Solutions Summit

by Michael D. Pulliam


At the end of March, a pair of Humboldt County-based social change organizations held a socially distant public ceremony to consecrate their newly-secured community garden as a food sanctuary. Centro del Pueblo and Cooperation Humboldt are co-stewards of the garden lot located at the corner of 11th & F Streets in Arcata, CA; their aim is to make local food products and home gardening expertise available and accessible to the community.

Cooperation Humboldt is a nonprofit focused on ‘solidarity economy,’ an economic model geared toward fostering worker-owned cooperative businesses and ecologically regenerative food security for all citizens, among a host of other social goals. Centro del Pueblo is a community activism organization seeking to unite members of the Indigenous immigrant population in Humboldt County and support their social and cultural advancement. Centro del Pueblo is responsible for ensuring Humboldt County’s Sanctuary Law of 2018, designating the county as a safe haven for immigrants and their families.

The community garden will host native plants, fruit trees, herbs, and edible perennials, as well as creating “a space of learning, empowerment, nutrition, and regeneration”, according to The consecration proceedings included music, a land acknowledgement (recognizing the garden site as part of land forcibly taken from the Wiyot people), food for people experiencing food insecurity, and the ceremonial planting of seeds significant to the Mixtec people.

For information about garden access, contact


On March 19th, a panel of federal judges dismissed an Oregon lawsuit, upholding water rights for Indigenous tribes in the Klamath River Basin area. A group of ranchers in Oregon had sued the US Government over claims about the process by which federally recognized Klamath Tribes access water in the region. The suit alleged that the process deprived ranch lands of irrigation water and improperly regulated river flow. The US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the claim, with a three-judge panel ruling unanimously that the ranchers did not establish standing to sue.

The Klamath Basin, which comprises parts of two counties in Oregon and five in California, has been increasingly affected by drought conditions, with ramifications for Indigenous communities, farms, ranches, salmon habitats, and more along the Klamath River. Under a treaty from 1864, Klamath Tribes in Oregon hold senior water rights in the basin and may file a “call” with the Oregon Water Resources Dept.; the Dept. then requires irrigators to turn off their pumps and allow water to pass downstream. More severe drought conditions have seen more frequent water calls.

The ranchers’ lawsuit claimed that Tribal water calls required Oregon regulators to get concurrent federal approval before water could be released. But according to Federal Judge Judith Rogers, “… no such concurrence requirement exists under federal or Oregon law, and… consequently, the ranchers cannot establish the causation or repressibility necessary for standing.”

The suit was rejected by lower courts before being dismissed in the D.C. Circuit.


Numerous regions around the US have embraced the stupendous benefits of using salty liquid brine for de-icing winter roads, rather than traditional rock salts that scatter and wash into freshwater flows. Coupled with a new type of snow plow blade, the results of using brine (which adheres to road surfaces, reducing runoff) include higher efficiency of time and resources, less collateral damage to infrastructure and vehicles, lower taxpayer expense, faster clearing of snowy roads, safer driving conditions, and much less salty drainage disturbing local ecosystems.

The FUND for Lake George, a not-for-profit organization in upstate New York, led an effort to protect their region’s waterways from the many damaging effects of rock salt runoff—without compromising road safety. Beginning in 2015, the FUND gathered lots of information from the towns in their area. After mapping the routes and usage of salt trucks and snow plows, the FUND tested alternative methods of de-icing and then invested in “live-edge” snow plows, which replace the standard fixed plow blades with a system of multiple independent spring-loaded blades. The combination of live-edge plows with brine road sprays gradually spread throughout the region, as municipal leadership and road maintenance teams caught wind of the many benefits.

According to numerous sources within the project and its associated agencies, road salt usage around Lake George has dropped by half, New York state taxpayers could save around $30 million per year if just 50% of cities switched methods, and organizations like are helping American cities move in the same direction.


In early 2021, the US Government formally approved the expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, a vibrant ecosystem of coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. Boasting a 200 percent increase in protected area, the newly-expanded sanctuary is home to some of the healthiest and most beautiful coral reefs in the world.

The extended sanctuary borders add fourteen reefs and banks that provide important habitat for many species of fish, as well as threatened or endangered species of sea turtles, corals, and giant manta rays. Protections in these new areas will lessen the destructive impact of human activity like fishing with bottom-tending gear, ship anchoring, oil and gas exploration, and salvaging.

Dr. Tim Gallaudet, a retired Navy Rear Admiral and former Acting Administrator of NOAA, said, “Adding these ecologically significant reefs and banks will protect habitats that contribute to America’s blue economy and drive ecological resilience for much of the Gulf of Mexico region’s thriving recreation, tourism, and commercial fishing.”


A team of young entrepreneurs in Minneapolis, MN, have begun supplying their local restaurants and food trucks with trackable stainless steel takeout containers. Various safety conditions of the coronavirus pandemic have given rise to a significant increase in takeout food orders, and thus single-use disposable containers. Forever Ware, a “clean tech” startup company in Minneapolis, aims to combat this waste pattern by shifting people from single-use packaging (even the compostable kind) to a more far-sighted and sustainable reuse mindset. By March 2021, four Minneapolis restaurants had bought into the network, and the owners and customers alike were praising the results.

“The guests love it,” said Jimmy Red Layer, restaurant manager. “It’s really easy.”

“I’ve been waiting for something like this,” said bakery owner Daniel Swenson-Klatt.

Similar to the system of reusable glass milk bottles, customers can pay a $5 deposit to have their to-go orders packaged in stainless steel containers; once they’re finished, they can return the steel to any participating restaurant or food truck and get their deposit money back. The main difference from dairy packaging is that these containers have tracking technology embedded within them, which allows Forever Ware to collect any items that may be lost, discarded, or abused.

The cost for businesses to stock Forever Ware containers is comparable to that of disposable packaging, and making zero-waste takeout a convenient option is a great recipe for success.