Green Page

Going Green on Whidbey Island


November 24th, 2015 at 9:32 am by maribeth crandell
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To escape religious persecution a group of men, women and children, crowded into a boat and made a dangerous and uncomfortable ocean crossing to a distant country.  They gave up most of their possessions to pay for the passage.  They didn’t know what to expect or how they would survive once they arrived.  Winter weather, exposure and malnutrition took its toll and half the passengers died. Traumatized the rest moved ashore where they were met by a kind stranger. He introduced them to other locals who taught them how to survive.  The newcomers planted gardens and built houses becoming established in their new home.  After the first successful harvest they held a huge potluck with the locals and feasted for 3 days forming a lasting friendship.

First Thanksgiving 1621

First Thanksgiving 1621

As I contemplate the birth of our Thanksgiving holiday, I can’t help noticing the parallels with the current refugee crisis.  When I hear our political leaders, clergy or friends voicing their opinion about whether we should accept refugees here, I think about our ancestors who were the “refugees” or “pilgrims” of their day.  I give thanks for the help that they had to become established in the new world and that I was born in a land where I can live in a manner of my choosing.

Can you imagine living in a place where bombs and gunfire are the norm?  Where you cannot take a bus or go shopping without fear of being the victim of some mass murder?  Where you’re at risk if you say the wrong thing, dress the wrong way, or befriend the wrong person?

The world has changed since the first Thanksgiving in 1621, but some things remain unchanged. There are still dangerous people out there seeking to destroy others that don’t share their beliefs.  And there are still strangers that greet refugees and help them to become established in a new home.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Return of the River

November 10th, 2015 at 3:22 pm by maribeth crandell
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There is a movie coming to town that I would encourage you to see.  It’s got tense conflict, powerful explosions and incredible natural beauty.

Big Quill head

It’s about a huge project to remove 2 dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a beautiful documentary of people like you and me who had a vision and through patience and persistence were able to bring their vision to reality.

The Elwha is the largest river system on the Olympic Peninsula.  One hundred years ago, before the dams were built there were 5 species of salmon in the river, plus 2 species of anadromous trout.  These fish runs supported dozens of other species in what became Olympic National Park.

The dams didn’t just stop fish, they also stopped the natural transport of sediment and woody debris that used to build river habitat and wash out from the river’s mouth to build Ediz Hook, a long sandbar that protects the harbor of Port Angeles.  Because of the dams, the Army Corps of Engineers had to take over supporting Ediz Hook with frequent truckloads of gravel.


I first heard about this effort to remove the dams on the Elwha in the early 1990’s. After  many years of discussion, and an act of Congress, the project actually began in 2011.  Now, after over 20 years, both the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams are gone and the lakes behind them have drained.  The Elwha River flows from deep in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Sediments move downstream rebuilding river and nearshore habitats, and anadromous fish swim upstream bringing their life-giving nutrients to plants and animals along the way.  People have planted native vegetation along the newly established banks.

This dramatic tale highlights how perspectives change through time. An idea might seem great in one generation (like damming a remote river to generate electric power for a pioneer community) and a century later, realize, that idea had some serious drawbacks.  Improvements in energy efficiency and other sources of electric power made these two dams unnecessary and obsolete.  This documentary shows how we need to consider the consequences of our actions over the long haul.  It takes a lot of work and dedicated people to challenge what once was considered a brilliant idea. If you’re looking for some inspiration, go see this movie.  It’s free at your local library.

Return of the River

Oak Harbor Library, Sunday, November 22 @ 2:00pm

Coupeville Library, Monday, November 30 @ 1:30pm

Freeland Library, Thursday, December 3 @ 3:30pm

Your Vote Counts

October 26th, 2015 at 5:03 pm by maribeth crandell
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If there’s one thing we’ve learned with Scott Dudley as Mayor these last four years, it’s that your vote counts.  If voters had done a little research before the last election would they have made the same choice? He had a nice picture in the paper but is that how we should choose our next mayor?

