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January 28, 2013 at 9:30am

Learn about the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project over drinks

GREEN DRINKS TACOMA: Discover the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project plans over beers.

A REASON TO DRINK >>>

Why drink alone when you can get your drink on with cool cats who care about environmental issues? On the first Thursday of each month, Green Drinks invites Tacoma and Pierce County residents to do just that - hang out and chat with other green-minded individuals over drinks and snacks. The next session of Green Drinks - which will be held Thursday, Feb. 7 at The Office Bar and Grill - will focus on downtown Tacoma's Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project ... and drinks, of course.

Doreen Gavin, project manager for AHBL - the consulting firm hired by the city of Tacoma in 2011 to design the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project - will be main entertainment at the Feb. 7 Green Drinks session. And by entertainment I mean giving an overview of Pacific Avenue's makeover and answering questions. 

In a nutshell, the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project will deck out downtown's main drag with new sidewalks, lighting and bike lanes, as well as innovative green touches from stormwater infrastructure and rain gardens to more than 3,000 new plants. When all is said and done, downtown Tacoma intends to be a leader in urban greenness - as well as a lot prettier.

I tossed a few questions at Gavin before she got her Green Drinks on at The Office.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Why is the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project important to Tacoma?

DOREEN GAVIN: The Pacific Avenue Streetscape project has three main goals. First, economics. The project is designed to create an active, attractive and economically viable "main street" that encourages people and businesses to be downtown. Second, multimodal accessibility. The new sidewalks, intersection bulb-outs, crosswalks, bike sharrows, landscaping, street furnishings, artwork, catenary lighting and transit stops will improve walkability, accessibility, bicyclist and pedestrian safety. And third, but not least, stormwater improvements. The project incorporates stormwater treatment for this busy downtown corridor, which drains into the Thea Foss waterway. The waterway was designated a superfund site in 1983 and the cleanup was completed in 2006 at a cost of over $100 million to the city and its partners. The stormwater treatment facilities to be constructed as part of this project will improve the quality of stormwater generated within this corridor before it's discharged to the Thea Foss Waterway. This work adds to our efforts to protect the newly remediated waterway through source control, sweeping, maintenance and treatment projects. In addition, the Pac Ave corridor is a wonderful opportunity to showcase this treatment to the public in an innovative and interesting way. The goal is that these stormwater improvements will not only be functional but beautiful as well.

VOLCANO: It's a huge project. How are you going to structure your talk at Green Drinks?

GAVIN: My talk will focus primarily on green stormwater infrastructure and how the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project incorporates the goals of stormwater quality treatment in Tacoma's "Main Street" through the use of rain gardens and silva cells. I will show some sketches and images illustrating what the proposed project will look like when completed. I will also talk about the goals of the project and the construction schedule.

VOLCANO: What pairs with a Pacific Avenue Streetscape Projects lecture?

GAVIN: Green beer, if available.

THE OFFICE BAR AND GRILL, GREEN DRINKS, THRUSDAY, FEB. 7, 6 P.M., FREE ADMISSION, 813 PACIFIC AVE., TACOMA, 253.572.3222

January 9, 2013 at 7:55pm

CONTEST: Artwork needed for Tacoma agritourism event

CHERYL THE PIG LADY: She's in. Photo credit: cherylthepiglady.com

CALL FOR ARTISTS >>>

Dirty Oscar's Annex, Primo Grill and Hotel Murano have teamed up with Pierce County farms Zestful Gardens, Terry's Berries and Cheryl the Pig Lady in an agritourism partnership that will produce events beginning in 2013. The partnership intends to take the "far" out of farms, producing farm to table events celebrating regional cuisine - from the land and in the kitchen - with an educational focus on issues of sustainability in food production and distribution.

The partnership is looking for help with branding. The partnership asks artists to submit a logo design for its vision, including naming the union. The chosen design will be featured on promotional materials such as event posters and T-shirts. The chosen artwork will be featured in many various forms of media for the event. Please note that, although the partnership will strive to preserve the integrity of the submitted design, the artwork may be slightly altered to suit different media. The winning designer should be able to provide an Adobe Illustrator EPS file (with fonts converted to objects or outlines). An Adobe Photoshop PSD (don't flatten layers) is also acceptable, but EPS is preferred.

