Sustainability Internships

By Ciaran Gallagher, Civic Spark Fellow

Nothing brings out smiles from the Hayward community like four free bags of organic-certified compost. On Saturday, October 21, 2017, the City of Hayward Utilities and Environmental Services Department hosted another successful Compost Giveaway event. Collaboration with the Maintenance Service Department and Waste Management ensured the event went off without a hitch. This was the first time the Compost Giveaway was held in South Hayward, located at Tennyson High School, and many residents voiced appreciation for the location. It was one of the largest events yet with 550 households receiving four compost bags each. The free event occurs twice a year. 

The compost is made by Waste Management from yard trimmings and food waste, some of which is collected here in Hayward. The next Compost Giveaway event will be in the spring of 2018. Details will come soon to a garbage bill insert near you!

Maintenance Services employees loading compost bags into waiting cars

Utilities and Environmental Services employees checking in Hayward residents 

By Linda Grand Hayward CivicSpark Fellow

Oro Loma Sanitary District is experimenting with a new innovative project that uses local plants to clean wastewater and provide a barrier against sea level rise. I went with City of Hayward employees to learn more about this unique and experimental project.  As a CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow, I am working for the City of Hayward and the Hayward Area Shoreline Planning Agency (HASPA) to help the City plan for and adapt to inevitable sea level rise.  HASPA is a joint powers agency of representatives from the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, East Bay Regional Park District, and the City of Hayward. Jason Warner, General Manager at the Oro Loma Sanitary District, gave HASPA members a tour of the new and innovative Oro Loma Ecotone project. This pilot project, a horizontal levee, uses vegetation on a slope to process wastewater from the treatment plant and can act as a barrier against flooding and sea level rise. 

Hayward’s shoreline is prone to sea level rise and the State’s latest report suggests that the Bay Area will experience 7.2 inches to 13.2 inches of sea level rise by 2050. This amount of sea level rise will increase the risk of flooding for adjacent shoreline properties and saltwater marshes in Hayward.  The King Tides of today will be the new normal of the future. To address this consequence of climate change, The City of Hayward will need to protect the shoreline by using a variety of adaptation methods. When protecting the shoreline, the City will have to consider the numerous stakeholders and assets, including critical tidal marshes, the Bay Trail, and nearby industrial buildings. The City is currently researching different adaptation possibilities, so we were very excited to learn more about the horizontal levee Ecotone pilot project because it uses natural elements to protect areas inland from sea level rise and flooding.

Not only does the Ecotone project look much nicer than a typical concrete levee, it also serves multiple purposes. Jason started the tour by pointing out the Wastewater Treatment Plant processes an average of 12.4 million gallons per day and serves around 46,000 households. We then started walking on a path where to the right you could see a freshwater wetland that is used for excess storage during the winter wet season. Jason explained that treated wastewater, right before the last step of disinfection, is pumped through this freshwater wetland to remove nitrogen and other nutrients that we do not want to enter the Bay.  

Next, the water is sent to the Ecotone slope that consists of dry native plants. The Ecotone slope consists of 70,000 natural plants in 12 beds that were planted by local volunteers. Oro Loma Sanitary District is working with UC Berkeley to research how well these native plants can remove nitrogen and traces of pharmaceuticals. Wastewater Treatment Plants are not typically designed to remove pharmaceuticals which makes this service by the wetland even more exciting. The experiment is divided into four different combinations of soil type, plant species and watering processes. Researchers are testing the water and soil to figure out what combination is most effective. Jason explained how these plants are working so well at removing nitrogen from the water that they are testing it to see if they can bypass the wetland upstream and just use this dry area for nutrient removal. This slope of native plants is not only making our water cleaner, but it may one day help lessen wave impacts associated with sea level rise. 

Oro Loma is setting an example with this ecological solution that helps treat wastewater and helps protect land from sea level rise. The Ecotone pilot project is currently being tested and monitored but there are still some kinks to work out before large-scale implementation of a horizontal levee. For example, more research must be done to see how we can incorporate tidal habitats along these natural slopes. In addition, Jason mentioned they are currently having trouble pumping large amounts of water into these wetlands. Engineers will have to develop better systems that allow more wastewater to be pumped to make this system more efficient.

 It is important to think about new and innovative ways the City of Hayward can adapt to sea level rise and hopefully, if the Ecotone project continues to be successful, horizontal levees will be part of that solution. HASPA and the City of Hayward are working on developing a plan to adapt to sea level rise and we really enjoyed learning about and touring the Ecotone project. 

