completed Green Streets Urban Retrofit project is designed to clean the “first flush” following a rain. The first flush includes oil, grease, fertilizers, bacteria and other pollutants left on the asphalt during dry weather and typically washed into storm drains during the initial 20 minutes of runoff during a storm. The pervious gutters allow this rain and runoff to drain through the pavement into underground gravel recharge beds and soil for treatment.

Although the Green Streets Project at the Government Center is an example of a large-scale project, creating pervious areas around your own property or home can also make a big difference in keeping our waterways clean. Removing a strip down the middle of the driveway and filling it with gravel, or replacing concrete and asphalt with porous alternatives, allows water to flow into the earth rather than run off. Porous options include interlocking pavers, pervious asphalt and reinforced turf pavers. Turf pavers are support grids with large gaps planted with sedge or other native plants. They can look like a garden but still support the weight of a parked car. Keep your eye on the environment and look for ways you can capture and clean runoff.

Eye on the Environment is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency, written by David Goldstein. Assisting with text for this week’s column were Rachel Scott (emPower) and David Laak (Green Streets Urban Retrofit).