The Dreaded Affluenza Virus

Influenza dominates the news these days, but you're much more likely to be afflicted with affluenza this time of year.

That's right, affluenza -- a mental health disease that is known to affect mental processing and logic functions. It is particularly strong in the Northern Hemisphere between November 24 and December 25.

To find out if you are in danger, take the Affluenza Risk Assessment&nbsp

Another NC Votes For Bike Lanes

Glenn Bailey, chair of the City of LA Bicycle Advisory Committee reported via e-mail that the Reseda Neighborhood Council has added its YAY (or yea, if you wanna get technical) vote for more bike lanes in the Valley. Following is the full text of his email.

"In response to the recent Reseda Boulevard peak hour motor vehicle lanes versus bicycle lanes controversy, the Reseda Neighborhood Council board voted overwhelmingly Monday night to support the installation of bicycle lanes on Reseda Boulevard "where feasible."

According to a map presented by the Department of Transportation's Paul Meshkin, there is currently adequate width on Reseda Boulevard between Valerio Street on the south and Chase Street on the north, a distance of approximately one mile, to allow for such lanes.

The remaining stretch in Reseda between Vanowen and Valerio streets is too narrow to allow for bicycle lanes without the removal of parking or traffic lanes but will be studied for bicycle route designation (signage only), Meshkin said."

Make YOUR voice heard by reviewing AND COMMENTING ON the draft bike plan before Nov. 6.

Eco- and Wallet-Friendly Shoes

Just saw an article in the Daily Sundial (the Cal State Northridge daily newspaper)about a line of eco-friendly shoes introduced by Payless Shoesource in April. They're cute, cheap, and use organic, natural and recycled materials (mostly). Check them out!

Newsweek recently came out with a list of what it called The Greenest Big Companies in America. It's incredibly disappointing -- they really should have stopped at the top 25.

The 65th Greenest Company in America, Medtronics, lives right here in Northridge. Here's what Newsweek had to say about why it ranked in the Top 100:

In 2008, (Medtronics) recycled 44% of its total solid waste, a 5% increase from the previous year. Also has made small efforts to eliminate controversial substances, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), from products. But beyond setting short-term goals on air emissions, the medical device manufacturer has announced few other plans.

Really? that's it? They recycled? Is that all it takes to be this high up on the list? I'm afraid that if I read any further I'll just pop a vein.

Cal State Northridge Sustainability Efforts

The most recent issue of Northridge Magazine, the alumni magazine of Cal State Northridge, is an ode to the wide variety of sustainability initiatives on the campus.
The Physical Plant Department has been leading the way in energy efficiency for more than 20 years and the campus boasts the largest fuel cell power plant of any university in the world.
On Tuesday, Oct. 20, CSUN will be hosting its first Water Day. Leave your super soakers at home -- this is a free educational event, open to the public, that will include workshops and lectures on the water issues facing California (past and present), tips and tricks to increase personal water efficiency, updates from DWP and others on the future of water, and more.
Then on Wednesday is Campus Sustainability Day. Workshops and roundtables to invite the local and campus community to discuss sustainaibility issues and presentations by CSUN students about sustainability research and projects. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., join the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Committee at the Orange Grove. Help pick oranges that will be used in campus food services and donated to local food banks.
At 5 p.m. Hillel Center will be hosting a Sustainable Gardening Social. Exchange a non-perishable food item (to be donated to a local food bank) and in return you'll get dinner, including produce from their experimental food garden, and a show!

The City of Los Angeles has received funds from the DOE to develop and carry out programs and projects to reduce energy consumption.

Believe it or not, they want YOUR opinion about how to spend the money. That is, if you're a resident of the city of angels.

"The public opinions we are collecting will be incorporated into the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy that is being developed as part of (the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block grant."

It's a fairly short survey that simply asks you to rate priorities for various projects under consideration. There's also room for you to add your own ideas.
Please take the survey now -- make your GREEN voice heard.

Recycle Shoes, Get New Ones at a Discount

If you've got any unworn or "gently worn" footwear in your closet, Sport Chalet will take them off your hands and give you a discount on new shoes to boot.

The recovered shoes will be donated to Soles 4 Souls which will then distribute them to people in need throughout the world. Many of the shoes go to disaster victims and they are particularly trying to fill the need in Samoa for those who survived the tsunami this week.
Donate any pair of gently worn shoes at a Sport Chalet store between October 5 and October 12 and not only will you feel all warm and fuzzy, but you will receive 25% off any regularly priced pair of shoes in their stores. One discount per pair -- bring as many pair as you like.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition will be co-hosting a special screening of a new documentary film, "Bicycle Dreams" August 29.

The award-winning film by Stephen Auerbach chronicles the Race Across America, an epic, 3000-mile bicycle race from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
The screening will begin at 7 p.m. at the Encino Velodrome, 17301 Oxnard Street. A $5 donation per individual or a $15 donation per family is requested.

