The Watershed Café: A River Restaurant’s Sustainable Story

By Summer Kelly, The Watershed Café

“Earth Day is a meaningful holiday for me,” says Rita Rasmuson, owner of The Watershed Café, her eyes alight with enthusiasm as she bustles about creating the day’s made-from-scratch triple berry buckle and her famous quiches. “It is one of the most understated, yet most important days of the year, especially for those of us along the St. Croix River.”

Earth Day was founded by a denizen of the St. Croix River watershed, environmentalist and U.S. senator Gaylord Nelson, from nearby Clear Lake, Wisconsin. Senator Nelson was also instrumental in the 1968 National Wild and Scenic River System legislation, established to preserve and safeguard the diverse habitat and ecology of rivers of special national importance. The St. Croix River was included among only eight when the system was first established.

The St. Croix River Valley is home to a vibrant community of conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts, state parks, extensive hiking and water trail systems, and people supporting the local movement. The Watershed Café was built on the vision of a locally and sustainably sourced restaurant along the St. Croix River, one that honors the surrounding natural resources.

“My hope is that we work together to protect the rivers, the land, and the community,” Rita states passionately. “This is where our food comes from. To eat fresh food and eat locally, we need to use sustainable business practices, educate ourselves and one another, and cultivate partnerships that support environmental stewardship.”

Rita upholds those standards with a mindful, whole foods mentality. The Watershed Café works closely with four farms within 10 miles of the restaurant to source much of its fresh produce, dairy products, meats, and cheeses. Other products are sourced from within a 100-mile radius whenever possible. Striving to support small, family-owned-and-operated businesses with shared values is key. Through the restaurant’s suppliers, Rita seeks products that meet her ecological ideals. Even the restaurant’s to-go packaging is environmentally friendly.

“Everyone is welcome at The Watershed Café,” Rita exclaims. “We bring sustainable, organic/natural, local, and whole foods to the table for all to enjoy. We invite you to share in the delicious comfort food and good company at our Watershed Café!” The Watershed Café is located at 99 North Cascade Street in Osceola, Wisconsin. For more details, please visit www.thewatershedcafe.com.

Summer Kelly is a local gardener and plant-enthusiast with a passion for marketing and environmental sustainability. Crossing paths with Rita and Steve of The Watershed Café is the best thing that has happened to Summer in her free-lance marketing career.

New Sustainability Fair Kicks Off Earth Week

The Chippewa Valley Sustainability Fair will include several events throughout Earth Week, April 15–22. This year’s theme is Action, and the fair will offer ways you can take action to address environmental challenges facing the world.

The week will feature a Youth STEAM Fair at the Lismore in downtown Eau Claire. Middle school students will present their projects in all areas of STEAM as well as sustainability, air and water quality, human-environment interaction, and waste management. Open to the public and free.

Another opportunity during the week is the fourth annual Jam It For the Planet, Saturday, April 21, in downtown Eau Claire. Come for the great music and stay for the cause!

This music and educational event celebrates women leaders, as well as Mother Nature, by showcasing the gifts, talents, and abilities of area women who will perform on stage, share in discussions, and lead learning opportunities. The event is family-friendly, with a kids’ interactive music show, an Earth Day superhero meet-and-greet, a kids’ creation station, and much more.

The Jam It series has historically featured a great lineup of musicians performing for Planet Earth. Visit www.jamitfortheplanet.com for more information.

Another week-long effort will be the Week Without Waste challenge. Residents throughout Eau Claire County can pledge to not create any landfill-destined waste during their curbside garbage collection for the entire week.

To learn more about the fair, visit https://chippewavalleysustainability.org/.

Pet’s Paws for Earth Day Too!

As we celebrate Earth Day this April 22 we honor Mother Earth and look for ways to ensure that she remains healthy for generations to come. We have all been told one of the best ways to do this is to reduce our personal carbon footprint, but did you know that your pet also has a carbon footprint? According to the HealthyPawsPetInsurace.com’s random facts about pets “a medium-sized dog has the same eco-impact as a Toyota Land Cruiser driven 6,000 miles a year, while a cat is equivalent to a Volkswagen Golf, based on the amount of land needed to grow food for each.” Rather surprising is it not? Here are five ways to green-up our world with our pets.

 Get out and walk with your pet.