During his first 6 months in office Scott Dudley had fired 5 administrative officials including the fire chief, Mark Soptich, who was responsible for saving the lives and property of many Oak Harbor citizens over his 15 years in charge.  He continued firing city staff without stating any reasons.  Many staff people sought other work before they felt the axe, like Eric Johnston, chief engineer, who then sued the city and won.  There were other law suits including Rene’ Recker, the Mayor’s former executive assistant who had previously worked with 2 other mayors.  She was undergoing cancer treatment when Dudley fired her. These law suits have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. More recently, he spoke harshly of city administrator Larry Cort while on TV.  Larry was undergoing cancer treatment and resigned.  With the elimination of several key city staff the city’s progress slowed to a crawl. Mayor Dudley lost a significant degree of valuable experience and ran up huge bills in legal fees and settlements.

Scott Dudley is an elected official. The citizens of Oak Harbor voted him into office.

Soon Oak Harbor residents will have another chance to vote for a mayor. There’s still time to do some homework.

Bob Severns and Jim Campbell are both nice people. They have both served on the City Council for several years.  When Bob Severns announced that he would run for mayor, Scott Dudley urged Jim Campbell to run against him.  The Whidbey News Times stated on April 22, 2015, “Dudley said he will be glad to endorse Campbell for mayor.”


Jim Campbell retired from the Navy as a chief petty officer.  Later he worked for Lockheed Martin for 21 years as a senior project manager. His final project was as liaison to the Royal Navy Trident Program in Scotland. Campbell was on the board of Island Transit when they ran into serious financial problems and he resigned. He ran for County Commissioner in 2012 but lost. He has no college education. He is 80 years old.

Bob Severns is 65. He has a BA degree in Business Administration and Management.  He’s lived and worked in Oak Harbor in the insurance and banking business successfully managing title company offices for 41 years.  He’s a life-long member of the Navy League and supports the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.  He’s served on the board of Whidbey Island Bank, Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the Island County Economic Development Council and the Main Street Association.


On his Facebook page you can see him, and his wife Rhonda, supporting the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Marathon and other city activities.  Last summer they worked hard to collect truckloads of supplies for the firefighters in Eastern Washington.


Pet Poop 010

Bob’s wife, Rhonda, is an added bonus. She worked for the City for 30 years and is involved with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations.  They’re both active volunteers and frequent contributors to community groups.

I encourage you to do your own research, check out their web sites, Facebook page and news articles. Better yet, attend a political debate, sit in on a city council meeting or watch it on local TV.  Base your decision on more than a photo in the paper.  You have a chance to help determine the future of Oak Harbor.  Your vote counts.

Living with Wildlife

September 17th, 2015 at 9:59 am by maribeth crandell
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I took some great trips this summer but the highlight for me was a week in Yellowstone.

When I was a kid I went to Yellowstone with my family and had my first encounter with the Griz.  I was leaving our cabin after dark and there it was, slowly approaching under the streetlight.  After a moment of hesitation, I raced back to the cabin.  A moment later the garbage can outside was turned over.  Dad thinks that’s when I got the “wildlife bug”.

I’ve been fascinated by wildlife, studied animal behavior and worked as a wilderness naturalist for years, so I’ve had a few more encounters with the Griz since then.

Since I was in Yellowstone in the 1960’s wildlife management has made a 180 degree turn.  Back then traffic jams were caused by people tossing steaks out of the car window to a crowd of bears.  They offered tours of the dump where you could watch wildlife up close and personal. People put their children on the backs of wild bison, a huge animal with horns that literally weighs a ton.  Moose were treated as if they’re comic strip characters like Disney’s Bullwinkle, though they’re seven feet tall with four foot wide antlers and very sharp hooves.

Watch wildlife from a safe distance.

Watch wildlife from a safe distance.