Reel Green Workshop in Burbank

The Burbank Green Alliance will be hosting a two-hour workshop on July 11 aimed at helping those in the entertainment industry to become more sustainable.

Topics will include creating sustainability goals, forming a culture of sustainability, and implementing in-house recycling initiatives.

Already confirmed as speakers are Josh Mark, director of sustainability for Fox Broadcasting; Shannon Schaefer, president of EcoSet Consulting; and Lauren Selman, president of Reel Green Media.

To attend you must RSVP by July 1 to Jessica Aldridge by calling (818) 238-3900 or sending an email to

It's All About the Bicycles This Weekend

The 9th Annual Los Angeles River Ride takes place this Sunday with five different length rides all leaving from the Autry Museum at Griffith Park. The Century begins at 7 a.m. with the 70-, 50- and 35-mile rides leaving at 15 minute intervals thereafter.

A 10-mile Family Ride, taking place completely on the dedicated river bike path starts at 11 a.m. Sign-ups for that start at 10 a.m. to coincide with the beginning of the Fun Fair where the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Moms in Motion will host bike safety demonstrations in a fun and interactive environment.

Bone up on bicycle safety online by reading How Not to Get Hit By Cars at Very important especially after the recent death of mother of two Stacy North who was riding her bicycle on the wrong side of the street near Lake Balboa when she was struck by a DWP truck.

The City of L.A. is calling on all cyclists to review the newly revised draft Bike Plan. Check out the map of Valley streets and proposed improvements, additions to bike routes. Comments must be in by June 12.

If you are a cyclist, weekend, commuter or other, and want to meet up with like-minded folk, join the Valley Bikery at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Friday, June 5) at Pitfire Pizza in North Hollywood.

The New LA Water Restrictions

By now you should already be aware that the City of L.A. has begun enforcing new water restrictions that are designed to reduce agua usage by 15 percent this summer. Most important is that sprinklers can only be run on Mondays and Thursdays and on those days only between midnight and 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. You CAN hand water any day you like, but only during the 12:01 a.m. - 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. timeframe. Fines will be levied after an initial warning.

First reports were that we had to reduce our water usage 15 percent or face higher rates and I was a little peeved since I already practice conservation fairly rigorously. But it turns out, it's not exactly a 15 percent reduction. How it really works is this: each household normally gets an allotment of water for which it pays a base rate. If you go over that allotment, you pay a premium rate for the overage. What the DWP has done is reduced the allotment by 15 percent. You can't find out what the allotment is by looking at your bill yet (the department says they're working on that) but you can go online or call to find out what your allowance is.

So I went on line, and found out that we have already been using far less water than our 15 percent-reduced allotment, so my family doesn't have to worry.

The DWP thoughtfully included a bunch of hang tags in my monthly billing so that I can go around to my neighbors and make sure they're aware of the new rules. Can't quite figure that one out -- aren't all my neighbors DWP customers themselves?

Galaxy of Goo

West Hills resident Bonnie Klea is vivacious and no-nonsense. She won a battle over a rare bladder cancer diagnosed in 1995, and has long suspected the toxins that taint a big piece of land near her home — land on which, if Los Angeles planners get their way, more building will soon be allowed.
That's the lead paragraph of investigative journalist Michael Collins' latest article on the many shenanigans surrounding the repurposing of various former aerospace sites in the San Fernando and Simi valleys. Published by the L.A. Weekly on March 4, Collins sheds light on recent moves by developers to build office buildings on the former DeVry University property in Canoga Park.

Another story Collins uncovered recently reports on KB Homes efforts to build on land in Runkle Canyon in Simi Valley that is contaminated with the toxic substance benzo(a)anthracene (published in the April 16 issue of the Ventura County Reporter). To read these articles and other past and present investigations by the award-winning journalist, visit

Weekend Events in the Valley

There's plenty to do this weekend in the Valley so keep it green and ride your bike to one of the many festivities. Check out the calendar over there to the right with a complete listing of events, times, dates, locations and links.

I am totally bummed that I will be in Sacramento on Friday evening and Saturday and therefore will miss two of the three days of the free Hawaiian Festival at Northridge Park. The Imua Ho'Olaule'a main events -- namely Hawaiian music, dancing and food, food, food -- is something I really look forward to every year. Oh, and the Saturday night fireworks show, this year being hosted by the Neighborhood Councils of Northridge East, Northridge West, Reseda and Winnetka.

Here's an entertainment schedule courtesy of one of the performers, the Jumpin' Flea Circus Players of Los Angeles.

MMMM...kahlua pork, some lau lau and a few malasadas, eaten while watching the cutest-ever keiki hula dancers and all is right with the world. Aloha!

