National Drive Electric Week events planned for three Iowa locations


Under the hood
The engine compartment of an all-electric Toyota Rav 4. (Jeff Youngstrom/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | September 13, 2016

National Drive Electric Week is hosting its fifth annual celebration and outreach effort this week at locations across the United States.

The week-long celebration is presented by Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association. National Drive Electric Week is hosting 232 events during the week of September 10th through the 18th. At each event, electric vehicles provided by local owners and car dealerships will be available for public observation, test-drives, and rides.

The popularity of electric vehicles in Iowa is on the rise. According to the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, approximately 1,000 electric vehicles are already in use in the state, and that number has the potential to reach 100,000 by 2040. David Darrow of Grimes, Iowa will display his Tesla Model S P85D at the Drive Electric DSM Car Show. He said, “For daily driving, it’s just unbeatable. It just makes other cars feel kind of clumsy and rough. When you take out the delay of sucking air and fuel, and you take out the delay of a shifting transmission, it’s amazing the difference driving an electric car.”

Electric vehicles help to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and produce zero tailpipe emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. While electric vehicles can have a much larger price tag initially, the cost can be offset by fuel cost savings, a federal tax credit, and state incentive programs. Also, as production volume goes up, prices are likely to go down.

National Drive Electric Week will host three events in Iowa this week:

Drive Electric DSM Car Show
When: Wednesday, Sept. 14 from 11:30 a.m-1:30 p.m.
Where: Western Gateway area of downtown Des Moines,
between Locust St. and Grand Ave.

Drive Electric Week Event West Des Moines
When: Thursday, Sept. 15 from 4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Where: Valley Junction Farmer’s Market
304 5th Street, West Des Moines, Iowa 50265

Drive Electric Week Event Cedar Rapids
When: Saturday, Sept. 17 from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Where: NewBo City Market
1100 3rd Street SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

North Liberty Community Pantry Garden fosters health, community


nlfpgarden
Garden and Volunteer Coordinator Ilsa Dewald working with youth volunteers in the North Liberty Community Pantry Growing Together Garden. (Steven Williams/Special Projects and Marketing Coordinator)
Jenna Ladd | August 16, 2016

The North Liberty Community Pantry has come a long way since its first days serving families from a First Methodist Church closet.

While the pantry is still an outreach ministry of the North Liberty church, its facilities are hardly comparable to the organization’s modest beginnings in 1985. The pantry is now housed in a modern building that features a client-choice shopping model. The building also features refrigerated and frozen food capacities, which is all part of the pantry’s mission to offer clients equal access to wholesome foods like vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy. Executive Director Kaila Rome explains, “Everyone deserves to have the option of healthy nutrition choices, along with the access to knowledge and resources to implement healthy eating.”

Two years ago the pantry expanded that effort through the establishment of the North Liberty Community Pantry Growing Together Garden. The pantry received a Gardening for Health grant through the Wellmark Foundation’s initiative to provide healthier options to people experiencing food insecurity. The grant was matched by North Liberty community donations and provided funds for a paid garden coordinator, necessary equipment, and installation. The 9,600 sq. ft. garden is situated just west of the pantry and provided just over 800 pounds of organically grown produce for pantry goers last year.

When produce from the garden hits the pantry shelves, it is often accompanied by cooking instructions and other foods that pair well with it. “We’re still small enough where we get personal interaction with almost every family, or at least we try to, where we can ask them, ‘Hey, have you tried this recipe?’ What worked and what didn’t, people will bounce ideas off of each other so it’s been really great to see that just from having fresh produce. It’s just one of those things that you don’t think can bring people together, but I think it has,” said Rome.

Garden and Volunteer Coordinator Ilsa Dewald also provides more pointed skill-building through the organization of salsa and canning classes for families. Both community members and pantry families attend classes, encouraging cohesion among North Liberty residents. Rome added, “There’s just a big co-mingling of individuals from people who have used our services, maybe need to use our services in the future to people who just stop by the pantry to pick up their CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] share.”