If you are interested in seeing this project for yourself or want more information on the project you can visit the Oro Loma Sanitary District website.






My name is Chris and I am Hayward’s 2016/7 CivicSpark Fellow. One of my responsibilities is to stay up to date on climate news. Here’s something new:

On November 10, 2016, U.S. District Court (of Oregon) Judge Ann Aiken ruled in favor of 21 young people who sued the federal government for allowing climate change to jeopardize their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. 

The youth claim that the federal government has knowingly allowed the overuse of our country's resources. In particular, they argue that government sanctioning of fossil fuel development and its overuse has significantly altered the climate. They consider these activities to be unsustainable because future generations, including they themselves, will not be able to enjoy the same quality of life and climate which is enjoyed now if the overuse of earthly resources continues.  

Judge Aiken's ruling may have set in motion one of the most unprecedented court cases in American history. The youth lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, will continue on to higher courts with the potential for changing government action on climate change, regardless of who is president. 

Read about some of these young folks in this article, here, at
"The Kids Suing the Government Over Climate Change Are Our Best Hope Now".
Read Judge Aiken's ruling here. It's long so feel free to read the introduction (page 1) and the conclusion (page 51).

Be jolly this holiday season Hayward! The next generation of Americans would like to give you the gift of a healthy, livable climate. 

By Gilee Corral
Gilee and Jeff

Jeff Krump, the City of Hayward’s new Solid Waste Manager, invites me to tag along on his tour of one of Hayward’s recycling facilities. We’re greeted at the front window by a robot made of trash. It’s guarding a glass case displaying newspaper from the 1970s – recovered from a landfill where the facility is now located. The newspaper is browned but quite legible for being compacted in the earth for four decades. Some clever person has arranged the newsprint to display waste-related topics near the front of the case. The office is spotless and smells lightly of air freshener. I’m not sure what I expected – grungier perhaps, considering we are visiting a waste facility built over a landfill.

Trash from the 1970s

Our guides for the day are Vanessa Barberis, Public Sector Manager, Erika Solis, Construction & Demolition Diversion Manager, and Osvaldo Jauregui, Construction & Demolition MRF Manager. They fall into easy conversation with Jeff, their chatter peppered with intriguing acronyms and jargon: dirty merf (an unruly cousin of a Smurf?), dirty line, ballistic separators, bag openers. The “merf” word is used so often I reckon it must be important. It is, actually, MRF –for Materials Recovery Facility.
I’ve dressed as Jeff instructed – closed toed shoes, clothes I wouldn’t mind getting dusty. Jeff snaps the tag off his brand new florescent safety jacket and dons his new hardhat – I borrow some PPE (personal protection equipment, if you must know) from a row of hard hats and vests hanging in a line on the wall.

Erika leads us to a white van lined with immaculate floor mats. We pass the “Garden Center,” a corner of mulch. The Davis Street station sorts out grade A wood from its collections, sends it to TriCities in Fremont to be mulched, and the mulch gets returned to Davis Street, where it waits in neat piles for residents to purchase.

After the Garden Center is a building where green waste is dumped and loaded into transfer trucks. There’s an alley next to the facility that dips into a tunnel. The transfer trucks pull into the tunnel, and loaders dump the waste from above through a big window into the trucks below. I pop out for a quick photo of the mounds of pale green waste, scuffing the spotless floor mats with mud as I slide back in the van. It smells a bit like a barn, but more sour. Finally, this tour is starting to get messy!

Green Waste
This is where your green bin waste goes

The green waste gets sent to Blossom Valley Organics to be processed and returned to Davis Street as usable compost. Twice a year, the City of Hayward holds a Compost Giveaway where residents can pick up the good stuff for free. Onward, we pass an I Love Reuse corner, where residents can dump their cardboard, books, scrap metal, and mattresses be sorted and transferred to plants and get a second life as new products.

Next, the cardboard corner. Cardboard recovered from businesses and multifamily recycling bins get bundled up and taken directly to a port to be shipped to China! “Really, China?” I ask. We pause here for a mini discussion on macroeconomics and the effects of China’s growing middle class on the recovered cardboard market. As its middle class increases, China has begun to produce its own cardboard waste, inflating the Chinese domestic market for cardboard and shrinking the demand for foreign cardboard, such as the bundles I’m looking at in San Leandro, California. With China’s reduced demand, the cardboard has fewer places to go – our domestic paper mills have quietly disappeared, and now there’s not enough mills to accept our mounting piles of cardboard either. Thus, facilities like Davis Street have seen the demand for cardboard fall.