As we all know, getting out and enjoying the great outdoors is one of the hallmarks of Earth Day. Taking our pets out for a walk is a great way to do this. While you’re out on your walk, consider recycling those plastic grocery store bags to not only pick up your pets waste, but the environmental litter you encounter as well. It only takes a brief moment of time to pick up the waste products other humans leave behind. You’ll not only have a cleaner view on your next walk, but you’ll feel better knowing you helped keep litter from entering the waterways and possibly causing harm to wildlife as well. Don’t have a pet of your own to walk? Consider volunteering at your county’s shelter, or Bob’s House for Dogs, and take a walk with one of the shelter pets that’s longing to share the great outdoors too.

Choose pet- and eco-friendly products.

As you go through your house on the spring cleaning spree, consider using pet and eco-friendly cleaning products such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. As you purchase your cleaning products, read the labels closely and choose products that are all natural and avoid those with long chemical names that no one can really pronounce. These products are becoming easier to find and more affordable than ever before as consumer’s demand increases. Using these products to clean your home along with rags made from t-shirts greatly decreases the waste produced by using paper towel products.  And, as you clean your closets and sort through the items you no longer need, consider donating your gently used towels, rugs, sheets, blankets, leashes, and even collars to the local shelters as they are often in need of these products. Looking to replace a donated item with something new? Consider purchasing replacement products made from renewable sources such as bamboo, hemp, or other renewable sources such as vegetable based chew bones rather than plastic ones.

Recycle, reuse, reduce.

There are many ways our pets can help us recycle, reuse, and reduce waste.  As I mentioned earlier, using the plastic grocery store bag as a pooper scooper on our walks is an easy choice, but what if we use cloth bags when we purchase our groceries? Consider using biodegradable pet bags, such as BioBags, to pick up the waste on the walk, or ask your non-pet-owning neighbors to save their plastic grocery bags for you to use. What about my cat, you say? Consider the Kitty Scratch Pole made here in the United States from 100 percent recycled cardboard materials for your kitty’s scratching post. It even comes with refillable disks to provide hours of scratching fun. Scooping the cat litter pan daily as recommended? Place the empty cat litter container next to your cat litter pan with a liner in it to make the scooping convenient and reduce the amount of plastic you typically use. Not a fan of the scoopable litter? Consider litter made from renewable sources such as wheat, pine, or recycled paper. My personal favorite is Yesterday’s News litter, which is made from recycled paper.

Try to eliminate purchasing anything in a plastic bottle, but if you have one, it can make a great dog toy. I know my puppy absolutely loves chewing them up after I’ve removed the top and the label, and the recycling center certainly doesn’t care about the teeth marks he leaves behind in them. And, always remember, if the plastic bottles come held together with the plastic rings, take a brief moment to cut each ring (including the handle) with a scissors to prevent harming wildlife should they come into contact with them. Changing the water in your pet’s water bowl? Consider using the “dirty” water to water your plants and/or your compost pile. Finally, one of the easiest, yet most often over-looked ways to reduce waste is to feed your dog and cat a good quality food such as Taste of the Wild. It may be a bit more cost initially, but the savings in both quantity of food consumed and waste produced will pad your wallet in the long run.

Compost.

Composting is a great way to reduce the overall waste we each produce. There are many ways you can incorporate your pet’s waste products into a composting program and produce amazing fertilizer. You can check out websites such as findacomposter.com for local composting sites that accept pet waste. If making compost on your own, be sure to maintain the proper temperature to produce a final product that is safe to use.

Spay, neuter, adopt.

Helping reduce the over-population of pets by spaying, neutering, and adopting your next pet from the shelter can perhaps have the greatest impact for Mother Earth on this Earth Day. It’s a sobering fact to realize that approximately 8 million, yes I said million, pets are euthanized each year as a result of the pet overpopulation in this country alone. Each step we take to reduce this tragic number helps us all breathe a bit easier, and helps Mother Nature smile as we all work together to take care of her children that are already here.

Celebrate Earth Day by Investing in Your Community and Your Health: Join the Forest St. Community Garden!

By Kerri Kiernan, Master Herbalist

This Earth Day, consider giving back to the planet, to your community, and to yourself by joining a local community garden. The Forest Street Community Garden is celebrating its eighth season and is now open to new and returning gardeners; it is located in downtown Eau Claire, just a couple blocks north of Phoenix Park.

