You recycle at home. Maybe you compost, too. Should we really then generate piles of garbage at eastside festivals that ends up in the landfill? If your answer is “No,” then you can do something about it. The otherwise wonderful eastside Madison festivals generate large quantities of trash. The Sierra Club’s Recycling Away from Home (RAH) program currently reduces waste with volunteers who collect recyclables and trash to decrease what gets landfilled. But on Madison’s eastside—home of Willy Street Co-op East and social consciousness—can’t we do better?

With your support we can—and will! RAH needs our help. Since the first “R” of the trio is “Reduce,” the Sierra Club’s goal at these festivals is to reduce waste and move towards zero-waste events—something we can all feel good about.

First, we need help with the current recycling program at this year’s Willy Street Fair on September 17th and 18th. You can help by going to and signing up for a shift. Sunday is the busiest day, but your assistance is welcome at any time, and they promise to keep you well-hydrated with cold refreshments.

Next year they hope to start collecting compostable materials, which will require using compostable cups, utensils and food containers. These cost a bit more and vendors who supply food at these events will all have to participate. It will also require three separate waste collection receptacles, good signage, and more volunteers to manage and collect the waste.

With your help we can ensure most of what’s collected at these events doesn’t end up as trash, that these festivals reflect our desire to have a sustainable community, and we can set a standard for all events. If you’d like to help plan a less wasteful future for our community, contact Don Ferber at (608) 222-9376 or And don’t forget to sign up for a RAH shift at the Willy Street Fair.


Over the last several decades, thousands of farmers’ markets have been popping up in cities and towns across the country, benefiting local farmers, consumers and economies, but they could be doing a lot better, according to a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“On the whole, farmers’ markets have seen exceptional growth, providing local communities with fresh food direct from the farm,” said Jeffrey O’Hara, the author of the report and an economist with UCS’s Food and Environment Program. “But our federal food policies are working against them. If the U.S. government diverted just a small amount of the massive subsidies it lavishes on industrial agriculture to support these markets and small local farmers, it would not only improve American diets, it would generate tens of thousands of new jobs.”
In 2007, the most recent USDA figure, direct agricultural product sales amounted to a $1.2 billion-a-year business, and most of that money recirculates locally. “The fact that farmers are selling directly to the people who live nearby means that sales revenue stays local,” O’Hara said. “That helps stabilize local economies.”

For the full story and a link to the report, see

More than 1,300 products now on the market claim to incorporate Engineered Nanomaterials (ENMs), whose very tiny size yields novel properties, such as making products, lighter, stronger, and better able to retain moisture and deliver pesticides. None of these products have undergone a pre-market safety assessment. To prevent harm to public health and the environment, ENMs must be regulated and tested prior to commercial release, according to a report issued by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

The report, “Racing Ahead: U.S. Agri-Nanotechnology in the Absence of Regulation,” specifically addresses food and agriculture applications of nanotechnology (e.g. coating fruits and vegetables to preserve shelf life). The report details possible hazards to human health and the environment if they are marketed without pre-market safety assessment and post-market surveillance.

Applications of ENMs include making toxins more bio-available in pesticides, targeting nutrients in smaller doses, improving the texture of ice cream and detecting bacteria in packaged foods. Under current rules, companies have the discretion to determine whether a substance already considered safe in its usual (macro-scale) form (and hence not reportable to the FDA) is also safe in its nano-scale form.

Read the full report at

A new study released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows that efforts to reduce nitrate levels in the Mississippi River Basin are having little impact. Nitrates come mostly from the over-application of chemical fertilizers on crops in the Corn Belt, fouling streams and rivers and eventually helping to swell the annual Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone.”

Corn lobbyists have long blamed others for the nitrogen pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, pointing the finger at urban lawns, golf courses and sewage treatment plants. But a previous USGS survey found that more than 70 percent of the nitrogen comes from agriculture, 52 percent from corn and soy production alone. Corn is the United States’ largest and most subsidized crop, pulling in $77 billion in taxpayer dollars since 1995.

The USGS study sadly details that nitrate transport to the Gulf of Mexico was 10 percent higher in 2008 than in 1980 and that none of the eight monitoring sites showed any progress in nitrate reduction.

For more information, see