Cycling Calabasas

After a long (20 or so years) hiatus, I have started riding seriously again, still on the Univega I bought from I. Martin Imports in West Hollywood back in 1985 or so.

For the past couple of weeks I've spent an hour or more three days a week riding around the Valley, mainly on the north end. Valley Circle, Rinaldi, Plummer and Lassen all are very hospitable to cyclists. A couple of times I've ridden down to Lake Balboa and last Saturday rode the Orange Line bike path all the way to Valley College.

What I really enjoy is going slowly enough to really take in the sights. There is an amazing diversity of restaurants, furniture stores, clothing shops and industrial areas.

Today, for instance, I rode from my home near Cal State Northridge to Calabasas, taking a detour into the foothills of Woodland Hills where I lived for a few years as a child (Calabash Elementary, woo hoo!). Then I rode into Calabasas (had to use the sidewalk as those cobblestones are a killer) and took a break at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the shopping center across from the Commons.

At about 10:30 a.m. the place was doing brisk business with mommies & stroller babies, a couple of laptop space takers and the like.

I took my coffee & scone outside and sat by a lovely fountain right in front of a couple of shops I'll have to return to. Susie Cakes creates what looks like delicious confections -- cupcakes and full-size cakes -- and has a sign touting their recent selection as Best Tasting in the Traditional Category of the 2009 Nesquick Challenge for their red velvet (mmmmmmm) cupcakes.

Also stepped into newly-opened O' My Sole a shoe store that has the tagline -- Life's Too Short To Wear Boring Shoes. At the Calabasas store, which the clerk on duty told me is the smallest of the Southern California-based chain, the emphasis is more on comfortable, but stylish, shoes. Don't just by the website, by the way. It is not really reflective of the variety of the store's offering.

But the point of this post is not to hawk these particular stores but that I would not have ever known they were there had I not taken the time to ride by. So next time you want to get some fresh air and get to know your neighborhood better, do it from the back of a bicycle. Just watch out for potholes!

Greenest Soundstage Opened at the WB

Warner Bros. newly opened Stage 23 in Burbank is the first soundstage built to LEED specifications and is waiting its LEED certification. What, you say? A soundstage is basically just a big airplane hangar -- how hard could it be to get that LEED certified?

In an article in the May 22 issue of the AIA's Architect newsletter, WB project leader Rasa Bausa, said, "It’s an unusual building with no daylight. It‘s a warehouse type of building and functions differently. To try to fit that use into the LEED rating system we had to come up with distinct and clear definitions of how to place a new building type that wasn’t contemplated in the LEED rating system. I think it helps because we are an industry that really does care about sustainability. That was something we needed to tackle, not only for us but for the industry—how do you build a green stage?”

The 21,600-square-foot building is the 35th sound stage at the Warner Bros. Burbank lot. Sustainable construction elements include the use of Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber, recycled steel and metals, non-toxic paint and adhesives, and foundations made with concrete mixed with 35 percent recycled fly ash. The perimeter of the stage is made of permeable asphalt, which will allow rainwater to seep into the ground.

The project also incorporates energy efficient lighting and cooling technologies with a 100-kilowatt generating solar array being added to the building.

More than 92 percent of the materials from the stage demolished to make way for the new project was reused and recycled, with Warner Bros. saying that 1,890 tons of materials were diverted from landfills in the process.

The Studio also expanded its solar electrical generating system, which will now produce more than 500 kilowatts of clean power.

Hippies Get All Capitalistic

I was feeling groovy when I began researching the Topanga Days Country Fair taking place this Memorial Day weekend -- I mean, hipppies are the original greenies, right? And it's the 60th Anniversary of the event which is a fundraiser for the Topanga Community Club, whatever that is.

But then I clicked on the Tickets and Membership page and my heart nearly stopped. It will cost non-member adults $20 to visit the fair for ONE day while a three-day pass can be had for the low recession price (their words) of JUST $35.

Granted, you might see Blood, Sweat & Tears, a true hippie artifact if ever there was one, and visit a bunch of eco-friendly vendors in their natural habitat, but the pricing is simply ridiculous, IMHO. If last weekend's WorldFest in Encino is any indicator, visitors will also shell out $4 for an 8-ounce lemonade, or $10 for a plate of tofu curry and brown rice. And there's no indicator whether parking is free (doubtful) although a shuttle van and bicycle parking are.

The days of free love are over -- now you have to pay through the nose for it.

Greek Goes Green

The Valley Greek Festival -- a huge annual Memorial Day Weekend event now in its 36th year -- will be going green this year, thanks to the efforts of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council.

Third Planet Energy of Granada Hills will be recycling all of the waste cooking oil and the NENC will be making sure that all of the anticipated 6,000-plus plastic water bottles will also be recycled.

Add free parking and free admission and you get a great way to spend some of your Memorial Day. Check it out at St. Nicholas Greek Othodox Church, 9501 Balboa Blvd., Northridge. In action from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. all three days, May 23 through May 25.

