The Sebastopol Toxics Education Program (STEP) is an innovative city-wide toxics-reduction program in Sebastopol, California.
STEP's mission is to support reduced use of pesticides and other toxics all around Sebastopol, thus creating a healthier and safer town for everyone. Sebastopol is in Sonoma County, in northern California, about an hour north of San Francisco.
The project was officially started when, in May of 2000, the Sebastopol City Council voted to establish Sebastopol as a Voluntary Toxics-Free Zone. With this resolution, the City chose to avoid using toxic pesticides on City-maintained property, and to support voluntary reduction of pesticide use among residents.
To implement this resolution a volunteer citizen's group
called the Sebastopol Toxics Education Program (STEP) was
• The Next STEP newsletter •
Currently, STEP's primary project is a 2-page newsletter called The Next STEP, which is sent 6 times a year to all City residents in their water bills. This friendly, informative newsletter offers helpful information about the potential health and environmental harm of common household toxics - and about the viable, earth-friendly (and often less-expensive) alternatives one can use. We are now entering our third year of newsletters. Here's a sample of some of our topics:
* What Are Pesticides - And Why Should We Be Concerned About Them?
* Pesticides & Cancer
* Pesticides & Parkinson's Disease
* Children & Pesticide Exposure at School
* Controlling Ant Invaders
* Snails Be Gone!
* Eating Your Weeds
* Got Mosquitoes?
* Vinegar: Your Multi-Purpose Cleaner
* The Glories of Borax
* Sticky Barriers
* Nurturing Your Garden Non-Toxically
* Designing with Permaculture
* Healthy Homes for the Holidays
* And more!
These newsletters are distributed to a majority of the town
very low cost, because the newsletters are: created by
copied on City machines; and included in the current water
mailing, with no added postage required.
• Reading Issues Online •
The Recent Issues list describes and offers links to our most recent issues.
Our handy Index by Topic makes it easy for you to look up a question you have about a specific toxic or alternative. Or just browse the content to see what's available!
• STEP Participation •
>> TO STAY IN TOUCH: You can sign up to
receive email alerts when each new issue is posted online or
available in your water bill (see our Email List Signup
>> WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK. Send us your questions, feedback, suggestions, and story ideas, to STEP [at] healthyworld.org.
>> WE WELCOME GUEST WRITERS. For more
>> HELP MAKE STEP POSSIBLE. Offer a couple
your time for mailings and other short projects and you'll
and be part of what keeps this volunteer project going.
>> VOICE YOUR SUPPORT. If you live in the town of
Sebastopol, tell the City Council that you appreciate
project and why, including how it's helped you reduce your
• Program Results •
We include feedback cards in the first issue of each year, so that readers have an easy way to tell us how we're meeting their needs and the topics that would interest them in the future. This is a summary of the results of this survey in 2016:
* 86% said they find The Next STEP newsletter helpful and interesting.
* Of those responding about pesticide use, 39% said they use pesticides at home or work. Of the folks that do use pesticides, 56% just use natural/nontoxic pesticides, 15% just synthetic/toxic, and 29% use both.
* We were delighted that 69% of respondents said that this newsletter has helped them reduce their use of toxics. It was valuable and heartening to hear their examples -- from finding safe alternatives for housecleaning, ants, and garden pests -- to knowing how to wisely choose and dispose of art supplies and beauty products.
* Many also provided us with excellent ideas for future issues and appreciation for our work.
You can see our 2016 reader survey at www.healthyworld.org/GRAPHICS/STEP/stepvol16no5.pdf.
For more positive feedback on this project, see STEP-Accolades.
• Other Possible Projects •
We also see other ways STEP might act towards our objectives, and we invite area residents to work with us in creating related projects. For instance, some other project ideas we'd love to pursue include:
* Business Outreach - Support areas businesses and their customers to choose less-toxic options.
* School Outreach - Find out where local schools are in their pesticide use and either tell the good news of their less-toxic efforts and/or support them in reducing their use of toxics. Encourage educational curriculum about toxics and alternatives.
* Media Outreach - Write articles about toxics and alternatives, and the STEP program, for local periodicals.
* Grants/Funding - Investigate and pursue grants and other funding that will support our goals.
We're also interested in collaborative partnerships with
and groups working on projects related to our goals. More
specific ideas for projects are in the Resolution's Exhibit
A. To see
the City's resolution, click here.
• Supporting Other Cities •
One of our intentions with this project has been to see if
could develop and test techniques that might support other
doing similar actions. If your city is considering a
program, you can see the text of the City's
well as the letter to Sebastopol residents from the City
Council announcing the program and newsletter. Just
city is interested in using modified versions of the
newsletter, or creating custom ones for your city,
us to explore what your interests are and see what we can
what costs might be involved, etc.
• For More Information •
To contact the STEP program, email STEP [at] healthyworld.org or write: STEP, c/o The City of Sebastopol, P. O. Box 1776, Sebastopol CA 95473
Newsletter Editor and Layout: Patricia Dines
Newsletter Editorial Team: Patricia Dines & Jim Gleaves
Newsletter Design Concept and Logo Design: Lyn Bouguereau
STEP Founders: Michael Black, Patricia Dines, Rebecca Dwan, Jeff Edelheit, Nan Fuchs, Craig Litwin, and Larry Robinson.
STEP, P. O. Box 1776, Sebastopol CA 95473
For more information about organics and other alternatives to toxics, see our Toxics and Alternatives Resources Page.
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We hope this information (and our work) is valuable to
and supports the health and well-being of yourself,
your family, our community, and our world.
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Page last updated 2/14/2017.