The Chippewa Valley is blessed with several existing community gardens offering rental plots for the public. What differentiates the Forest St. Garden from other gardens is that it also offers a Shared Garden that is run jointly by members who share in the work and harvest. The Shared Garden also serves as a learning community for members to gain experience in basic gardening skills, leadership, teaching, coordinating, and community outreach.

Members of the Shared Garden participate in weekly sessions to maintain the nearly half-acre plot as a collaborative effort. Seeds and transplants are started in early spring, and members work together to plan and prepare the garden as the last frost ceases. During the garden season, the work and the produce is shared amongst the contributing members. Extra produce is harvested and donated to the Community Table, which supplements meal services benefiting Eau Claire residents who may not have access to healthy meals due to lack of finances, education, or due to other life situations.

Besides benefiting the community, Shared Gardeners experience a deep sense of connection to their community, to each other, and to the Earth. Social events such as potlucks and gatherings are often held at the Forest St. Garden Pavilion, where members and plot renters spend time together connecting over beautiful meals made from the very veggies they grew together in the garden.

Besides decreasing carbon emissions, gardening helps to increase physical activity and vegetable consumption and also helps to foster a sense of wonder and gratitude for the bounty of nature. The shared struggle of growing one’s own food serves as a relatable conversation topic between people who may otherwise never cross paths nor have much in common. Any gardener can share their own story of patience, diligence, failure, and success, but it’s the commonality of spending so much time in the dirt, paying very close attention to the rhythms of the weather, and savoring the fruits of one’s labor that bring people together through gardening.

Join the Forest St. Community Garden and learn how to grow food together. Prices increase after June 15. Please visit the Forest St. Community Garden website for more information.

 

To Join the Co-op/Shared garden or to rent a plot at the Forest St. Community Garden, please visit: http://eauclairecommunitygardens.com/ or email: eauclairecommunitygarden@gmail.com

Kerri Kiernan is a local Master Herbalist who works with plants from her garden as well as wild weeds from the Chippewa Valley to help people thrive with handmade remedies and personalized herbal consults. Kerri is the owner and operator of a small herbal business, River Prairie Apothecary, located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and is also the founder CommuniTEA, the Herbalism Outreach & Internship Project located downtown Eau Claire at the Forest St. Garden.

Contact Kerri: River Prairie Apothecary on FB: www.facebook.com/riverprairieapothecary/

www.riverprairieapothecary.com/contact.htm.

Great Ways to Use Less in 2011

If you think about all that you do in a day, from getting ready in the morning, to getting to work, to making dinner, it all adds up to waste and consumption. But we can do less, and it’s easier than you’d think. In 2011 have a smaller carbon footprint and make the year count.

Use Less Coal. Simply turn your furnace down 1 or 3 degrees. More than 90 percent of U.S. coal, a non-renewable resource, is used to heat our homes, so grab a blanket and snuggle with a loved one for extra warmth.

Use Less Energy is a common goal we all have, and while you might think “just this once it won’t hurt…”, it still does. So be conscious of everything that you use or do that requires energy. For example, by just washing your clothes on cold you save almost 90% of the washing machine’s energy, That’s A LOT!

Use Less Water because it won’t be around for ever. Experts say that the water crisis we are in the middle of is only going to get worse. So do you part and shorten those showers. A one-minute-shorter shower equals 150 gallons of water per month!

Use Less Paper and the trees will cheer. Use mail as scrap paper; reuse envelopes; and be sure to print on both sides. According to the EPA, reusing 2,000 pounds of paper can save 7,000 gallons of water and 380 gallons of oil.

Use Less Packaging and the world will be better for it. Buy in bulk so there is no packaging. When mailing something that needs to be cushioned, use real popcorn. It’s biodegradable, tastes good, and gets the job done just the same.

Use Fewer Hazardous Materials and we’ll all benefit. Many times there are cleaner, less toxic alternatives to hazardous materials, so try using natural pesticides and try making your own cleaning products.

Use Less Gas and slow down. We in the US use 1 million gallons of oil every 2 minutes. Slowing down can help us save it. Also remember that gas is denser when it’s colder, so fueling up in the morning gives you more for your money.

Create Less Trash. An average American throws away 90,000 pounds of trash in his or her lifetime. So try to compost some, use canvas bags when shopping, buy cloth napkins, and buy in bulk.