Valley Greenpreneurs -- Read This

Entrepreneurs with a green tech focus are invited to speak at the Green Tech Connect Forum in Pasadena. Hosted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Forum will take place Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 at the Pasadena Convention Center.

According to the AQMD press release,

"The Green Tech Connect Forum offers a twist from similar conferences. The emerging green technology developers will be profiling their companies, technologies and funding needs to prospective funding partners instead of the investment community talking to an audience of technology developers. It will also include one-on-one opportunities to interface directly with the funding partners."
Those interested in presenting must submit an application by June 5 and be willing to pay a $2,500 fee which covers the speaking fee, a 10'x10' exhibit booth and two registrations.

Just want to attend? Early birds (before July) will pay discounted fees of $200 for government/nonprofit and $350 for everyone else. Prices go up by $100 after that.

Saturday Fun in the Valley

Two fun, green events for the whole family on Saturday: WorldFest in Encino and the Bureau of Sanitation Open House at the West Valley yard.

Let's talk about that second one first. My friend Jen's son is super excited about getting to see the garbage (and recycling) trucks up close and personal. So that's the big draw for a 5-year-old boy. For the grown-ups, get there early and pick up a free citrus tree and/or some free mulch and green your yard. The City will also be providing free food and beverages and there will be games (with prizes) for all. The Valley Yard is at 8840 Vanalden Street in Northridge and the event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

WorldFest is being billed as "LA's Largest Earth Day Event." So it's just about a month after Earth Day ... we'll forgive the organizers since it's A) in the Valley and B) going to be chock full of great stuff from 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Try Speed Dating -- appropriately held at the Oasis Wine & Beer Garden. Music, seminars, exhibitors, vegan food offerings and lots of tips on how to be more eco-friendly every minute of every day. There's an Orange Line stop (Woodley Station) just across the street from the venue and it's right on one of the best bike paths in the city. Read all about it at the WorldFest website.

Free Bicycle Fixes This Weekend

To celebrate the culmination of L.A. Bike Week (yep, that's this week!) Valley Bikery will be hosting a free clinic Sunday, May 17. Pedal on down to the corner of Balboa and Burbank boulevards between noon and 4 p.m.

The helpful volunteers will help analyze any problems you might be having, show you how to fix it (if it's something simple) or tell you what you need to do next. Stop by even if you don't need any help -- they'll be spinning some tunes, and serving up BBQ and lemonade.

Eco-Musical for Preschoolers

A new Sesame Street Live show wants to help the youngest of the young to become environmentally conscious. Elmo's Green Thumb will debut at the Fred Kavli Theater at the Thousand Oaks Civic Center the weekend of May 21-24, followed by stops at the Nokia Theatre downtown and the Terrace Theater in Long Beach.

Some reviews:

Directed by Sylvia Hase, the new show has more songs and dances than a Broadway revue, more audience participation than a game show. ~The Sioux City Journal

Elmo's Green Thumb is 90-minutes long with a 15-minute intermission. I was initially worried that my two year old son wouldn't be able to sit through such a long show, but Sesame Street Live is so action-packed that the time flies and it easily holds the interest of young children. ~Shannon Cotton, Associated Content

Very Green Daily News Today

Today's Daily News had not one but two articles about sustainability smack dab on the front page. Above the fold, with a nice big photograph, was coverage by staff reporter Dana Bartholomew about the Cal State Northridge hydrogen fuel cell/rainforest project. Were you aware that CSUN was given one of six "Chill Out: Campus Solutions to Global Warming" awards last month by the National Wildlife Federation?

Just under that story, was an article from The New York Times about how teachers acros the country are using The Story of Stuff, a video on consumption that has been featured in this blog, to educate students about sustainability.

Green Hippo Products

I stumbled across Green Hippo Products in Northridge today and chatted for a few minutes with COO Curtis Westfall about the company and what they're selling.

Green Hippo makes natural and organic products for gardening (organic fertilizers and plant foods), pet and equestrian care (non-toxic flea and fly control sprays), and personal and home cleaning (hand sanitzers, hand washes and cleaning products).

Curtis told me the products are made in Glendale and sold primarily online. I can't vouch for them personally, but thought locals might be interested in another option for green stuff made right here in town.

Funding for Environmental Justice Projects

Local green non-profits might want to apply for new Cal EPA grants of up to $20,000 each to be used for environmental justice projects. The program has $250,000 to give away.

Applications must be received in Sacramento by Aug. 5. The stated goals of the funds are to:

- Enhance meaningful public participation.
- Promote community capacity building.
- Collaborate with academia and/or other governmental agencies to document data related to exposures and health complaints.
- Promote community involvement in climate change emission reduction processes and programs.
- Provide funds to continue and/or expand projects funded under the previous grant cycle that have proven effective with excellent progress and results.