Cardboard Corners
Cardboard bundles, destination: China

On with the tour – we pass a pile of tires, awaiting a second chance at usefulness as road base, and stop in front of piles of what Erika calls “dirty wood.” Clean wood, or grade A, gets mulched, and dirty wood, or grade B, goes to biomass plants to be burned as fuel. Here we dip into economics once more, discussing the dwindling demand for grade B wood. As Jeff informs me, biomass plants began popping up in the 1970s, fueled by subsidies from the government, keen to create energy independence during the energy crisis. These subsidy contracts are starting to end and are not being renewed – thus fewer plants, thus less demand for the grade B wood.

Rounding the corner, the final destination of our tour and what I’ve been waiting for – the recycling facility! I’ve heard from Erika and Osvaldo of its many gadgets, bells, and whistles, and I’m ready to see it for myself.
What hits me first are two impressions – the mounds of junk and seagulls. I had this image in my head of individual piles of glass, paper, and so on, but these mounds on first glance look like haphazard piles of trash. But they are not trash, as I’ve been gently corrected a few times. It’s recycling, or green waste. They’re a bit sensitive to the “t” word, so I try not to use it. As we file out of the van, I brace myself for an olfactory onslaught. Smells like (sorry) trash, but not as strong as you would expect, considering I’m looking at roughly 3,000 tons of it.

Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF

At the MRF, we climb up a metal ladder and over a catwalk, a few stories high. The catwalk leads into a big room where some loud clanking and humming has started – the morning shift is back from their break and the foreman is cranking up the machines. Osvaldo leads us into the office, a room suspended above all the action, which he calls the “control room”. It looks like a tornado picked up an office and plopped it in the middle of a trash factory. Plush rolly chairs and computer screens, large windows where supervisors can oversee operations. Once Osvaldo shuts the door, the noise is muffled, but the vibrations from the machines hum under our feet through the metal floor. On one of the screens is a 3-D layout of the plant – Osvaldo shows us how sections of the digital plant light up in different colors depending on the status, i.e. red indicates a fault or required maintenance.

Osvaldo has been with Waste Management for over 20 years, starting out as a sorter and working his way up. He speaks proudly of his workforce – roughly 75% of whom are women, including the MRF’s foreman. We hear a bit about the workforce dynamics and trends that shaped his industry – how the waste sorting and other jobs were taken up by wives of construction workers many years ago, because waste jobs had benefits while construction work did not. As pay rates increased and benefits improved in recent years, Osvaldo has seen people – men and women – “lining up” for jobs at Waste Management.

The conversation shifts from workforce dynamics to management techniques. Plant workers do ergonomics to warm up before starting their shift. Erika tells us how she is incorporating Lean Management principles into production to increase plant efficiency. 

Waste Management staff sorting waste

Out of the control room and into the plant. Below us, metal claws are reaching into the huge piles of recycling material and loading clawfuls of it onto the conveyor belts. Above us, sprinklers spray fine mists of water over the piles to control dust. The streams of waste on the conveyer belts flow up the lines and into the plant, awaiting a maze of clanging machines, sorters, filters, and gloved hands. We climb up and down metal stairs, along rails, peek over metal walls, Osvaldo and Erika calling out explanations over the mechanized din. People and machines are hard at work sorting, shaking, shifting, and dropping waste into buckets and streams. Osvaldo points out the optical sorter – it scans the material and the computer program tells the machine what is plastic, paper, etc. Another machine is equipped with upside down magnets; as the waste stream passes through, the magnets pick up metal strips.

Crossing back across the catwalk, we take a minute to admire the construction site across the road, where a brand new MRF will open in 2018. This MRF, Osvaldo tells us with pride, will be “state of the art” and one-of-a-kind here in America, with equipment imported from Europe. “Now it’s turning out to be a mini-Disneyland of transfer stations,” Osvaldo says. I can only imagine what sort of Disneyland that will be!

Back in the City van, Jeff asks, “What did you think?”
A million images fly through my mind, but one sticks out the most.
“So many seagulls!” I add, “And it didn’t smell as bad as I thought it would.”
He chuckles. “That wasn’t a lot of seagulls. You should see the landfill!”
From the rooftop of a solar installation [hyperlink to previous blog] to a pile of trash (ahem, recovered waste) – you never know where an AmeriCorps fellowship will take you!