Since then we’ve learned that people and wildlife don’t get along well unless we respect each other.  This summer while camping in Yellowstone, I learned I could be fined if I left any food, garbage or cooking equipment unattended. Rangers told people to keep dogs on a leash and children nearby. Signs were posted everywhere to stay 100 yards away from bears or wolves and at least 25 yards away from bison, elk, deer, moose and other wildlife.  They suggested you use your outstretched arm to measure.  If the animal doesn’t fit behind your thumb, you’re too close.  We used binoculars, a spotting scope and a long lens on our camera to get “up close and personal” with bears, bison, elk, moose and wolves.

Watching a wolf pack from a 1/2 mile away.

Watching a wolf pack from a 1/2 mile away.

When I got home, I saw this on the internet, an actual comment card turned in by a park visitor:

“Our visit was wonderful but we never saw any bears. Please train your bears to be where guests can see them. This was an expensive trip to not get to see bears.” 

I suggest people like this go to the zoo.

Most people think Grizzlies are more deadly than black bears. There are far more black bears in the U.S. than Grizzlies.  They crowd into areas populated by people, so troublesome human and black bear encounters are more numerous.  There haven’t been any wild wolf fatalities in the U.S. since 1888 (though there have been some in Canada and “pet” wolves have attacked their owners). In Alaska they say moose have caused more injuries to humans than bears.  The North American land mammals that have caused the most human fatalities are deer when they cross the road.  But they would probably say that we humans are the problem.

Moose are dangerous especially during mating season.

Moose are dangerous especially during mating season.

No matter where you encounter wildlife, in the wilderness or your own backyard, it’s best to follow these simple rules that will keep you and them safe and healthy.

1)      Don’t feed wildlife. That includes keeping garbage, the BBQ, and fallen fruit from your trees, cleaned up and stored securely.  You’re not doing them any favors by feeding them and it could put you or them at risk.  On some park roads more wildlife are hit by cars because people have lured them to the roadside with food.  At home if you leave food for wildlife in your yard, you are also attracting mice and rats which can do a lot of damage to your home.

2)      Observe wildlife at a safe distance.  Wildlife can act unpredictably. Even deer could attack if you get too near or approach their young. For graphic examples, check out the videos on the Yellowstone website.



Gardening in the Gloaming

August 4th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by maribeth crandell
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Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in the Puget Sound?” Very clever but no, you might say, he said that about San Francisco.  Or, if you’ve done your homework you might know that Twain was quoting someone else.  Someone named Quinn said something like it 100 years before about Paris.  Still, it’s a great little fictitious quote that someone should have said at some point about Puget Sound.

However, no one is saying that this year.  We’ve had record breaking temperatures and drought since June which is normally a rather soggy month. So far this year we’ve had 11 days over 90 degrees in Seattle.  The last two months by average temperature have been the hottest on record.  In addition this May through July has been the driest period on record with less than an inch of rain.  The previous record was 1.73 inches in 2003.

I grew up in the south and will not go back there in the summertime if I can help it.  Heat is one thing. Heat and humidity totally wipe me out.  I’ve lived in Western Washington now far longer than I lived in the south and my tolerance for warm temperatures is next to nil.  So what do I do about my garden on these hot summer days?  I wait.

I’ve taken up gardening in the gloaming, that special time between sunset and nightfall when the heat of the day subsides and a diffused light lingers.  Gloaming is an old English word that people equate with “twilight” which now makes people think of vampires.  “Gloaming” is related to the word “glow”.  I glow when I get outside in the gloaming, to garden or walk.  It’s cooler and quiet and I can weed, water, or walk at will.  And yes, I see a few bats while I’m out there.

A friend introduced me to the official designations for these in between times.

There is Civil Twilight when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon.  In the morning we’d call it dawn, in the evening, dusk. There is enough light for most outdoor activities, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible in a clear sky.

Gardening in the Gloaming

Then there is Nautical Twilight when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon.  By this time darkness is falling.  Objects on the ground become hard to distinguish and the horizon is obscure. By then I have put away my trowel and gardening gloves and rolled my wheel barrow back into the garage.