Sustainability Tradeoffs

One of the most frustrating things about trying to be green is having to constantly deal with the question of "paper or plastic?" Of course I mean that in the broadest way possible because of course the answer to that is "the reusable bag you bring yourself."

For instance, is it better to recycle a plastic shopping bag or use it to pick up dog poop (which means it ends up in the trash)? Is it better to use a plastic bag to line a recycle bin or to use no bag but have to "spend" water to clean the bin occasionally?

Sorry to say I don't have a great answer for the question. How do you make these types of decisions?

Fuel Cell Rainforest on KNBC

Local channel 5 did a nice news story on the Cal State Northridge "rainforest" that I posted photos of recently. Check it out.

Recycling Wood Shingles

My 60-year-old house in Northridge has wood shake shingles that are on their last legs so my husband and I have decided to take the plunge and re-roof. It seems we can save on labor costs (over $1,000) by removing the existing roofing ourselves. That got me started on thinking about how great it would be to recycle the old shingles. After all, they're just wood, right?

Wrong. A call to 1-888-CleanLA, also known as the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Works-Environmental Programs Division yielded a big thumbs down. Turns out that most wood roofing materials are treated with fire retarding chemicals which are toxic.

So no mulching or recycling -- they must go into the landfill. That makes me sad.

The upside -- the new roof will be much more energy efficient and we're also taking the opportunity to have some cellulosic insulation blown into the roof to further reduce our energy costs. That will have to do, I guess.

Saturday in Van Nuys: DWP Chief Nahai, Treepeople Founder Lipkis

David Nahai, the head of the LADWP will be in the Valley Saturday at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.

Joining Nahai will be Andy Lipkis, founder of TreePeople. Lipkis is a dynamic and compelling speaker who will likely talk about a couple of very interesting water reclamation projects his organization has going in Pacoima and Sun Valley.

The meeting, taking place at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant at Woodley Park in Van Nuys (also the home of the beautiful Japanese garden -- a free tour will be offered to meeting attendees at the close of the event), will begin at 9 a.m. and continue through to 1 p.m. Nahai's focus is expected to be on water conservation.

Somebody please bring up greywater and whether the City is making it any easier for residents to recapture home non-wastewater for landscape purposes.

The event is free but reservations are required. Call (213) 368-1616.

Local Ballers Going Green

Great story by Tom Hoffarth in the Daily News today about a couple of local baseballers going green in a big way.

Cincinnatti Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson, who grew up in Van Nuys and honed his skills at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, and Cleveland Indians pitcher Jack Cassel, who got his start at Kennedy High School and Pierce College, have formed

Their primary crusade is to reduce the use of plastic in sports -- think of all those bottles of water and sports drinks consumed by weekend, amateur and professional players every single day. Check out Hoffarth's article and visit the WePlayGreen website and show the locals some love!

Happy Earth Day! I'm headed over to CSUN to see what the Institute for Sustainability and the Associated Student Union have cooked up. Join me -- between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Share Your Eco-Deeds

Canoga Park-based Eggology has devoted a page of its website to learning about earth-friendly activities of its customers and others in SoCal. They are also donating a percentage of online sales to the Earth Day Network.

"Together, we can crack this problem once and for all!"
E-mail a photograph or video showcasing your eco-actions, and the company will feature your submission on their site.

Pre-Earth Day Weekend Events

While the actual "Earth Day" is April 22, there are plenty of goings-on this weekend for those who want to go green. Check out the calendar over to the right of this page for a listing of what's going on in Topanga Canyon, Santa Clarita, Griffith Park, Universal City and Calabasas.

Spacecraft Land at CSUN?

Nope, those aren't flying saucers on the Cal State Northridge campus...they are the university's latest alternative energy installation.

The "pods" are part of the hydrogen fuel cell satellite plant and they are situated in a simulated rainforest environment.
Water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by the fuel cell power process is being diverted into the rainforest area so that faculty and students can study carbon sequestration by plant life. Another study will involve the recovery and diversion of CO2 to nearby biology greenhouses for agricultural studies.

A kiosk next to the fuel cell satellite plant provides visitors with statistics on energy usage at CSUN and shows how the hydrogen process works. Check it out on Earth Day, April 22, and join on-campus festivities in the University Union courtyard.

Cell Phone Recycling Week

It's Cell Phone Recycling Week! Woo hoo! Raise your phones in the air like you just don't care.

Funny stuff aside (you were laughing, come on, admit it) the EPA estimates there are at least 100 million cell phones that are no longer being used. Let's keep them out of the landfills and perhaps even make them available to others who aren't slaves to technology.

According to the press release, national retailers like AT&T and Verizon are participating in promotions and hoopla to get you to come to their store with your old, even broken, phones. But here's another idea -- Google the word "cell phone recycling" and up shall pop listings for a wide variety of charities that recycle phones for good causes. You'll get a tax write-off or just a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart going this route.