By Gilee Corral, Hayward CivicSpark Fellow
Original story posted in June, 2016 at CivicSpark 

It’s 8:22 AM and the sky is cool and clear. I park my Prius across the street from the GRID Alternatives work site. I’d carefully selected my outfit the night before to maximize comfort and sun protection: jeans I’d be ok ruining, tennis shoes, light cotton long sleeved shirt, movie star-wide sunglasses. I also carefully selected my attitude. I have decided not to default to my Safe Zone approach: pick the job I know I can do best, with people I feel most familiar. Today, I am going to step boldly into solar unknown – whatever tool and job that’s offered to me, I’m going to take it, do my best, and learn.

Folks are unloading construction things from a small trailer with GRID Alternatives printed in friendly letters on the side, hitched to a pick-up truck. A woman with glasses is making conversation with one of the guys in a GRID tee shirt with the casual familiarity of someone who speaks construction.

“Who wants to get on the roof today?” Asks a guy in an orange shirt – he’s the volunteer Team Leader.
“Me!” I say quickly…step boldly, right?
“Ok, everyone on the roof, grab a safety harness.” He points us to a tub of straps and buckles, all jumbled together. I’m instantly transported to the moment I first picked up a baby wrap and feel a familiar stab of “stupid panic” – the fear of looking stupid trying to figure out what should be easy. Then I remember my attitude, that I selected this morning on purpose, and smile at the Orange Shirt man.
“How do you put one of these on?”

He starts to explain, then gets corrected by a blue shirt man. Well, maybe it’s not so easy after all. Blue Shirt, who’s a GRID staff member, walks me through the buckling and snapping, step by step.

At the top of the ladder, another blue shirt guy (Daniel) snaps a metal clamp to my back, connecting me to a “lifeline” strap. The asphalt shingle grinds under my tennis shoes. Daniel huddles the volunteers and unfolds the plans for the project, pointing out where the panels will go. Our crew is a mix of experience levels. I’m the only first-timer, but I don’t feel left out. Every step of the way, Daniel and the team leader explain what they’re doing, involving us in the measuring, calculations, and physical work. I get a power tool thrust in my hands and am told on the spot how to use it.

There are a lot of steps to remember in solar installation. I had this idea that you just slapped the rack up there and clicked in the panels…yeah, not so much. The process is an odd mix of calculation and gut feeling. Take finding rafters, for example: you can measure between rafters and estimate where the next one will be, but that’s often wrong. You drill a hole and feel if it hits something. If it’s a miss, you take this metal stick and feel around in the hole for the rafter. Daniel takes a hammer and kind of bangs around the roof tiles, listening for a solid noise that may or may not happen. Sometimes, Daniel just points, lines up the drill, and says, “It is here.” How does he know that? There’s no code for Rafter Location Clairvoyance on my skill list to check off, thank God.

By the end of the day, I feel so comfortable in the harness and hard hat, it feels weird to walk around without them. My knees are burning from kneeling on the now-hot tile, and the roof is starting to look like a solar project instead of a map of chalk lines. We’ve racked half the roof, leaving the other half for a team of Goldman Sacs volunteers to finish off tomorrow. Daniel hands me the impact driver and with a mechanized whir, I drive a bolt into a clamp and thus install my very first solar panel! I take a moment to admire it glinting in the sun, but just a moment, because another one is making its way up the roof.

Back home, scrubbing roof tar from my fingernails, I think about what it would be like to wear a hard hat all the time, to feel the drill under a confident palm and guide it through an invisible rafter with easy, graceful precision. To scan the roof of my 10th, or 100th solar installation and calculate parameters within the space without thinking.

In the mirror, a weary, sun-baked face looks back at me under a matted mess of helmet hair. Tomorrow I’ll go back to my Excel spreadsheets. But today, I was a solar installer. 


The Unite2Green Leaders recently conducted a waste audit at one of Hayward's apartment complexes. This means they sorted through a sample of the trashcans to find out what was inside.

Waste Audit

What did they find? Only 1.5% of the stuff in the trashcans was actually trash that should be landfilled. The remaining 98.5% of stuff were items that could be recycled, reused or composted. The Unite2Green Leaders found that 80% of the items could have been composted, including 30% that was edible food. Food waste and food scraps are green gold in Hayward because they can be turned into certified compost that we return to Hayward residents - for Free!

Unfortunately, all of the items in the trashcans will be sent to the landfill because they weren't sorted corrected. Learn about how to sort your trash in Hayward

One of the issues at this apartment complex was that they did not yet have organics (green cart) service. The Unite2Green Program helped them get their green carts and conducted an outreach event to train the residents on how to compost. Over 40 residents and staff attended the workshop. The Unite2Green Leaders led a sorting game to teach everyone which items go in which carts. As a thank you for participating, all residents received lunch and a free compost pail to take back to their kitchen.

