[Gina is a USC Film School Graduate. She works with Global Green USA and is a guest blogger for the Green Blog Network.]
Environmental nonprofit Global Green USA celebrated its 15th annual Millennium Awards at a star-studded fundraising gala at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica on Saturday. Celebrity guests and presenters included Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Guest, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr and Adrian Grenier.
One of the evening’s high-profile honorees was actor Mark Ruffalo, recently nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Kids are Alright. Actress Laura Dern presented Ruffalo with his honor for his work to eliminate the controversial hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a., “hydrofracking,” a chemical process that fractures shale in order to retrieve oil and natural gas. The process, as seen in the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, has been shown to contaminate water supplies to the point of becoming flammable. Ruffalo has testified before Congress, arguing for a ban on the practice and has started his own foundation, Water Defense, to educate the public on the dangers of hydrofracking.
Ed Begley, Jr. was also among the honorees, for his work to inspire others to create a more sustainable world. Featured on the reality program, Living with Ed, the actor and Studio City resident has become associated with the ultimate in green living – even going as far as generating power for his home via stationary bicycle. Other honorees included the Los Angeles Business Council for their work to encourage the use of solar power in the city, and Wendy Schmidt, founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation and the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Prize.
“Thanks to our sponsors, including Sprint, 360 Vodka and dozens more, Global Green raised over $470,000 to support our local and national initiatives,” noted Global Green’s Communications Director Ruben Aronin. “We are so excited to celebrate the impressive achievements of our 2011 Millennium Awards Honorees,” said Global Green President and CEO Matt Petersen. “It’s particularly auspicious to celebrate these leaders as World Environment Day approaches and we mark the one-year countdown to the Rio Earth Summit in 2012, when our global leaders will gather to make commitments to make our world more sustainable. Global Green will be marshaling its supporters to call for local and community-based approaches to solving climate change, including creating greener cities, schools and affordable housing for families.”
The conference, hosted by the Los Angeles Business Council (LABC) and now in its ninth year, brought together a well-spoken group of leaders from the real estate, transportation, government, finance and planning communities. With a strong lineup of panelists and the show ably MC’ed by City Controller Wendy Greuel, I found myself busily scribbling away as speaker after speaker described successes and the many challenges they face in working to build sustainable housing and mixed use developments in LA County and elsewhere. http://joelepstein.com/
Sustainable Housing, 30/10 and Public Transit in LA
With last week’s epiphany on how the unions should be investors in LA’s 30/10 Initiative going nowhere, I was free to attend Wednesday’s Mayoral Sustainable Housing and Transportation Summit. 30/10 is an innovative idea for accelerating construction of 12 critical voter-approved transportation construction projects in 10 years instead of 30. The conference, hosted by the Los Angeles Business Council (LABC) and now in its ninth year, brought together a well-spoken group of leaders from the real estate, transportation, government, finance and planning communities. With a strong lineup of panelists and the show ably MC’ed by City Controller Wendy Greuel, I found myself busily scribbling away as speaker after speaker described successes and the many challenges they face in working to build sustainable housing and mixed use developments in LA County and elsewhere. LA remains one of the least affordable residential markets in the country and the conference effectively underscored the importance of removing obstacles to building in the city so that working people can find affordable, sustainable housing in safe neighborhoods with good schools within easy commuting distance of their jobs. Yes, that’s a lot of modifiers. The three panels that made up the generally well-paced program explored [different] definitions of sustainable communities, resources to support a sustainable community, and best practices for sustainable community development.