Astronomical Twilight is when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon.  Illumination from the sky is very faint and it is officially dark except for the light of the moon and stars.  This week a blue moon lit up the sky and cast shadows from tall trees.  I look up between the garden and the house to see if I can spot my favorite constellations, a shooting star or the elusive northern lights.  After these hot dry days, summer nights are a peaceful paradise.


Good to the Last Drop

July 21st, 2015 at 3:56 pm by maribeth crandell
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During a long summer drought Islanders become concerned about our water supply.  Our neighbors in Skagit County enjoy the seemingly unending water from the Skagit River, the second largest river in Washington State.  It feeds many small towns as it runs from the high Cascades to the sandy shores of Mount Vernon.  The city of Oak Harbor on north Whidbey gets drinking water piped in from the Skagit River.  But the glaciers that feed the Skagit are retreating.  Those declining frozen reservoirs are a growing concern.

Overdose on Beauty!  8-07

The rest of us are dependent on wells and our sole source aquifer (like an underwater lake).  In a year when rainfall is as rare as reindeer, our aquifer gets little rainwater recharge.  Whether you’re on a well or a municipal water system, this time of year conservation is essential.  If everyone is careful there will be enough water for all of us.

Water conservation is important both inside and outside the home.  The average American household uses 320 gallons of water each day, or 80-100 gallons per person.  My parents, who live in an area with summer droughts, challenged themselves to use as little water as possible.  They put a rain barrel on both sides of their roof.  They filtered it and carried that water into the house and poured it in the toilet for a free flush, boiled it for dish washing and even brought in buckets of water for the washing machine!  They averaged just 60 gallons a week.  In addition to a much smaller water bill they were recognized by the mayor and were featured in the local paper.  Most people aren’t willing to put that much work into it even with the lure of celebrity status.  However there are simple steps that can maximize your efforts.

The toilet uses 27% of the household’s water.  “If it’s yellow, let it mellow,” my dad says with a smile.  ”If it’s brown flush it down.”   You could also put a plastic 2 liter bottle full of water into the tank to reduce the water in each flush.  Or install a low flow toilet that uses about 1.30 gallons per flush.

Leaks can add up to 13% of water loss. Do a dye test on your toilet by adding a few drops of food coloring to the toilet tank.  If colored water comes into the bowl without flushing, you have a leak.  Even a small leak in the toilet or a leaky faucet can results in 200 gallons lost and a huge bill for those on municipal water.  Rhonda Severns of the Oak Harbor Water Department used to say,
“Don’t wait a week to fix a leak!”

The clothes washer uses 22% of household water. There are new high efficiency washers that can save 16 gallons of water per load.  For a limited time Puget Sound Energy will give you a new one for free if your old washer is at least 20 years old.  Check out their appliance offers and rebates at  They also have low flow shower heads… or you can take shorter showers.

Rain Barrels are great for outdoor watering.

Rain Barrels are great for outdoor watering.


A rain barrel at your down spouts can go a long way toward keeping gardens watered during a drought.   If you didn’t get one installed before the drought, you can add one now and be ready for the next shower.  It doesn’t take long to fill up a 50 gallon barrel.  Put a mosquito net over the top to make sure it doesn’t become a bug breader.  If you have any questions about rain barrels, Scott Chase of the WSU Shore Stewards program can offer years of expertise and presentations for groups.  Contact him at or 360-387-3443, ext 258.

Water at dawn and dusk, 1 hour, once a week.

Water at dawn and dusk, 1 hour, once a week.

To conserve water in your yard, water in the cool of the day and mulch around plants to reduce evaporation.  Retain native plants and soils that are well established and require less water and maintenance.  For more information on native plants in your landscape contact the Whidbey Conservation District.  Just visit: or call 360-678-4708.


Blue Ribbon Compost!

July 17th, 2015 at 11:17 am by maribeth crandell
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So you think you can compost?  But can you compost with the best of them?