Wells Poll on Greening Small Businesses

A recent Wells Fargo/Gallup poll of small business owners focused partially on sustainability and found that while 90% of respondents had a personal commitment to green practices, they were much slower to commit their companies to those same practices. For the answers to all 11 poll questions, read this document

Buy a smart, Plant a Tree

To celebrate its one-year anniversary in the U.S., the folks behind the smart car (no capitalization required apparently) are going to plant a tree for each car sold in 2008 and 2009.

That's a nice forest -- in 2008, smart says they sold 24,622 fortwos.

Under the aegis of American Forests, the trees will grow in the Cache River State Natural Area, in southern Illinois.

Presently the only place to buy a smart in the Valley is at the Universal City dealership, although the company's website says a Thousand Oaks location is "coming soon."

Santa Clarita Greening Group Formed

This article was posted on the website of The Signal of Santa Clarita Valley on March 28.

Homeowners associations, or HOAs, act as the rule-setters for neighborhoods across the Santa Clarita Valley. If SCV Off The Grid has its way, HOAs will also become the trendsetters in the environmental movement by using their considerable clout and finances to help homeowners go green.

The SCV Off The Grid effort, which began in January, promotes awareness and implementation of large-scale retrofits for solar, wind and watershed technologies in the Santa Clarita Valley to support future marketability of property in the area. The group holds meetings every month, open to residents, to encourage ideas and create potential grass-roots coalitions. Click here to read the entire article

New Motion for L.A. Solar

The Energy and Environment Committee of the L.A. City Council passed a motion on March 25 to direct the DWP to come up with an alternative to the failed Measure B initiative. The motion states:

It is believed that the Measure failed passage because its lack of an inclusive public process in the development of the proposal. A variety of stakeholders ... expressed concern about the development of the Measure and their inability to fully engage in its inception. They also expressed concerns about its potential cost and impact on the ratepayers.
Interesting that the final sentence there isn't the first sentence. And also interesting that one of the main reasons that many voted against the proposal is the face that this is not a program that needs the voter's approval.
I THEREFORE MOVE that the Department of Water and Power, in conjunction with the City Administrative Officer and the Chief Legislative Analyst, report to the Energy and Enviromnent Committee in 30 days on an inclusive community outreach plan for the development of a solar proposal that meets the needs of interested stakeholders, and calls for the use of the most reliable technology that minimizes program cost and impact to the ratepayers.
Bets on how many dollars will be paid to an outside consulting firm to come up with the community outreach plan?

Burbank Announces $15,000 in Garden Grants

Burbank Water and Power will be offering two grants for the development of water-efficient demonstration gardens this year.

The program is anticipated to continue over the near four years.
"The grants available for the Demonstration Gardens are up to $15,000 per grant," said Joe Flores of the BWP. "There will be two grants awarded per year for the next four years totaling up to $120,000 in grant funds."

"A demonstration garden really inspires people by showing how beautiful their landscape could be while using a fraction of the water they are using now," said Timothy Wheeler, a landscape consultant. "The sponsor organization benefits by having a beautiful rich garden that increases their visibility and can help highlight their services.”

Click here to apply for the Community Demonstration Garden Grant application or contact the BWP Conservation Department at (818) 238-3730.

Burbank Green Building Forum

Burbank City Council candidate Kimberly Jo is hosting a Policy Forum on Green Building Initiatives tonight, March 25.

Speakers are Michael Cusumano, head of Cusumano Real Estate Group; Eddie Arango of the U.S. Green Building Council; Mark Greninger of County of Los Angeles Solar Map; and Jeff Bricmont who operates Modern Earth Finance.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. in Room 104 of the Community Services Building and is scheduled for just one hour, so don't be late!

CSUN, Pacoima Beautiful, Habitat

In a press release from the Cal State Northridge campus, Nichole O'Grady writes about a couple of CSUN professors who are putting their paintbrushes where their pencils have been, teaming up with Pacoima Beautiful and Habitat for Humanity.

And they're bringing their students along with them. O'Grady writes:

"Pacoima has become a focal learning tool for Cal State Northridge professor Kyriakos Pontikis. Together with associate urban studies professor Zeynep Toker and Pacoima Beautiful, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the area, Pontikis and Toker’s students have dedicated a semester to not only helping Pacoima, but also similar current and future communities design more sustainable and livable environments."

To read more, visit the CSUN press website.

County "Freecycle" Program

Just stumbled across LAcoMAX, a materials exchange website operated by the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Works. It's open to individuals, nonprofits, and businesses and works much like a Freecycle group. Let's say your business is replacing some older computers that are still quite serviceable. You can either look for an organization that is seeking such items for donation or post that you have it available. If a nonprofit gets it, you get the write-off!