The partnership, which you will name, will judge the artwork. The winning artist will be showered with gifts from the restaurants and farms.

Deadline for submission is 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. Submit information to Agritourism Partnership, c/o, Weekly Volcano, PO Box 98801, Lakewood, WA 98496 or via email at feedback@weeklyvolcano.com. Chosen artist will be notified via email.

January 2, 2013 at 9:28am

Spotlight on Gray Lumber Company

GRAY LUMBER COMPANY: It's where Tacoma Food Co-op would buy its wood. Photo courtesy of graylumber.com

LIKING LOCAL >>>

Tacoma Food Co-op is a nifty member-owned food destination - a haven for those seeking all things local, organic, allergen-free, non-GMO and beyond.

On Fridays, this community-centric shop shines its Local Friday Business Spotlight onto other local companies, hoping to give them a boost and to raise consumer awareness of the businesses in our area. Businesses that the Co-op especially likes are featured in their newsletter, but they also enjoy mentioning other local businesses on its Facebook page.

"It is great if the business is doing something forward thinking, whether it be environmentally or otherwise," says Luke Byram, outreach member of the Co-op.

Friday, Jan. 4, Tacoma Food Co-op will feature Gray Lumber Company - a Tacoma-based lumber and building products company founded in 1903. Gray Lumber Company receives the spotlight because it participates in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which signals that the company buys its wood products from a certified source, backed by a rigorous, third-party certification audit, according to Gray Lumber's website.

Beyond this, Gray Lumber is a big proponent of buying local to strengthen local economies and community development. Forward-thinking for the win!

The Tacoma Food Co-op welcomes business suggestions. For especially forward-thinking businesses, email the newsletter editor at newsletter@tacomafoodcoop.com. For the Facebook feature, email Byram at media.tacomafoodcoop@yahoo.com.

December 20, 2012 at 7:43am

Tacoma wins another Greenroads award

ALASKA STREET: It is now a Greenroads Silver Certified road. Photo credit: greenroads.org

KICKING ASPHALT >>>

Remember this past spring when the Cheney Stadium Sustainable Stormwater Project was awarded a Greenroads Silver Certification, making Tacoma's Clay Huntington Way the first Greenroad in Tacoma and the fourth in the world? It was a glorious green day in Tacoma. Actually, it was a glorious silver day.

Good news. Tacoma throughways Wapato Lake Drive, Asotin Court and Alaska Street are now certified Greenroads, too. In fact, Alaska Street is Silver Certified.

Wapato and Asotin are currently in the review process.  

With four streets, Tacoma is the first U.S. city to have multiple Greenroads.

An international standard, the Greenroads Rating System is a collection of sustainable roadway design and construction best practices that address water, environment, access, community impact, construction practices and materials. There are 11 project requirements that must be completed for a roadway to be considered a Greenroad. After a rigorous review process, the Greenroads Foundation assigns a project score based on the number of points earned by meeting the requirements and achieving credits. This score translates to one of four certification levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Evergreen.

Want to know the best part? These Greenroad projects actually cost substantially less than a more conventional roadway project would.

"Cheney, Wapato and Asotin where about half the cost of traditional improvements. Alaska Street was less too, but a much smaller fraction," says Jessica Knickerbocker of the city of Tacoma's Environmental Services, Science & Engineering Division. "But the stormwater requirements were less for Alaska Street and we had only a small portion of the project with green infrastructure."  

LINK: Cheney Stadium Sustainable Stormwater Project is actually cool

December 18, 2012 at 12:41pm

Proctor Farmers Market enters its winter phase

PROCTOR FARMERS MARKET: Bundle up and hit it one more time. Photo courtesy of proctorfarmersmarket.com

EAT FRESH, DRESS WARM >>>

Last night's snow is a good indication that summer loving, or even mild, pleasant weather is officially over. With that, we will be bidding adieu to the weekly Proctor Farmers Market.

Proctor Farmers Market is Tacoma's only four-season market, running every Saturday from March to this Saturday. After Saturday, the Proctor Farmers Market will open the second Saturday of the month in January, February and March.

Why do the vendors brave the wind, the snow, the SUVs screaming down Proctor Street? As L. Lisa Lawrence, Market manager puts it, "We discovered that people like to eat all year round."

