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Agency Update - Spring 2020

Outreach under COVID-19

The coronovirus health emergency and shelter-in-place conditions have drastically impacted our lives and communities, from people losing their jobs and food insecurity on the rise, to new restrictions on reusables. But we're also seeing neighbors readying their green spaces to grow food, and the most loyal still hand carrying items from the store to avoid a disposable bag. Many of these changes have also impacted StopWaste's usual programming. In response we are focusing our outreach on:

  • Helping residents get the most out of their food with easy tips on and social media.
  • How-to videos and updated resources to help people build healthy soil and succeed in their gardens.
  • Digital resources and activities for students learning at home.
  • Keeping the public informed about changes in reusables.
  • Tracking and supporting food recovery partners and organizations.
  • Encouraging residents to safely hold on to hazardous waste materials and bulky items until services resume.
  • Reminders to recycle right and keep it clean - wipes and gloves go in the garbage, not in our drains and parking lots.

As the conditions shift, so too will our outreach and messaging in order to respond to the needs of our community. Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube for regular updates. 

Food Access During COVID-19 Pandemic

Food pantry

As the coronavirus crisis has caused widespread economic disruption, thousands have lost their jobs, skyrocketing the number of people in our community who are struggling to access food for their families. Regional food recovery organizations are reporting three-fold increases in need, and are now struggling to meet higher demand while also facing reductions in food donations and volunteer shortages. 

Nevertheless, our food recovery partners, including grantees such as the Berkeley Food Network, Hope for the Heart, and Daily Bowl, to name a few, are committed to working tirelessly to feed our community. Please help spread the word about available resources and needs, below.

If you are in need of food, we encourage you to visit to search for resources in your area. 

If you are a food service business, consider donating surplus food inventory. It's easy with the Alameda County Community Food Bank's online food donation form.

Looking for ways to give back? You can support the critical work of food recovery organizations in your city through direct financial donations or volunteering your time. 

Employee Spotlight

Miya Kitahara

Miya Kitahara

Program Manager

Miya Kitahara joined StopWaste in 2010. Prior to that, she worked for local government in the Bay Area on climate action plans. Her interest in sustainability began in 2002 with a Permaculture Design course, followed by an MBA in sustainable enterprise. Her first green job was convincing restaurants in Albany to start organics collection service in 2006 (through a StopWaste grant!). She also holds a BA in social psychology from NYU.

What are your favorite things about working at StopWaste?

I most enjoy working on the climate-materials nexus, asking the question: How does our use of materials impact the climate? I explore this with our member agencies and broader audiences, such as through the West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum. Other than that, I work mostly with buildings – on both the energy we use in them and the materials we use to build them. I love partnering with others in the region – I've worked on energy upgrades with the Bay Area Regional Energy Network, and I'm currently helping the Carbon Leadership Forum's SF Bay Area hub launch to address embodied carbon. 
How do you think that the current pandemic we're facing will impact our environment and economy in the long run?

We’re seeing just the beginning of what some say will be a Great Depression (beyond Recession). The fact that we cannot respond to the pandemic without basically breaking the economy is a clear signal that it wasn’t resilient. At the same time, we look outside and see cleaner air and water. That’s a clear signal that our economic drivers were misaligned with society’s goals to create healthy communities and a healthy planet, which are prerequisites for healthy people. We’re going to need to rebuild the economy after the pandemic, and we need to do it differently in order to avert climate disasters. I’m inspired by Amsterdam’s recent adoption of the Doughnut Economics model, in which the goal is not exponential growth and profits, but to meet the needs of all people while staying within planetary boundaries. I say more about this topic in this 6-minute video
What lessons do the response to the pandemic offer for addressing the climate crisis?

When we get hit by an acute crisis like this pandemic, it's easy to forget that we were already in a chronic climate crisis. It is inspiring to see how effectively communities and states can respond when we work together. Also, early, proactive response prevents the worst case scenario. Hopefully we will carry these lessons from the pandemic into our climate response. As one of our colleagues reminded us recently (before the pandemic), the word crisis is different from emergency. Crisis refers to a turning point, or a decision point. We’re clearly at a crossroads. The outcome depends on our collective actions. Do we go back to business as usual or turn toward a healthier path?
How is the virus and our collective response to it changing how we use materials? 

In addition to an increased use in single-use disposables to avoid contamination, the shelter-in-place orders have accelerated the trend toward online ordering and meal kits, which come with significant packaging waste.  At the same time, the increased inconvenience of shopping has many of us applying the criteria of “essential” to our consumption choices. I hope that as we rebuild we can return to supporting our local economies again, while also asking the questions of why/where/who/how of our purchasing to help us start redesigning more resilient supply chains and economies.
Which books are you reading right now?

The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, who are the architects of the Paris climate agreement, and Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. Both address the profound grief many of us are feeling about parts of the world that feel broken or unhealthy. By honoring and releasing what doesn’t work, we can more effectively embrace a new, healthier future. 
Can you talk about what it means to be part of a (re)generation? 

When it comes to the climate crisis, there can be blaming and resentment between the generations. Yet, everyone who is alive today is part of the broader generation responsible for restoring balance. We need to shed our identities as boomers, millennials, etc., and unite around all of the inspiring “re”-actions: reduce, reuse, recycle, and also redesign, restore, replenish ... too many to count. Together we can regenerate our social, economic, and environmental health. I’m part of the regeneration – I reimagine a healthier future.