In combination with donations from local farmers, the pantry is able to provide about three pounds of produce to clients per pantry visit. Rome said, “Just because someone is in need doesn’t mean that their needs change, they still need vegetables, they still need produce, they still need meat and dairy items…We’re not just handing out cans of beans and canned soup, but it’s more than that. It’s about giving back, even if you’re receiving services here, people will volunteer in the garden and it really helps them feel like they are able to contribute.”

The Growing Together Garden does more than provide families with the health benefits associated with eating more vegetables and fruits. It also provides a model of a local food system that is not only reserved for those with an abundance of resources such as arable land, start up money, and leisure time, all while curbing greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional food systems. The garden’s food equity work is echoed by fellow non-profit group Grow: Johnson County, which was recently leased two acres of county land by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors to combat food insecurity and promote health through a garden education program. The organization grows vegetables exclusively for hunger-relief programs like Table to Table and The Crisis Center and provides garden education to disadvantaged populations. Grow: Johnson County’s Education Director Scott Koepke commented on the North Liberty Garden Project during its infancy, “This is not your typical garden. This is designed to be sustainable for years to come, and large enough to provide food for hundreds of people.”

With home and community gardens on the rise, up 200% since 2008, it seems projects like these will only continue to pick up steam; which, according to Koepke is a good thing, “Food insecurity isn’t going away anytime soon.”

On the Radio: Windsor Heights keeps Iowa green


Winsdor Heights is going green.

Listen to this week’s radio segment on Windsor Heights and its plans for sustainability.

Just north of West Des Moines sits Windsor Heights – a small city brimming with ideas for cleaner, healthier living.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus on sustainable communities.

Windsor Heights has already turned green – its green landscaping keep its water cleaner and river levels lower. The use of high-tech lights reduces energy use across the city. Continue reading

On the Radio: Charles City – Paving a more sustainable Iowa


The arrows show how water moves through the porous pavement. Source: Charles City Green Streets Evaluation and Design Report

Listen to this week’s radio segment on the green efforts of Charles City, a Northeast Iowa town of about 8,000.

Read more about the project here, or check out the report below.  Continue reading

Iowa City recycling center to be completely green


This summer Iowa City will open the East Side Recycling Center, a $3.8 million complex, funded by landfill revenue. The center and its surrounding area will be a model for sustainability, but not just because of its role in reprocessing the city’s waste.

The Press-Citizen reports:

First, the multi-building complex will serve as a one-stop recycling hub, including drop-off bins for oil and electronics, pick-up stations for wood chips and compost and salvage shops for building materials and furniture.

It also will feature an environmental education center — a public meeting facility where city staff and local groups can hold programs and classes focusing on sustainability.

The complex also is being built to be itself as sustainable as possible, incorporating geothermal heating and cooling, a wind turbine to generate power and biocells to treat the storm-water runoff.

And there will be plenty of greenery on the site, with rain gardens, bioswales, vegetation atop the education center’s roof and an outdoor education area.

Leopold Center recommends shift toward local foods


Source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Iowans spend more than $8 billion on food annually, but only 14 percent is produced within the state. And though the state devotes some 86 percent of its land to farming, it lags in fruit and vegetable production, according to a new report from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

The report, requested by the Iowa Legislature in an amendment last year, lists 34 recommendations to help the state cultivate more local foods.

The suggestions include creating a local foods coordinator and advisory board, and granting financial assistance, education and training to promote local foods businesses.

 

Organic Farmer Seeks Sustainable Housing in Iowa


Angela Tedesco lives sustainably, and she wants to help others follow her lead.

Tedesco, a Johnston organic farmer, is looking to develop a 20-acre sustainable housing village near the Des Moines suburb of Granger, the Des Moines Register reports today.

Tedesco’s hope lies in something called co-housing. She wants to make these 20 acres a sustainable housing development, where each small, privately owned house is clustered in part of the property. Continue reading