The Proctor Farmers Market's mission, "Eat Fresh, Buy Local, Build Community," isn't just about offering a selection of fresh fruits and veggies from the likes of Little Eorthe Farms and Tiny's Organics, nor is it just about nibbles courtesy of Alina's Soups or local favorite Gateway to India. The Market folks wear "Build Community" like a badge. The Proctor Farmers Market proudly provides an outdoor hub for citizens to hug, enjoy music, learn a thing or two, and hug some more.

When asked what some of the highlights were Lawrence, was not at a loss for words.

Lawrence on music: "I loved having Steve Stefanowicz join our roster of wonderful market musicians. One of many musical highlights for me was watching the formation of the bluegrass group The Pine Hearts, which happened at our market. We also hosted our first ever bluegrass event, "MarketGrass," which we plan on bring back bigger and better next year."

Lawrence on nibbles: "We had some great cooking demos with chef Leslie Westphal from Maxwell's Speakeasy and Lounge and chef Aaron Grissom from Dirty Oscar's Annex - as well as a canning demonstration by Chef Betty Ann Curry as part of our Green Day Event."

Lawrence on special events: "Our annual Green Day event was bigger and better than ever, with seminars and demonstrations on urban chicken keeping, worm bin composting, home remodel, solar cooking, electric vehicles and composting toilets. We also hosted our annual Art-A-Thon event that raised money for the FISH Food back to purchase fresh produce from our farmers AND hosted a music stage as part of Proctor Arts Fest."

As for me, my fond memory of the Proctor Farmers Market was nibbling a blackberry blueberry creamsicle from Hilltop Pop Shop on a toasty day backed by the sounds of market chatter and live music.

I say we end this weekly market season with a bang, grab your umbrellas and get your market fix on! That is, if the big bang doesn't hit us Friday.

PROCTOR FARMERS MARKET, SATURDAY, DEC. 22, 9 A.M. TO 2 P.M., NORTH 27TH AND PROCTOR, TACOMA, WEBSITE

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December 6, 2012 at 7:51am

5 Things To Do Today: Dumpster Values show, choral concerts, Green Drinks and more ...

NI-HAO: The Japanese band squeezed in an Olympia show tonight during its world tour. Photo courtesy of Facebook

THURSDAY, DEC. 6 2012 >>>

1. After several months of silence Broken Water has emerged. This serves as a relief to those concerned about the state of the band following the groups critically acclaimed LP, Tempest. Tonight at 8 p.m. inside Dumpster Values, Broken Water will perform with Ni-Hao from Japan, Vex featuring HPP bassist Aaron Larsen, and a new super-group of sorts featuring Abigail Ingram and Kanako Wynkoop from Broken Water and the Need's Rachel Carns.

2. After work and dinner, and while your better half gets the kids to bed, why not get some holiday shopping out of the way at Tacoma's Antique Row? Thursdays, now through Christmas, the 70 merchants that make up Antique Row offer free parking after 6 p.m. and have extended hours until 8 p.m. So pick up the perfect book for your niece, grab an original framed local art piece for your mom, or find that great shabby chic nightstand for yourself. 

3. The Saint Martin's University community invites the public to share in the joy of the upcoming holidays with the University Chorale and the American Legion Band in a Christmas concert and carol sing-along at 7 p.m. inside Saint Martin's Marcus Pavilion. This free event, a collaboration of the Chorale and the Office of Campus Ministry, will launch the Christmas season with a concert of familiar carols, followed by a tree blessing celebration.

4. Speaking of free holiday concerts, three vocal ensembles from Tacoma Community College - TCC Singers, TCC Voices and the TCC Gospel Choir - present a fall choral concert at 7:30 p.m. inside TCC Building 2.

5. Green Drinks Tacoma holds its final gathering of the year at 6 p.m. inside Doyle's Public House. The social organization that mixes sustainability, conservation and environmental conversations with cocktails asked Dana Lyons to perform at its meet-up since wrote a song bout the coal trains blazing through Tacoma. Read an interview with Doyle's co-owner Russ Heaton regrading tonight meeting/show.

