2861 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (Room 247) sustainablesystemsresearch@gmail.com 831.708.5836

News & Posts

Permaculture & Regenerative Agriculture on a Small Farm

November 29, 5-6 PM: Join host Ronnie Lipschutz and Dave Blume of Blume Distillation for a walking interview and tour of Whiskey Hill Farm, its permaculture and regenerative agriculture practices and technological innovations connecting alcohol distillation and organic agriculture.  Whiskey Hill Farm is a 14-acre organic farm on Calabasas Road near Watsonville that employs poly-cropping, permaculture techniques in six large greenhouses to create “food forests” of multi-layered polyculture. Dave is CEO and Director of Research and Development at Blume Distillation and Whiskey Hill Farm.  He is author of the critically acclaimed book Alcohol Can be a Gas! and has been engaged in one sort of farming or another for more than 40 years.

Electric Vehicles on the Road and in Our Future

Radio Show #32, November 15, 2020. In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring that by 2035 all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state will have to be zero-emission vehicles, producing no greenhouse gases.  While there are various types of zero-emission power plants in existence and on design boards, most of these will probably be electric vehicles, or EVs. This goes along with a parallel push to electrify the state by 2045. Getting from here to there will be no easy task.

Host Ronnie Lipschutz speaks with Beverly DesChaux, President of the Electric Auto Association of CA Central Coast about Newsom’s mandate and related topics.  We’ll talk about electric vehicles, past, present and future, and how they could become an electricity storage solution to the ups and downs of the California electrical grid.  We’ll also discuss “virtual power plants,” which are based on the aggregation and remote control of rooftop solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles as part of the electricity grid.

You can find out more about EVs at: Plug-in America, the Sierra Club, and the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Incentive Program.

You can hear previous broadcasts of Sustainability Now! at KSQD.org and on Pocket Casts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

SSRF is Measuring Compostability in Bioplastics

On Friday, September 4th, 2020 the Sustainable  Systems Research Foundation Team in collaboration with Hard Core Compost initiated a bioplastic experiment at their compost facilities located on Shaffer Rd in Santa Cruz. The purpose of this experiment is to verify the compostability of certain bioplastic products. We are currently developing for our SPIN Project a catalog of single-use foodservice compostable products that will allow local restaurants to order compostable supplies from the right vendors. We have collected bioplastic sample products from various companies around the world to work on this bioplastic experiment.

We divided the sample products that we have collected into four containers and we buried them on composting piles to see how long it takes for these bioplastic sample products to decompose. We are also measuring temperature on the soil in order to record their compostability under home compostable conditions. The contents of the four containers are below:

First Container:

The products in the first container: (Control Container)
3 Plastic spoon
4 Plastic straws
3 Plastic forks

1 Produce bag

1 Plastic cup

Second Container:

The products in the second container:

4 Thin Sugar cane straws

6 Thick sugar cane straws

5 Coffee grounds straws

1 Bagasse spoon

1 Bagasse fork

1 Bagasse knife

1 Sugar cane bagasse fork

1 Sugar cane bagasse knife

1 Sugar cane bagasse spoon

1 Coffee grounds spork

1 Green tea spork

1 Sugar cane spoon + white additive

1 Sugar cane fork + white additive

1 Sugar cane knife + white additive

Third Container:

The products in the third container:

2 Compostable plates

1 Compostable garbage bag

2 Compostable forks

2 Compostable knifes

2 Compostable spoons

Fourth Container:

The products in the fourth container:

2 Compostable films

Temperature sensor in our compost pile.

Compost pile at Hard Core Compost.


On Friday, October 2, 2020, the Sustainable Systems Research Foundation Team visited The Hard Core Compost site to check on the decomposition process for the bioplastics sample products after a month in the compost pile. Below are the results after our first visit:

First Container

Temperatures for the first container .

The products of the first container after a month in the composting pile.

This container is our control in the experiment and we expect no change in the products. As expected the plastic materials did not decompose.

The silver plastic forks had a change in color.

Second Container

Temperatures for the second container

The products in the second container after a month in the composting pile.
Thin straws are splitting at the ends. The thick straws are flattened and splitting in the middle.
All cutlery is getting quite thin and is easily breakable.

Third Container

Temperatures for the third container

Products in the third container after a month in the composting pile. Cutlery has not changed.
The garbage bag became very thin. Plates have lost their shape. They are very thin and their thick texture is gone.

Fourth Container

Temperatures for the fourth container

Products in the fourth container after a month in the composting pile.

The clear bag is very thin. The closure of the clear bag has split and the lettering on the bag is coming off.

The white bag has a yellow coloration and is very thin.The white bag still feels pretty firm to the touch .

Sustainability Now! Forests and species after wildfires & climate change

Radio Show #31, November 1, 2020.

Host Ronnie Lipschutz speaks with Dr. Joseph Stewart, a conservation biologist with special interests in biogeography, prediction, demography, ecophysiology, and climate change. He received his PhD in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from UCSC in 2018 and is now a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. He works with the US Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on forest regeneration after wildfires and the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and species migration.  You can find more about his work at http://stewartecology.org/ and https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=5fMCYtEAAAAJ&hl=en.

The opening tune is “Sky Pond,” performed by American Pika aka Greg Douras, a musician and mountaineer from Colorado.  Joe has done research on the American Pika, a small mouse and rabbit-like critter that lives in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains.

You can hear previous broadcasts of Sustainability Now! at KSQD.org and on Pocket Casts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

Clean Water as a Human Right on Sustainability Now!

Radio Show #30, October 18, 2020. Did you know that Section 106.3 of the California Water Code states that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.” Host Ronnie Lipschutz talks with Mayra Hernandez, a community organizer at the Community Water Center in Watsonville, about safe water and the human right to it.  The Community Water Center works towards realizing the Human Right to Water for all communities in California through education, organizing, and advocacy. The Center has offices in Visalia, Sacramento and Watsonville.

Empowering Students Campaign

SSRF has launched our Empowering Students Fundraising Campaign. Your support will help fund paid internships for minority, low income and first generation students that have proven academic success in their universities.

Learn more about our fundraising campaign below:


Help us achieve our campaign goal by clicking below:

Bioplastic Experiment

Read about our Bioplastic Experiment conducted in collaboration with Hard Core Compost in Santa Cruz. For more information on Hard Core Compost Visit: www.compost.bike


As long as grass grows: The indigenous fight for environmental justice

Radio Show, #29, October 4, 2020. Host Ronnie Lipschutz and guest Dina Gilio-Whitaker talk about indigenous environmental justice, environmental philosophy and the restoration of balance between humans and nature. Gilio-Whitaker is a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes in the Pacific Northwest, a lecturer in American Indian Studies at California State University, San Marcos and Policy Director and Researcher at the Center for World Indigenous Studies. She is author of As long as grass grows: The indigenous fight for environmental justice, from colonization to Standing Rock (Beacon Press, 2019) and co-author, with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, of “All the Real Indians Died Off”: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans (Beacon Press, 2016). Professor Whitaker has just received a journalism award from the Native American Journalist Association for an editorial she published in High Country News, on indigenizing the Green New Deal.