In recent years compost has been a judging category in the Whidbey Area Fair (Formerly the Island County Fair).  There have been few competitors in this division so if you enter, there’s a good chance you could win a ribbon!  There are 2 different categories, one for worm bin compost and one for yard waste compost. This year the Fair will be Aug. 6-9 so start getting your entry ready now.

Keep food waste in a worm bin.

Keep food waste in a worm bin.

If you have a worm bin for food waste, one way to prepare is to put the fresh stuff on one side of your worm bin so the worms will fully process the stuff that’s on the other.  You’ll need to bring in at least a mason jar full of the “black gold”.

For yard waste compost, make sure your compost pile gets turned every 4-7 days to help the whole pile break down evenly.  The pile should be at least 3 feet wide by 3 feet tall by 3 feet deep to really get cooking.  With this dry weather we’ve been having you may need to dampen the pile.  It should have about the same amount of moisture as a wrung out sponge.  If you have a 3-4 foot section of PVC pipe with holes drilled along it, you can put that in the middle of the pile as you build it.  Lay it horizontally to help air get into the center of the pile which will speed up the process.  Air, moisture, volume and turning helps yard waste turn into good compost.  For the judging you shouldn’t be able to recognize any individual sticks or straw.  It should just look and smell like rich soil.

worm manure

To enter the competition, go online to, look on the left side for Exhibitors and click on Premium Book.  The compost category is under OPEN CLASS DIVISION, Department 204, Agriculture, Division E: Grains, Beans, Seeds and Compost.

If you’re not an avid composter yet, you may want to take a Free Compost Class offered by the WSU Waste Wise Coordinator, Janet Hall. Composting turns yard waste and food waste into good soil supplements for your garden and will save money on garbage disposal, too.  Food waste should be processed in a rodent proof worm bin to protect your home and family. Find out how to get started at this engaging workshop.  Bring your Discover Pass for parking.

Fort Casey State Park at the Lighthouse, 9:30-11:00, Saturday, July 25 or Saturday, August 22. 

To register call 360-678-7974 or email:

Red Tide on Whidbey Island

June 26th, 2015 at 10:45 am by maribeth crandell
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As temperatures rise, so do reports of algae blooms in marine waters.

This week I was called with reports of a red tide. People are alarmed.  They ask if it’s safe to swim, harvest shellfish or allow their dogs into the water.

Red Tide HolHarb7

A red tide does not indicate toxins in the water.  Reddish water is often caused by Noctiluca, an algae bloom that is harmless to humans.  Some people say it looks like streaks of tomato soup in the water.  Red tides are not uncommon in Holmes Harbor and Penn Cove in summer.

A basket of mussels hangs from a private dock near the south end of Holmes Harbor and a trained volunteer collects a sample every two weeks for testing. Other volunteers collect shellfish for testing at other sites around Island County.  Mussels filter food from the water column so they usually indicate the presence of biotoxins before clams and oysters that feed in the sand.

The Island County Public Health Department works with the State Department of Health and trained volunteers to monitor both shellfish and water quality on Whidbey and Camano Islands.

Taking a water sample in Penn Cove.

Taking a water sample in Penn Cove.

Biotoxins naturally occur in marine waters and can cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning and Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning which can cause serious illness and sometimes even death.  These toxins cannot be cooked or frozen out.  Marine biotoxins are not visible to the naked eye.  The only way to determine if water and shellfish are safe is to test them in a lab.  Once shellfish are tested, the results are sent to the State Department of Health and the County Public Health Departments.  Appropriate signs are posted at those sites to alert the public.

The latest test results indicate safe shellfish in Holmes Harbor but these toxins can change overnight.  It’s important to call the State hotline number, 1-800-562-5632, or visit their clickable map at: before harvesting or eating shellfish.  If the tests show a presence of biotoxins, the Health Department closes the beach until further testing shows the toxins have cleared.

Signs alert the public of  water quality issues.

Signs alert the public of water quality issues.