LINK: Thursday, Nov. 6 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

December 5, 2012 at 12:29pm

Green Drinks Tacoma hosts coal train discussion and concert at Doyle's

DANA LYONS: The singer/songwriter will add his two cents Dec. 6 at the Green Drinks Tacoma gathering at Doyle's. Press photo

SEE YOUR FUTURE, BE YOUR FUTURE >>>

"One of the obligations of owning a proper public house is being open to the public," says Russ Heaton, co-owner of Doyle's Public House in Tacoma.

So when Green Drinks Tacoma approached him about having Dana Lyons perform his song "Sometimes" about the coal train slated to head from Billings, Mont. through Tacoma, it was a no-brainer. The show is tomorrow at 6 p.m.

"There is going to be a hearty and robust conversation," says Heaton.

Indeed. Green Drinks Tacoma holds its final gathering of the year tomorrow at Doyle's. The social organization that mixes sustainability, conservation and environmental conversations with cocktails asked Lyons to perform at its meet-up.

"I would like to make sure we've done our due diligence and talk about the issues. If you don't start talking about it - you're going to have knee jerk reactions from both sides," adds Heaton, honored Green Drink Tacoma choose Doyle's for the concert.

Lyons, who is known for his political leans, gruff voice and acoustic pleasantries, is perhaps most well known for his song, "Cows with Guns."

Heaton is looking forward to Lyon's performance, stating he'd seen some of Lyon's work online, but opted out of watching "Sometimes" because he wanted to experience it first hand.

Doyle's and Green Drinks seem a natural collaboration, as Heaton explains Doyle's has taken great lengths to minimize its impact on the environment.

"We pay a pricier sum for some of our electricity because we asked the power company for a renewable source. We've switched from plastic to sugar based silverware. We're in process of switching over to LED light bulbs. We're also working with tenants and the city for the food waste recycling program."

And as final encouragement to enjoy the show and engage in learning about the coal train, Heaton says, "Before passing judgment on anything, make sure to get all the information you can gather."

DOYLE'S PUBLIC HOUSE, GREEN DRINKS TACOMA, THURSDAY, DEC. 6, 6 P.M., $8-$10 SLIDING SCALE, 208 SAINT HELENS AVE., TACOMA, 253.272.7468

Filed under: Community, Green Crush, Music, Tacoma,

November 5, 2012 at 11:30am

Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project has launched

GREEN FLASH: In honor of the "Green Flash" art installation that will grace the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project, dignitaries snapped green glow sticks.

MONDAY MORNING GROUP HUG >>>

This morning, Tacoma officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project, a beautification and innovative storm water improvement plan that includes new street paving, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and crosswalks along the Pacific Avenue stretch from Old City Hall at Seventh Street to the Tacoma Art Museum at 17th Street.

This is not your Grandfather Sprague's streetscape project.

At the gathering around Fireman's Park just off the north end of the proposed project, Congressman Norm Dicks, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma Councilmember Jake Fey and others explained how improvements will enhance the business opportunities and livability of downtown's core street — the "front porch" of downtown Tacoma – adding new curb, gutter and sidewalks, including a bicycle sharrow, on-street parking, landscaped curb bulb outs, street trees, new transit stops, new street furnishings, lighting, public art and signs to direct visitors to various attractions.

"A brighter downtown will be an incentive for smaller and larger businesses alike to bring more jobs and additional economic activity to this community," Rep. Norm Dicks.

In addition to the beautification, the project will integrate innovative stormwater improvements, including storm water planters, pervious pavement and plantings. The green storm water infrastructure includes 14 new rain gardens, which pass the storm water through organically enriched soil that filters out pollutants and either slows the release of the water into the storm system or percolates it into the ground — before draining into the Thea Foss Waterway.

"We have a great partnership with the Tacoma Art Museum," said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. "We were able to successfully complete a National Endowment for the Arts grant for the 17th Street portion of this project."

As part of the beautification of Pacific Avenue project artist Elizabeth Conner will install green textural tiles in strategic locations along the 10-block stretch of street and 20 to 28 large-scale botanically-themed concrete sculptures that can convey storm water. The “green flash” concept will be integrated into four bus shelters. Green flashes are optical phenomena that occur shortly after sunset on the ocean's horizon.

Also, strings of lights will be strung above Pacific Avenue near Eighth Street to create a bright canopy of lights.

