I Heart SCV
Making SCV Greener, One MRF at a Time
April, 2009 - Issue #54
Most Santa Claritans think nature roams wild and free in precisely two places: Placerita Canyon and the refrigerator shelves of C-rated restaurants. But this winter and spring, we were reminded that the Santa Clara River is the third place where we can still find a bit of untamed wilderness, so long as we're willing to look past the cement levies and storm drains. With heavy rain in February and early March, the river has had a run of weeks rather than the usual days.

Every time it flows, the river reminds us just how connected we are to the local natural world. Water from our storm drains really does flow out into the Santa Clara and, ultimately, the Pacific. Beer cans, bald tires and other debris of modern life float in the current. Most of us feel a responsibility to be good stewards of the Santa Clara River and other natural areas in the valley. Like it or not, we must engage in the noblest enterprise of trying not to mess everything up too badly.

Trees, Please
On April 18, the City will host a joint Earth Day/Arbor Day celebration at Central Park. The event will take place in a half-dozen different "zones" where Claritans can learn about such things as water conservation and energy efficiency. Some architectural firms and green auto-makers will be displaying their innovative, eco-friendly products as well. A solar array will actually be generating energy for the event, which is quite cool. As at any Earth Day, you'll probably have heard much of the advice before - turn off lights! take public transportation! dispose of batteries properly! - and you are probably not looking forward to spending your Saturday feeling guilty, perplexed, or annoyed by a calculation of your carbon footprint. Worry not. There will be free stuff, too.

In fact, that's where the Arbor Day angle comes in. The City will be giving away trees, both potted live ones and dead ones whose corpses have been chopped into mulch. Kids love planting stuff, so be prepared for a long-term change to your landscape if your tots decide a tree is what your family needs. When I was in second grade, some Arbor Day Foundation volunteer (I think her name was Willow or Whisper) gave me a Canary Island Pine tree seedling that was 4 inches tall. I planted it at my grandparent's house where it stands to this day, now over 20 feet. Despite the inherent corniness of planting a tree as metaphor, it's a great weekend project that will have long-lasting benefits.

MRF Madness
A MRF will do as much good as any Earth Day Celebration, and they're open year-round. But MRFs don't inspire quite the same level of enthusiasm. That's because a MRF (pronounced like "smurf" minus the "s") is a Materials Recycling Facility. It gets in bulk trash, and employees and automated processes sort through this trash to pull out as much recyclable material as possible, keeping literally tons of recyclables out of landfills each day. This is a wonderful idea in principle, and to meet waste disposal compliance, Santa Clarita has to build one.

The only problem is, nobody wants to live next to a MRF; we're none too keen on watching, hearing and smelling MRFs do their... MRFing. In its infinite wisdom, the City Council recently decided to form a special committee of SCV residents that will help Burrtec, the company that will operate the MRF, find a suitable location. With 20 or so members, I think the committee will represent enough neighborhoods to keep the MRF from being sited anywhere that's even moderately populated. We shall be safe from having to face any of the reality associated with the trash we produce. And that's exactly the way it should be.

Greenish Stimulus
Even with our pressing local concerns, it's still all eyes on Washington and Wall Street. As best as I can tell, Santa Clarita played no role in the present financial crisis, given that the outer edge of our sphere of influence barely makes it to Sylmar, much less Wall Street. Yet here we are, facing the same challenges as the rest of America. And like everyone else, we're hoping to get a piece of the stimulus pie aimed at helping boost the economy. The only real certainty is that we will have contributed much more money than we get back in support of beneficial local projects and programs.
On the bright side, though, many of the ways the City has proposed to spend stimulus dollars are downright green. There are plans to use the money to install solar power arrays at the transit maintenance station and City Hall. Extremely energy-efficient LED lights will go into traffic signals, and public transportation may get a boost. Earth Days, MRFs and solar power won't fix everything, but they show that we heart Santa Clarita enough to invest in keeping her clean and green.

This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor. Suggestions, catty comments and veiled threats intended for the author can be e-mailed to
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