Water samples are taken weekly throughout the summer at some of our popular beach parks. The State Department of Ecology’s BEACH program funds water sampling at Freeland County Park, Dave Mackie Park at Maxwelton Beach, and Windjammer Park and swimming lagoon in Oak Harbor.  If water quality test results indicate high levels of harmful fecal coliform bacteria signs are posted on those beaches until water quality improves.  Beaches contaminated with harmful bacteria are a public health risk.  Beaches that are near a sewer or stormwater outfall pipe, or a marina, have permanent swimming and shellfish advisories.  To find the latest test results from your favorite beach visit:


The Pope Speaks on Climate Change

June 23rd, 2015 at 9:38 am by maribeth crandell
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Last week Pope Francis called for immediate human behavior changes to fight global warming saying damage caused by contemporary lifestyles could leave future generations a devastated planet.  He chastised those who denied the connection between climate change and human behavior.  The Pope declared the planet was in peril and it was due to a culture of instant gratification.

He emphasized that climate change was a moral issue, that poor people suffer more than the wealthy from global warming, and that everyone has a duty to be responsible stewards of the planet.  His words connected environmental issues and economic issues with spiritual health and happiness.  He didn’t say anything new, it was just that it was the Pope saying it that made it big news.

He said he was praying that an international enforceable agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would come out of the Climate Change conference scheduled in Paris in 6 months.  Previous conferences on global warming haven’t made much progress.  Our leaders can help make sweeping changes but sometimes it just seems to take forever.  So while we’re waiting for them to get onboard, let’s start with what we can do now, as individuals or communities.

A couple of years ago I got a free energy audit from Puget Sound Energy.  Their representative came to my home, changed all my light bulbs to energy efficient CFLs and offered advice on ways to reduce my energy bills.  PSE also offers rebates for residential and commercial buildings and sometimes have special give-aways on appliances. I upgraded my washer and fridge and got a new super efficient ductless heat pump!  Visit their website to see what’s currently available.

Community Solar Project on Anacortes Middle School

Community Solar Project at the Anacortes Middle School

My house is not in a good place for solar panels so recently I invested in the Greenbank Farm Community Solar Project.  The project involves the installation of solar panels at the farm, provides local jobs, stimulates the Island economy, provides renewable energy and an electric car charging station to the farm, and in a few years my investment will be cashed in at a good rate.  There are similar community solar projects in Anacortes and Ellensburg.  Find out more here;

If you’re house is in a sunny spot there are excellent incentives to go solar before the end of 2015. Call Whidbey Sun and Wind for details.

Bus Commuters

I love my commute.  First I walk from my house up and over a big hill.  It saves me the cost of a gym membership.  Then I catch the Island Transit bus to work.  The bus is paid for by grants and a fraction of a percent of our county sales tax.  There is no bus fare, so I save on my workout and my transportation.  And the bus is full of co-workers and friends.  Occasionally I have to drive, but when I do, I miss my walk and the camaraderie on the bus.

My car sits at home a lot but when I drive, I try to drive in a way that gets the most out of every drop of gas. Some tips I’ve learned is not to carry a lot of extra weight when not necessary.  Keep tires properly inflated. When approaching a stop, take my foot off the gas far in advance and ease up to the intersection slowly.  When I start up again, I ease out of a stop gradually.  And if idling for more than a minute, turn the engine off.  On the open road drive the speed limit.  Driving over 60 mph is like throwing money out the window.

Gardening on a small lot

Gardening on a small lot

Growing and buying local food also helps reduce greenhouse gases.  Much of the food in the grocery store traveled over 1,000 miles to get here.  But it’s just a few steps out to the garden where I can grow produce year round.  I also like shopping at farm stands and farmer’s markets on the Island.  The food is fresher and more nutritious, I’m supporting our local organic farmers and the atmosphere is festive.  I bring my own shopping bags which saves money on garbage disposal fees.  I compost food waste in a worm bin and use the worm manure for garden fertilizer. And of course I recycle as much as I can here which saves resources and money.

I think the Pope would approve.

Food Waste Watchers

June 19th, 2015 at 8:57 am by maribeth crandell
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Okay, here’s the dirt.

