Southern California environment news and trends

Everyday Heroes: Sherri Akers, Mar Vista's go-to green connector

 everyday heroes

Stop by the Mar Vista Farmers Market any Sunday, and you can get a free dose of eco-education, ranging from water-wise gardening to efficient lighting. That’s thanks to the Mar Vista Community Council Green Committee booth, which features a new green speaker every week. Marketgoers can visit the booth to find local green resources, learn about pressing environmental issues, and figure out practical ways to address both local and national environmental concerns.

And most weeks, you’ll see Sherri Akers at this booth. Sherri’s a co-chair of the Green Committee who says dedicating almost every weekend to this booth for over a year has rewarded her — with the knowledge that she, with her neighbors, can make a real difference. Read this five-question interview to find out how you can bring similar green changes to your community — and what free big green event’s happening this Wednesday.
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What do you do?

Jeanne Kuntz, the chair of the [Mar Vista City Council Green] Committee, and myself partner to run the Sunday farmers market booth. For the first year we were doing it, it was just Jeanne and myself. So it was opening up at 8:30 in the morning and being there until 2 every single Sunday — and it was daunting. Now, there are others who collaborate with us on it. So we sort of rotate.

Every week we bring out a different guest — reaching out to the community, giving the information either on critical issues, solutions, resources — and connecting them with these environmental issues and what they can do about it.

Two weeks ago we had the Sierra Club — their L.A. Beyond Coal campaign. We had Anna Cummins and Marcus [Eriksen] there from 5 Gyres. And then we’re also working with small businesses who represent an eco-solution and helping the message out. We put a lot of time into scouting for guests.

I really think there’s tremendous power in the community councils to drive the city of Los Angeles towards sustainability because we really do have a voice with our city council, with our individual councilmembers. And we can really inspire them to work for change. I started reaching out to my counterparts at other community councils. What we’re trying to do is sort of form this coalition. For those who have haven’t really developed green committees yet, mentor them to help them do it. And those of us who have them, share resources and best practices so we get stronger.

Why do you do it?

My husband and I started converting our own home six, seven years ago and making [environmentally-conscious] changes. And we were really driven by — I have 4-year-old and 7-year-old grandkids, and I have two nephews who are 12 and 13. At the time I was in such despair about what we were doing to the planet, that I felt like we couldn’t face them if I didn’t do everything I could possibly do to make a difference — They were going to be left with this disaster we created. I needed to be able to be know that I really tried. So it started there.

And then you start seeing the results, and you realize you’re making a difference. You’re touching lives, and you’re inspiring others, and they’re inspiring you — and it raises the bar. It’s just so incredibly gratifying.

I just started getting really active on a community level when I was underemployed and I had free time. And now I’m working full time again but I love it too much — I can’t give it up! I don’t want to give it up.

When did you start?

It was Summer 2008. The Green Committee had formed shortly before then. I found out about them, and I jumped in.

Diana Rodgers who manages the farmers market saw the kinship between what we were doing on the Green Committee and what she was doing with the farmers market. She approached us and offered us a free booth at the farmers market to do with it what we want. So we put our heads together — and the concept we came up with is really sort of a mini eco-festival, but one guest every time. That started July 2009.

The work [with the Green Committee] has given me an access to people of influence that I didn’t have before. And that’s the thing I don’t think most people don’t realize. You really can make a difference, and you do have a voice. They’re really eager to listen. The people whose opinion we don’t share are often the most vocal, so we need to get in there.

Who inspires you?

The people that I work with on this committee. Jeanne Kuntz, Joseph Treves, John Ayers, Laura Bodensteiner. I mean, they’re just amazing people. That’s really been the inspiration. You watch how much everyone else is willing to do, so you never feel like you’re giving an enormous amount.

How can people help?

Just email us. We’re always looking for collaborators and volunteers — anyone who’s interested in participating in what we do, people who want to bring this to their own community. We are so eager to help people. Classic example – We had the Wise Water Use Expo last year, and Janie Thompson in Encino contacted us a couple months later for the Valley Water Expo. We literally said, “here’s our to do list, here’s our contact list.” We basically handed over the model for how to do it. All i did was share, and that’s what we’re excited about doing and what we’re eager to do more of.
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This year, the Green Committee’s having another big event: The Wise Power Use Expo. That free event happens this Wed., Nov. 3, starting at 6;30 pm at the Windward School, 11350 Palms Blvd., Los Angeles. All are invited to hear educational and inspiring speakers including Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car?, André Villaseñor from the EPA L.A. Field Office, and Nancy Barbara from Santa Monica’s Sustainable Works. Plus, every attendee will get entered into a drawing for raffle prizes — more than a dozen energy efficiency items collectively worth about $8000. If you pre-register on Eventbrite, you can even get a second raffle ticket for the drawing — Just be present to win.

