Southern California environment news and trends

L.A. Sustainability Collaborative bridges gap between academic research and local environmental concerns

I started blogging about environmental issues back when I was in graduate school — in large part to feel more connected to the concrete and pressing real-life issues of the city I live in. Those issued seemed far removed from what I was studying in the ivory tower of academia, though granted, my choice to study obscure modernist poetry probably didn’t help.

But for today’s L.A.-area graduate students who want to intertwine their academic research with pressing real-world problems, the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative can help. This nonprofit provides research fellowships to local graduate students interested in studying local environmental issues, ranging from water efficiency, car parking policy, or bicycling opportunities.

alexislantz LA Sustainability Collaborative

“The Collaborative is funding really great projects that benefit the community,” says Alexis Lantz (above), who received a $1000 fellowship to study issues affecting Los Angeles cyclists while a graduate student in Urban Planning at UCLA. Alexis says she’s unlikely to have taken on a study of that scope without the fellowship, which gives students “a real opportunity to do something that’s not purely academic.”


Morning greens: From attorney generals to pregnant cyclists

California’s next Attorney General will play a big role in environment and energy policy “although the race doesn’t particularly hinge on environmental issues,” reports NY Times. “San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris (D) is the environmentalists’ clear favorite over Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley (R),” who has received campaign funds from many oil companies.


Tomorrow, the Metro Board will decide on routes for the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector. Read about the recommended routes in LA Times, get tips on participating in the meeting on Metro’s The Source, then weigh in tomorrow.

Should L.A. raise parking fines for repeat offenders? UCLA professor Donald Shoup makes the case for doing so in LA Times.

Urban gardening nonprofit Pedal Patch Community in downtown L.A.’s arts district gets a profile in blogdowntown.


Sensors seeking sites: want a seismograph in your home?

The US Geologic Survey is looking for a few good men. Or women. Or families. If you're a dog who has wifi, a concrete slab foundation and AC power, and can read the internet, I bet you qualify too. (Though maybe call us at KPCC first - we love breaking news.)

See the blue box? If you live inside that area, the Geologic Survey is looking for potential guinea pigs in there: 

The USGS is trying to achieve denser and more uniform seismograph spacing in the southern California area to provide better measurements of ground motion during earthquakes. To do this, we have developed a new type of digital seismograph called "NetQuakes" that communicates its data to the USGS via the Internet. These instruments connect to a local network using WiFi and use existing Broadband connections to transmit data after an earthquake.


L.A. students educate peers about plastic pollution

envirocharter Environment Charter

Wish you’d known as a teenager all the eco-information you’ve learned as an adult? Well, you may be surprised to know there are teenagers in Los Angeles who’ve got more green knowledge than you do now in your old no longer so young age. Students at Environment Charter High School in Lawndale know so much about plastic pollution in the oceans that they’re educating their peers across the country — so that they in turn can become eco-educators and pay it forward.

Those student-teachers are Jordan and Rudy, members of the Environmental Charter High School’s Green Ambassadors program, an academic program for 10th graders that both educates students about environmental issues and gives them opportunities to address some of these problems. And now, Jordan and Rudy are also co-hosts, with a little help from MTV’s Buried Life Crew, of educational videos about plastic pollution. Watching those videos is a prerequisite for teenagers who want a chance to go to the Plastics Are Forever International Youth Summit, a 2-day leadership and training summit in March 2011 that will bring 100 high school students and their teachers together in Long Beach.


Dog bites man; or, Greenwashing is alive and well

My intern Captain Obvious brought to my attention a Wall Street Journal article that looks at misleading claims on green labeling. An environmental marketing company called TerraChoice issues a report that found "fibbing about or having no proof of environmental claims, vague or poorly defined marketing language, such as "all-natural," and the use of fake labels designed to imply a product has third-party certification or endorsement of its claims."

Scary is the TerraChoice report seems to find the worst greenwashing comes in baby and children's stuff - "BPA-free" being an increasingly popular sales tactic:

While the overall incidence of greenwashing dipped slightly—4.5% of products were dubbed "sin free" versus only 1% in 2007 when the first study was conducted—particular concerns were raised about the huge surge over the past year of products claiming to be free of Bisphenol A, a compound used in plastics such as baby bottles and other consumer products, and phthalates, which are used to give plastics like pacifiers flexibility and durability.