The Unite2Green Leaders will be doing another waste audit at the same apartments in a month to see if their efforts have made an impact. Stay tuned!

Waste Workshop

Waste Workshop

The second of five Unite2Green Hayward outreach activities was held during Light Up the Season on Thursday, December 3, 2015.

Unite2Green Leaders

The Unite2Green Leaders provided information in English and Spanish about energy efficiency, including demonstrations of LED bulbs and smart power strips, and information about home energy upgrade rebates. Leaders gave away 150 LED light bulbs and more than fifty people registered to win a “smart” power strip.

Unite2Green Leaders

The first of five Unite2Green Hayward workshops was held on Saturday, October 31 on the topic of water conservation and efficiency. The Unite2Green Leaders ran concurrent half hour workshops in Spanish and English. The combined workshops had approximately fifty adult attendees, forty of which attended the Spanish language workshop.

Unite2Green Leaders

Unite2Green is a pilot program that is training “Leaders” - three high school students, one Chabot College student, and one Tiburcio Vasquez Promotora (Health Promoter) - to educate their neighbors in the Jackson Triangle about the effect that climate change will have on their health, finances, and security. The City is partnering with ICLEI and the Hayward Promise Neighborhood to implement Unite2Green Hayward with funding from the San Francisco Foundation. The Unite2Green Leaders will run five workshops between October and April on water, energy, recycling, environmental health, and climate change.

The water efficiency workshop covered the drought, cost-effective ways to reduce water waste, and the City’s water conservation programs. The Leaders included photos of their own efforts to reduce water consumption. The majority of residents who attended the workshop rent their homes and the workshop was tailored to renters, who typically do not pay their own water bills or receive the City’s educational materials as bill inserts.

The workshops were held at the HUSD Parent Resources HUB in conjunction with the Hayward Promise Neighborhood Fall Reading Festival. In addition to books, Halloween treats, and lunch, attendees received free water-efficient showerheads.

Unite2Green Leaders


Things I learned during my time in Hayward’s Environmental Services Department 

by Arianna Bankler-Jukes

As I finished my last meeting at UES, I turned to the head of the department and said, “I am basically an analyst now, so if you want to hire me, you are more than welcome to.” Now, there was no physical way I could have jumped from fellow to analyst in six weeks, but I did learn an incredible amount during my time in Hayward’s Environmental Services department. While I could sit here spewing out all the cool stuff I now know, I’ll limit it to my top three favorite tidbits of info.

These three bits of info only touch the surface of all that is going on in Hayward and locally. The best part is that there are so many small changes we can make in order to be environmentally friendly citizens, if it wasn’t for the environmental services department in Hayward, I would not be as hip to these tips. Thanks Hayward U&ES!

1. Free things! Did you know that you could go to city hall and pick up a free replacement showerhead and sink faucet? Let me put a little more emphasis on an important part of that… you got these things for FREE! I love free things. I also love environmentally sustainable things. So free environmentally sustainable things are really some of the best double whammies out there. The shower and faucet heads have an aerator function, adding air to the water flow so that the pressure feels the same but less water is used. It is super easy to replace; you literally twist off the old showerhead and twist on the new one. Getting one from Hayward city hall is also a great way to meet Jenn at the front desk who hands the supplies out… and she is awesome so it is the best of both worlds.

2. Compost: While Hayward hooks homes up with free, green bins for kitchen compost use, I live in Berkeley and our city hall doesn’t love us as much. Ok, that is not entirely true Berkeley is great but you know what I mean – we don’t get free small bins. So, one cool tip I learned during my time here at Hayward is that you can easily collect bio-trash at home. I now put all of my food scraps, coffee filters, and used paper towels into old egg cartons or cereal boxes and store it in my freezer before taking them out to the green bin. Best part of this whole thing – No fruit flies or bad smells! Woot woot!

3. Co-Gen Life: I was fortunate to get a tour of Hayward’s waste treatment plant. The EPA requires all sewage water to be treated before going out into the bay (for good reason because that would be so gross otherwise). Well one thing that you may think is also gross but is actually super cool is what they do with that solid waste coming through the sewage system. It sounds a little icky but bear with me; they heat up the solid waste and use the biogas that comes from the heated up waste to power the waste treatment plant. They get so much energy from this process (known as cogeneration or as the cool kids call it, the Co-Gen) that the plant actually produces more energy than it consumes – what! Talk about efficient! Way to go Hayward Waste Treatment plant!