Have more questions for Sherri? You can meet her in person at the Expo, on most Sundays at the Green Committee booth at the farmers’ market, or by emailing sherri@MarVista.org.

Know an Everyday Hero or few? Nominate them for this weekly series.

Photos courtesy of Sherri Akers.

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Join Arnold...as he runs for his next position...to be determined

A new campaign has taken off in the waning days before the election - but it's not really for an office. Emails to Arnold Schwarzenegger's media list aren't just coming from the governor's site; they're also coming from a standalone site: JOIN ARNOLD. All indications from the site itself are that the governor wants to preserve his environmental legacy; encourage political reform; and support the cause of California's infrastructure.

Join Arnold is funded by a committee that's existed since 2002. This year's contributors include some of the most significant opponents to Arnold's environmental legacy - Occidental Petroleum gave him $600,000, after also contributing about half that to the Yes on 23 campaign. PG&E gave this one committee of Arnold's $200,000. (He also raked it in from the CA Dental Association and CA Hospitals Committee.)

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Morning greens: Splits and disagreements on Prop 23, solar farm

Environmentalists are split on solar farm plans in San Benito County. Some believe “Solargen Energy Inc.’s proposed 400-megawatt solar farm on 5,000 acres just south of San Francisco Bay will be a key part of a new future based, in part, on green technology,” while “the small-scale ranchers, farmers and horse trainers who live and work in the misty pastures and furrowed slopes of Panoche Valley believe the old connotation of ‘green’ is worth more,” reports LA Times.

vote2010 Morning greens:

California businesses are split on Prop 23 and other ballot initiatives, reports LA Times. “The initiatives pit the conventional corporate culture against many high-tech and green-tech companies in Silicon Valley and other entrepreneurial hubs.”

As voters prep to vote on Prop 23, California’s prepping its own iteration of cap-and-trade rules, reports NY Times’ Green. “California’s Air Resources Board have drafted proposed regulations intended to cushion the economic impact on the state’s industries but still accomplish the law’s purpose: reducing emissions linked to climate change to 1990 levels by 2020.”

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Orange October! (Green World Series)

So Major League Baseball is highlighting environmental issues at the World Series this year, "thanks to a special partnership between MLB and the Natural Resources Defense Council." As a fan of the San Francisco Giants, I think they're a pretty good team to do that with. For you environmentalists, here's some good reasons to jump on my Giants bandwagon.

AT&T Park (oh, is that what it's called now?) got Silver LEED certification this spring. (The Twins & Nats have it too.)

The Giants audit their waste stream, and found this year that they diverted 75% of it from landfill - 3 and a half million pounds.That seems like a crazy amount for the public to do on their own - and of course they don't:

In addition to the bins, custodial crews pore over the stands after games to collect recyclables, compostables and waste, and the sorting process is aided by color-coded loading docks at the facility. Staff members from Environment Now, a green job training program that has received Recovery Act funds, also pitched in during games by helping baseball fans figure out which containers to use for their disposables.

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ARB shows its cap-and-trade cards before voters play Prop 23 hand

While most of the rest of California is talking about whether to suspend or continue with AB 32, the state's Air Resources Board has released a plan about how they'd run the landmark greenhouse gas law's central program - the cap and trade program - and they're looking for public comment.

Starting in two years, the first phase of the cap and trade program includes electricity and large industrial facilities. Three years later they add in transportation fuels distributors, natural gas, and other fuels: so oil companies get a little time. The first cap in 2012, essentially, sets a don't-screw-up standard, at the forecast for whatever would happen anyway. Then it drops 2 percent a year, then ups to 3 percent.

The 2020 cap is about 15% below where the program starts 8 years earlier. The ARB projects that means 273 million metric tons of carbon dioxide cut from the state's output.

Industrial sources and utilities get free allowances, with the rest of credits under the cap sold at auction. Offset options include forestry, and methane; facilities can only use offsets to drop their footprint 8 percent. You can read more in a brief summary of the program here.

I'd guess - but haven't yet heard - that this isn't all environmentalists would want it to be. Other people have written convincingly about why giving away permits creates a different market than auctioning them all; ARB's plan is a compromise. The capped market begins in a couple of years; that may not be all businesses want, but it's a graduated plan: it's another compromise. The implementation group will give its opinion, and so will chambers of commerce, economists, and environmentalists. And I would guess everyone won't like something. (We'll keep you posted.)

What the ARB wants to signal here is that it's ready to go with AB 32 - and that it's not a scary, drastic option to cut carbon emissions on a market. Starting Monday, they want to know what people think about it: they're going to decide on a course of action December 16. (In keeping with the ARB's efforts to get as much regulation out the door before the end of Schwarzenegger's term.) Of course the outcome of Proposition 23 will serve as a public comment of a sort, but a less specific kind. But ARB is taking specific comments at its website - check here for more details.

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