Here's a sample Available! posting.

Available!! Computer tower in Area 1 ( North Hollywood, CA ).
This listing is for schools/nonprofits only.
Description: 2001 Dell computer, still workable, but outdated.

I've removed the info about contacting the poster for security purposes. The nice thing about the site is you can search by region within LA County to reduce getting a bunch of materials very far away. You can also select what type of materials you are interested in. Categories range from electronics and durable goods to construction materials and textiles.

GOOD Water Decisions

A friend posted this great diagram about the water impacts of such things as coffee vs. tea (coffee uses much more water), beef versus salad, and from GOOD, "the integrated media platform for people who want to live well and do good."
Here's how GOOD introduced the diagram:

As we become more and more aware that we may be using water at an unsustainable pace, the idea of water footprints—the amount of water an individual uses—is becoming more common.

Water footprints can be hard to calculate, depending on how far up the chain of production you go, since everything you eat and buy used some water to produce (to feed cows for beef, for example, or to use in the factory that made your cell phone.

With our latest Transparency, we give you some examples of how much water is used in some of your daily activities, so that you can begin calculate your footprint and try to reduce your gallons.

To help put things in perspective, think about this: your standard trash barrel holds 32 gallons and a mid-sized passenger car—if pumped full of water—has room for a little more than 800 gallons. So, the difference in the amount of water it takes to produce a pound of chicken and a pound of beef is enough to fill almost two whole cars.

The diagram was created through a collaboration between GOOD and Fogelson-Lubliner. SOURCES: Department of Energy; H2OConserve; IEEE Spectrum; The Water Footprint Network

Attention Online Green Marketers

In a jargon-laden press release, Westlake Village-based ValueClick Media unveiled a new Earth Day sponsorship package to "connect green marketers with environmentally conscious consumers through exclusive access to highly relevant content in the weeks and days leading up to Earth Day on April 22."

Can anyone decipher what this means: "The sponsorship includes a high percentage share of voice on a custom eco-friendly shopping micro-site within in the days leading up to Earth Day, including a featured merchant logo, product listings, center hero image and content integration."

Not being an eco-marketer, this is obviously not written for me, but even so, it seems to include a lot of nonsensical terminology. Translation anyone?

Sun Valley CNG Fueling Station Opens

Being stuck behind a school bus belching toxic diesel fumes may become a thing of the past for those in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The second-largest school district in the country today had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station in Sun Valley.

The station is the second for the district; the first opened in 2001 in the South Bay.

Currently the LAUSD has 40 CNG-powered school buses operating out of the Sun Valley transportation hub. It plans to add another 60.
With 172 CNG buses, the LAUSD boasts the largest such fleet in the state thanks in part to funding from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“As we replace our aging buses with new safe, energy-efficient, and lower-emission school buses, we will also continue to build infrastructures that support our greening efforts,” said Transportation Branch Director Enrique Boull’t.

Wedding Gown Goes Green

New entry in the "is that really green?" marketing awards is bridal designer Hanna Hartnell of Santa Monica with her self-designed "sustainable wedding dress."

Today's press release reveals how Hartnell's new design, the Double Dare Gown, can be worn "many times" beyond wedding day and describes the gown not only as cost-effective but recyclable as well.

Turns out that the dress, priced at about $1200 (that's reasonable?) is reversible, with the lining being a different color of the same silk as the wedding side. Hartnell counts the choice of fabric as being earth friendly because she uses natural silk "that's not only sustainable, but processed by a clean technology."

Since the gown can be worn more than once, Hartnell is touting it as "reusable, recycled and reduced," although I think that last word may refer to the cost, not the manufacturing process.

Valley Business Carbon Footprint Seminar

Just found out that on Thursday, Mar. 12, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA) is hosting a workshop for small businesses titled Understanding Your Carbon Footprint: Opportunities in a Changing Climate.

Topics that will be covered include: greenhouse gas emissions accounting and reporting, public company reporting obligations, and how to create a marketing opportunity and gain value from the “greening” of your business.

Public relations consultant Cerrell Associates Inc. and law firm Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. will have experts presenting on these topics.

WHERE: VICA building at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks
DATE: Thursday, March 12
TIME: 7:45 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

The Mouse Plans Cleaner House

The Walt Disney Company has produced an impressive online report outlining its environmental goals over the next three to five years as part of its annual Corporate Responsibility report.

The interactive multimedia presentation is now available online at Included is information on the company’s comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory, its plans to reduce emissions, waste, electricity, fuel and water use and its other environmental impacts.

Burbank Recycled Water Policy

The City of Burbank has made the use of recycled water mandatory for large irrigated landscaped areas. All properties with 2,500 square feet of landscaping, or that use 50,000 gallons per year of water, and that have a recycled water main will be required to comply in order to continue to receive potable water service. The move should increase the amount of water recycled in the City to more than 1 billion gallons annually, said Joanne Fletcher, assistant general manager of Burbank Water and Power.