Americans waste 40% of our food between farm and fork.  Wasted food means wasted water as 80% of our water goes to agriculture.  Wasted food also means wasted farmland with over 50% of U.S. land in agriculture.  Wasted food means wasted fuel as much of our food travels over 1,000 miles to get to our local store.  Food waste makes up 18% of our country’s solid waste which goes to landfills where it turns into methane gas which is a greenhouse gas that’s much more potent than carbon dioxide.  We Americans waste $165 billion worth of food each year.  A family of 4 spends an average of $1,600 a year on wasted food.  First we pay for it at the check-out stand and then we pay for it to get hauled to the dump.

Waste Free Kitchen Handbook

These numbers come from Dana Gunders, Food and Ag Scientist at the Natural Resource Defense Council in a 2012 report.  She has a new book out called a Waste Free Kitchen Handbook, a guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food.  It offers tips on shopping, recipes, portioning, fridge use, preserving, pickling, freezing and cellaring.  Sounds like a book my grandmother could have written if she’d taken time from her gardening, freezing, pickling and canning.

My parents grew up on farms during the Great Depression.  Nothing went to waste then.  Growing up in the 1960′s and 1970’s, my siblings and I weren’t allowed to leave food on our dinner plates so we only took what we knew we could eat. My mom made us all members of the “Clean Plate Club”.  I can imagine what mom would say if she knew that 50% more food is wasted now than when we were kids.

There are many ways to cut food waste.  Let’s start at the source.  Growing some of our own food and buying food from local farmers is a good way to cut the waste, cut the cost and maximize the nutritional value of our food.  We can support the local economy and build community, too.  Our farmer’s markets and farm stands are a fun place to shop and visit with friends. Find one near you at this website:


At the supermarket ask the produce manager for a discount on produce with spots or bruises.  Stores compete for your dollars so they only put out the most beautiful produce.  What happens to the not so pretty stuff?  In France they started a program called “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”.  Grocers sell their less than perfect produce for a discount and much less food goes to waste.

A restaurant will serve the same amount to me as they would to a 200 pound man.  (I hope I never weigh 200 pounds,) so I plan to split a meal with someone I’m dining with, or take home half for later.  The Good Samaritan Act says if there is unused food in the restaurant kitchen, it can be donated to those in need.  Unused food that has been served to a customer cannot.  A group in Portland, Oregon started a program called “Fork It Over, Portland”.  They match food businesses that may have surplus food with rescue agencies who distribute it to those that need it.

At home you can reduce food waste by planning meals before you go shopping.  Don’t buy more than a week’s worth of fresh food, unless you’re planning to can, freeze or pickle it.  Match your meals with your appetite.  Allow plenty of time for your family to eat.  Get creative with leftovers and then label and freeze some of them for later.  If you bought too much, you could donate some to the food bank.

No matter how hard you try to reduce food waste, you’ll still have some watermelon rind, broccoli stalks or egg shells left over.  Feed people first, then the chickens or the worms in the worm bin. Putting food in a yard waste compost pile attracts rodents, so put food waste in an enclosed worm bin. (See “Got Worms?” in the March blog post.) Once the animals are done with it, you’ll have good fertilizer for your garden and the whole cycle starts again! For more tips on minimizing food waste contact Janet Hall, the WSU Waste Wise Coordinator for Island County, at 360-678-7974.

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About maribeth crandell

Maribeth Crandell has a green thumb. Most of the rest of her is "green", as well. She's worked in city, state and national parks as a naturalist, educator and guide, on ships and on shore from the Columbia River to Southeast Alaska. She offers presentations for 6 year olds to seniors. She publishes articles, sings songs, plays the banjo and hikes trails. In fact, in 2006 she hiked the 2,000 mile long Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. She's been an educator for many organizations on Whidbey Island and for 5 years worked as the Environmental Educator for the City of Oak Harbor. She's been a consistent voice on Whidbey Island leading the way toward sustainability. Because Maribeth has a green thumb, along with the rest of her.

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