In the second panel discussion Larry Parks of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco captured the challenge explaining that affordable housing developers and transit-oriented development (TOD) advocates need to do a better job of conveying to the media and policy makers that TOD reduces the amount of household income residents must spend on transportation from 25 percent to 9 percent. Given my bias toward transit-oriented development and sustainable communities with a strong public transit component, my favorite comments came from Metro’s Art Leahy, Senior Deputy Dan Rosenfeld from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ office and John Huskey, CEO of Meta Housing. I am paraphrasing, but here is what I heard them say and/or why their comments rang true. In his comments Leahy forcefully drove home how Metro’s extensive and costly building program supported by revenue from voter-approved Measure R will create a true transit system out of our already extensive collection of bus and rail lines. This will mean a significantly more transit-oriented LA, conducive to greater mobility for those smart enough, or with no choice but, to ride Metro. Unlike some others in this town who advocate for greater mass transit but don’t themselves take Metro, Leahy earns our respect in part because he is a customer, as well as Metro’s CEO, who uses the system as often as he can. Rosenfeld focused on the need to rally around greater density at Metro stations and to implement changes that make land acquisition and development around the stations easier. He bemoaned the fact that South LA, from Wilshire Blvd south to Long Beach has seen no transit oriented development around its rail stations even though the area has long had the Metro Blue and Green Lines. Huskey of Meta Housing captured my imagination with his candid comments about the challenges of developing Adams & Central, a new mixed use development in what was once the heart of LA’s African-American community and an R&B and jazz Mecca. Coincidentally, at the recommendation of Councilwoman Jan Perry I had visited the impressive development which includes a Fresh & Easy supermarket just last week. At least during the day, the development and the market are the envy of most mixed use developments and supermarkets in West LA. Many of the other speakers spoke of LA’s critical 30/10 Initiative, including Metro Board member Richard Katz who reminded us that those who are speaking of the death of 30/10 are underestimating the merits of the program and the hard work that has gone into creating an infrastructure financing model for the nation. Katz’ wise counsel to the media, including yours truly, is worth heeding, just as many were forecasting Measure R’s demise just before it was approved by a two thirds majority of County voters in November 2008. Given the sustainability theme, the conference featured some nice touches including a cloth conference tote that will make a nice shopping bag now that the County Board of Supervisors has passed a sweeping ban on plastic shopping bags. The wasteful bags have become known as urban tumbleweed that all too rarely gets recycled. The LABC tote included a soon to be collectible “Watts Is Worth It” reusable coffee mug, grace à the LA Housing Authority’s Jordan Downs Redevelopment. At breakfast and lunch, what looked like biodegradable cutlery and unbleached paper napkins accompanied the food. Nice, though as Metro’s Leahy noted, is there really a plentiful water source in Las Vegas, where the bottled water provided to the panelists came from? Am I the only one who remembers when conferences provided a pitcher of ice water and glasses to their presenters? One more criticism of the otherwise excellent sustainable housing and transportation conference. It appeared as if I was as guilty as most of the other attendees in driving alone to the early morning event at UCLA’s Anderson School. Maybe next year LABC can organize a shuttle from the Metro Wilshire 720 Rapid, the Metro 2 and other buses that make stops in Westwood. All small issues. Kudos to the LABC for organizing this important conference! Oh, one more thing. The Mayor spoke as well. Joel Epstein is a Los Angeles-based public transportation advocate and also a contributor to the Huffington Post. http://joelepstein.com/
Building a Green Economy: Connecting Sustainability to Business and Job Creation
A Successful Spring Day of Salons and Solar Powered Possibilities
On April 6th, LABC held the 4th Annual Sustainability Summit at the Getty Center. Key players from the public and private sectors converged, making our Summit prescient and brimming with powerful ideas about, as the summit’s title suggests, Building a Green Economy: Connecting Sustainability to Business and Job Creation.
A Solar Plan That’s a Perfect FiT for LA:
LABC Releases a Much Needed Solar Study at the 2010 Sustainability Summit
A centerpiece of the Summit was the release of our Study, Designing an effective Feed-in Tariff for Greater Los Angeles (LINK UPDATED:Click for PDF). This study, the result of a partnership between LABC and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, and a working group of local businesses and public-sector institutions, examines the potential for solar Feed-in Tariff (FiT) programs in Los Angeles County. The study details how a 500 megawatt FiT program in LA would allow businesses and residents to install solar panels on their roofs and parking lots and sell the power generated back to the local utility. For each kilowatt-hour fed back into the power grid, participants would receive a payment back from the utility.
Relying on advanced economic modeling and interviews with businesses and residents in Los Angeles County, the study finds that regional FiT programs would unleash a new source of cost-effective solar energy and spur significant economic growth. The LABC policy recommends a 10 year Solar FiT that would generate 500 megawatts of electricity. This program would meet three percent of the city’s energy needs, create more than 11,000 local green jobs and produce long-term cost savings for businesses, ratepayers and the LADWP.
UCLA Professor J.R. DeShazo, who authored the study and serves as the Director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, presented key findings of the report at the Summit. “If the correct design guidelines are put in place, ratepayers will save money over the life of a ten-year FiT program as the cost of installing solar panels continues to fall and the price of fossil fuels rises,” said DeShazo. “Moreover, developing the country’s largest Feed-in Tariff would signal a long-term political commitment to greening Los Angeles that could be used as an incentive to attract cleantech firms to our region and keep them here.”
