Southern California environment news and trends

Green tech, green activists, celebrate (likely) defeat of Prop 23

Environmental groups gathered at Global Green USA headquarters in Santa Monica patted themselves on the back - in some cases, literally - for creating a coalition of environmental and business interests that together seem to have brought defeat to Proposition 23.

Early after the polls closed, in the main room at Global Green USA, on a big screen, Ron Johnson raised his hands in victory - the next U.S. Senator, elected over incumbent Russ Feingold in Wisconsin.

The difference is striking. In Wisconsin, they've elected a guy who doesn't seem to believe that climate change, man-made or not, is real:

In California, proponents of Proposition 23 went to some trouble to avoid calling climate change into question. Instead they pitched the measure as a manufacturing and job-saver.

I'll post comments on the results from environmental groups and venture capitalists as I receive them.


Green Picks: Wise Power Use Expo, Green gala, eco trail run, and more

Blue Power teaser eventsWed, 11/3: Learn to be green and save green at the Wise Power Use Expo, a free event with educational and inspiring speakers including Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car?. One of the organizers is our latest Everyday Hero, Sherri Akers. The eco-education begins at 6:30 pm at the Windward School, 11350 Palms Blvd., Los Angeles.

Thu, 11/4: Is It Organic? (PDF) is the topic of the next Santa Monica Farmers’ Market quarterly panel, featuring panelists from certified organic, ex-certified organic, and not certified organic fars as well as Chef Neal Fraser of Grace and BLD. The lively debate will happen in the MLK, Jr. Auditorium of the Santa Monica Main Public Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. starting at 7 pm.

Sat., 11/6: RETHINK:GREEN — a star-studded charity gala that includes an art exhibit, organic tasting, and a green awards ceremony — will raise funds for the Green Ambassadors Institute to promote environmental leadership for students at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale and beyond. The event happens at Blackwelder LA, 3121 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets start at $125.

Sat., 11/6: Get a green runner’s high at the Elysian Park 5K Eco Trail Run, put together by Green Running Events. Meet at the Elysian Park Drive and Stadium Way. Cost: $25, including a T-shirt, with a portion of proceeds benefiting Heal the Bay. The open race starts at 8 am; master’s race at 8:30 am.

Sun., 11/7: Take a T-shirt upcycling art workshop and turn an old T-shirt into a reusable bag at Santa Monica Museum of Art. The workshop’s part of the museum’s essential goods drive to benefit the women of Ocean Park Community Center; the upcycled bags will be used to bundle donations to OPCC. Take your old T-shirts to SMMoA, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, and sew away from 2 pm to 5 pm. Cost: Free for museum members; $5 for non-members.

Sun., 11/7: The LA Idea Project, described as “a one-day TED-style conference on social innovation,” invites all people “interested in the power of ideas to make change through entrepreneurship.” The all-day event happens from 8 am to 8 pm at Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. Cost: $295, which includes 2 meals and an afterparty.

Tue, 11/9: Stay in and watch Nourish: Food + Community. This half-hour program, narrated by Cameron Diaz, will consider the story behind our food with the help of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver, Bryant Terry, and other eco-foodie experts. Tune in to KCET at 10:30 pm to catch the show (trailer below).

Nourish Trailer from Nourish on Vimeo.

Image: Wise Power Use Expo


Morning greens: Don't forget to vote today!

ivotedsticker Morning greens:

In voting day news: NPR reports Prop 23′s bankrolled mostly by oil companies, as Pacific Swell readers already know.

While polls show that Californians are likely to vote Prop 23 down, the predicted national voter turnout favors climate opponents, according to NY Times. “Republican enthusiasm and the party’s rising dismissal of global warming are coinciding to make this an Election Day marked by climate dissent.”

Long Beach police cited cyclists and impounded bicycles at a Critical Mass ride, reports LA Now. “Riders thought police were there to help move traffic along, but instead cyclists were cited and their bicycles impounded,” some for lacking registration. Last year, Los Angeles suspended its bicycle registration program after a similar incident at a mass bike ride.

Sport-harvested California mussels are now okay to eat. The California Department of Public Health lifted the annual statewide quarantine yesterday, but the announcement doesn’t apply to “shellfish or some parts of crustaceans and small finfish caught near the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara and Ventura counties,” which could still contain elevated levels of domoic acid.

California’s national parks are in peril, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. Among the forecasts: “No glaciers at Glacier, no Joshua trees at Joshua Tree,” reports KQED’s Climate Watch.

Santa Clara-based Intel tops U.S. EPA’s list for green power purchases. Whole Foods, Starbucks, Dell, and Johnson & Johnson also make the top 10 list. (via Ecotrope)

In BP oil spill news: The Oil Spill Fund denied 20,000 claims of loss and damage last month, reports NPR’s Two-Way. “Kenneth Feinberg, who heads the $20 billion fund, tells the AP that many claims lacked crucial details — and that some have been sent to law enforcement officials to be investigated for potential fraud.”

Lastly and leafily: Can trees avert crime? A study of South Portland homes shows “for every 1,000 houses, there are 4.5 fewer crimes per 100 square feet of canopy cover,” reports Ecotrope.

Photo by Bill S./Flickr


Just wanted to get this in under the wire

Not all of my AB 32/proposition 23 reporting made it to the radio.

Early in the election season, I was looking at what would, in fact, happen, should prop 23 pass, to existing programs in place as part of the AB 32 early action plan organized by the state's Air Resources Board.

One such program is "on dock electrification" - the practice of offering ships a place to plug in for power dockside, so that they don't idle for days in port, burning fuel, dirty bunker fuel or otherwise. Like other pieces of the early action puzzle, on dock electrification offered multiple environmental benefits: it could help cut air pollution that impacts human health, in the form of particulate matter that can irritate lungs. And it could help cut the release of greenhouse gases whose presence contributes to a changing climate.


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.

thread collaborative everyday heroes

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.

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

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

Photos courtesy of Sherri Akers.