After many years of planning, design work, construction and implementation, the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project received a major boost this summer after $3 million from the state's public works board and $978,300 from the Federal Highways Administration arrived. Combined with $4.4 million in grants and local matches previously secured, the city chose Tucci & Sons, Inc. as the project's contractor.

The project is expected to be completed in December 2013.

Dick McKinley, City of Tacoma Public Works director

Rep. Norm Dicks

Sen. Derek Kilmer

Tom Pierson, president and chief executive officer of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce

September 28, 2012 at 2:20pm

Fall Gardening - Tips from a pro

Now through early November is the best time to plant bulbs

The forecast for the next few days calls for mostly sunny skies with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees. What a great time to get outside for some fall gardening.

We spoke with Gabe Valbert, owner of Gardensphere, an urban gardening resource store in Tacoma, about what should be done in the vegetable and flower garden this time of year.

“Right now through the end of October is a great time to plant garlic and shallots,” said Valbert.

Other parts of the vegetable garden need attention to prepare for the upcoming winter months.

“Try to rip out everything that looks tired,” advised Valbert. “Then you can either plant a crop cover (from seed) that will grow all winter and you can work back into the soil in spring, or you can leave it alone and make sure to blend in fertilizer and compost before planting.”

For guaranteed color in spring, plant bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths along borders, in beds or containers. Now through early November is the best time to plant these pleasant flowers that will bloom year after year.

Tips on planting bulbs?

“Every bulb needs a different depth,” said Valbert. “Make sure you read the package.”

“Also mix in a high phosphorous fertilizer such as bulb food or fish bone meal to ensure lots of color.”

Filed under: Tacoma, Olympia, Green Crush,

April 28, 2012 at 7:18am

9 Easy Tips to Save Money on Gas


While you can't do much about the global price of oil, you can take steps to reduce pain at the pump.

With current gas prices on the rise, you may be tempted to trade in your car for a scooter - or resort to pedaling your way to work.

Before you make any drastic financial or lifestyle sacrifices, consider these tips provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, fueleconomy.gov and gasbuddy.com.

1. Slow down.

Although each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at different speeds, gas mileage usually drops dramatically at speeds above 60 mph. As a general rule, every 5 mph you drive above 60 mph is like paying an extra 30 cents per gallon of gas.

2. Be gentle.

Avoid jack-rabbit starts and sudden stops, which can lower your gas mileage by 33% on the highway and by 5% around town.

3. Lighten your load.

Try not to keep unnecessary items in your car, especially heavy ones. Each 100 pounds of extra weight can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 2%.

4. Scout out cheap gas.

Avoid gas stations in affluent areas and near major freeway exits. In major metropolitan areas, outlying suburbs tend to have the lowest gas prices, according to gasbuddy.com. If you're not in a hurry when traveling, drive a few blocks from the freeway exit to find lower gas prices. Also, avoid service stations with on-site auto repair shops, which often charge more for gas. Download the gasbuddy.com app on your mobile device to locate gas stations near you and see their current gas prices. If you don't see a download for your device, just go to m.gasbuddy.com, which can be used from any mobile device.

5. Skip traditional gas stations.

Check out wholesale clubs, grocery stores or department stores with gas stations onsite. These businesses often sell gas at discounted prices and may offer credit for in-store purchases when you fill up with gas.

6. Keep your older car in shape.

While traditional tune ups are becoming a thing of the past for newer vehicles, older cars with worn spark plugs, low transmission fluid and dragging brakes can suck your gas tank dry. Check your owners manual for recommended maintenance schedules and get regular engine checkups. Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.

7. Avoid idling.

For every hour a car idles, between a quarter-gallon to a half-gallon of fuel is consumed. Restarting your vehicle only takes a few seconds' worth of fuel. However, restarting your car excessively can cause starter wear.

8. Don't neglect your tires.

Keep your tires properly inflated and make sure you have them aligned periodically. You can improve your gas mileage by around 3.3% by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Plus, properly inflated tires are safer and last longer. 

9. Choose the right oil.

All oils aren't created equal. That's especially true when it comes to engine oil. Using only the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil cited in your owners manual can improve your fuel efficiency by 1% to 2%

Filed under: Green Crush,

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