For additional information on the Recycled Water Use Policy, contact Mathew Elsner, Principal Civil Engineer at (818) 238-3500 or visit

Los Angeles Receives Energy Star Crown

By Linda Coburn
San Fernando Valley Business Journal Staff

The Los Angeles metropolitan region was the Energy Star approved capital of the country for commercial buildings in 2008, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The distinction came in the most active year ever for the Energy Star program, according to EPA spokesperson Maura Beard.

“Over 3,200 buildings across the country earned the Energy Star in 2008,” said Beard. That was almost as many buildings as for all years of the program combined. “We had 130 percent growth over the prior year and a 53 percent increase cumulatively. It was just a huge unprecedented growth for us.”

In the greater San Fernando Valley region, 44 buildings earned the energy efficiency designation in 2008. The buildings that qualified emit 35 percent less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and reduced their energy use by 35 percent.

That translates into an average energy savings of $0.50 per square foot on average for a commercial building.

It’s important to note that the Energy Star looks purely at energy efficiency, which has little to do with installing expensive equipment like solar panels and wind turbines, and more to do with things that any business, regardless of size, can implement.

“The best way to be efficient is to look at things like the operating characteristics of your building,” said Beard. “A lot of folks, once they start measuring and monitoring with our tools, find they are heating and cooling their buildings while unoccupied. So by adjusting those operating features they’ll save energy.”

Installing sensors on light switches, automated thermostats and turning computers off at the end of the day can have a big impact on a operating costs. “And you can do that in a way that doesn’t sacrifice comfort and safety,” said Beard.

Energy Star gives its blessing to 12 different types of commercial buildings, five types of manufacturing plants, and new home construction in addition more than 50 product categories like televisions and appliances.

This article was originally posted at

Campus Teach-In Draws A Crowd

The CSUN Teach-In on Climate Change and Sustainability drew a crowd with headliner Andy Lipkis, founder of TreePeople, kicking off the day with a call to action for students and faculty alike.

Saying that everyone makes a difference, whether positive or negative, with every action or inaction, the engaging Lipkis detailed a wide variety of projects undertaken by the organization he started when he was 18 and a student at Sonoma State.

Read all about it on the Sundial website.

EPA Award Deadline Looms

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking nominations for their 2009 Western Region Environmental Awards program.

The deadline to submit nominations is February 8. Those with residences, businesses or organizations in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands are eligible.

The goal is to identify and honor those who made significant contributions toward improving the environment last year.
Click here for criteria and other information on the contest.

Two Valley residents were recognized at the 2007 awards: Dennis Washburn, then Mayor of Calabasas and presently a Calabasas City Council member; and Robina Suwol of Toluca Lake who founded California Safe Schools.

CSUN Sustainability Event

As part of a nationwide Climate Change Teach-In, California State University Northridge will be hosting an all-day event with speakers, workshops, headlined by Andy Lipkis of Tree People.

The Teach-in On Climate Change and Sustainability is open to the public.

Kickoff is at 10:45 a.m. and Lipkis will speak from 11 a.m. to noon. "I told Andy he could go on at 11 a.m. and then I realized we needed to have an introduction," said Ashwani Vasishth of the odd start time. "Plus it sticks in peoples' heads." he added with a chuckle.

Vasishth is the newly appointed director of the CSUN Sustainability Institute. He and others who have been involved in the start-up of the Institute will speak from noon to 12:30 on the CSUN Greening project. From 1:15 to 3 p.m., there will be hour-long panels covering Climate Change Science, Climate Change Policy, and Actions to Combat Climate Change Impacts.

The West Valley Occupational Center starts a new program for solar panel installers on Feb. 9.

The 100-hour program will teach participants the basics of installing photovoltaic (or PV) solar panels, said Luis A. Lopez, assistant principal of the West Valley campus. By fall, he added, "we plan on offering the advanced 300 course that leads to a state certification in solar panel installation. Eventually we plan on offering the NABEP Test here on Campus."

That test is required by contractors to be licensed in solar panel installers.

In the summer, Lopez said, WVOC will be offering a Hybrid Technology class in their automotive program. Other classes are going to be developed in that arena including hydrogen conversion kits and how to convert hybrid cars to all-electric.

For more information on the classes offered by WVOC call (818) 346-3540.


This blog started as a CSUN Student Project and thus had a student-y name: "Save the Planet, Not the Hippies." The class is over but the blog has turned into a passion for one student who sees no reason that the San Fernando Valley should not become the center of cleantech and other sustainable products and services for Southern California. Thus the name change which attempts to combine the words "sustainability" and "opportunities."

Stay tuned for information on the Valley Green Team and the Valley Green Pages, a directory of resources for businesses, consumers and organizations who share this commitment.