Since introducing the FiT study at the Summit, we have been presenting its findings to key policymakers in the city from the Mayor’s Office, City Hall, and the DWP Board of Commissioners. For informaiton on LABC’s Solar FiT initiatives, please contact SolarFiTLA@labusinesscouncil.org
2010 LABC Sustainability Summit:
The Summit focused on topics relating to sustainability, each addressed by panels comprised of public and private sector leaders. Below is a recap of what the panelists had to say:
Panel 1: Salon of Masters—Discussion of Best Practices Among Sustainable Industry Pioneers
From left: The Honorable Jerry Brown, California Attorney General; Lauralee Martin, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Operating and Financial Officer, Jones Lang LaSalle; Scott Lyle, Senior Vice President of Operations, GE/Arden Realty, Inc.; Kevin Ratner, President, Forest City Residential West; Joseph Pettus, Senior Vice President of Fuel and Energy, Safeway, Inc.
Moderated by Scott Lyle of Arden Realty, the “Salon of Masters” was a discussion among innovators of Sustainability. California Attorney General (and Gubanatorial candidate) Jerry Brown and Forest City West’s president, Kevin Ratner reflected upon the obstacles surmounted and in-roads made in their respective roles in revitalizing downtown Oakland. Ratner was the project’s developer and Brown was the Mayor at the time. Both, in the words of Brown, worked to “create vitality” by sending thousands of people to live in Downtown Oakland to revitalize it, and create “elegant density.”
Joseph Pettus, Safeway’s Senior Vice President of Fuel and Energy, described Safeway’s path to sustainability from the purview of a company that is one of California’s largest employers and the largest consumer of electricity in the state. Pettus explained that Safeway was one of the first organizations to support AB 32 as well as support cap and trade. They reduced their carbon footprint by more than 10% in just a year, and changed their truck fleet to biodiesel fuel—all this was done to lower costs. Lauralee Martin, Global Chief Operating and Financial Officer, Jones Lang LaSalle reflected upon her “long passion for the environment” and described key questions her company asks with regards to sustainability (whose footprint should we measure – the consumers’ or the producers’?) while identifying the challenges and opportunities when it comes to sustainable business practices. Focusing on key words, “Passion” and “Confusion,” she illustrated how passion relates to the fact that people care and confusion relates to the fact that being a leader in sustainability requires you to do things that have not yet been done, meaning success might not be easy to measure.
Panel 2: Finding Incentives for Renewables that Work
From left: Paul Gipe, Founder, Wind Works; J.R. DeShazo, Professor of Public Policy and Director, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation; Randy Britt, Director of Sustainability Initiatives, Los Angeles Unified School District; Mary Nichols, Chairman, California Air Resources Board; The Honorable Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Councilmember; Steve Hill, President, Kyocera Solar Inc.; Pedro Pizarro, Executive Vice President of Power Operations, Southern California Edison
The second panel, moderated by Mary Nichols, focused on incentives for implementing renewable energy. The conversation among this group of public and private sector experts touched upon the need for, as Councilmember Paul Krekorian put it, “market driven policies,” and each offered observations from their diverse perspectives as private and public leaders in the field of sustainability. Paul Gipe, Founder, Wind Works,and an expert in renewable energy, explained the need for big solar goals and the importance of community involvement and education on the issue (See Gipe’s report on the Summit and the LABC Solar Study here/ and his NYT story on our FiT Study). Steve Hill, President, Kyocera Solar, spoke from his experience as the President of Kyocera Solar, a manufacturer of photovoltaic solar panels, describing the importance of keeping manufacturing close to the market and the importance of flexibility and transparency in business and in policy.
Panel 3: Financing and Developing Green Business
From left: Greg Medeiros, Vice President of Community Development, Centennial Founders; Adam Werbach, Global Chief Executive Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi S; Alan Rothenberg, President, Board of Airport Commissioners, Los Angeles World Airports; Tom Roell, Group Executive, Parsons; Bill Black, Director of Strategic Solutions, Haworth, Inc.; Tom Unterman, Founder and Managing Partner, Rustic Canyon Partners
Alan Rothenberg, President, Board of Airport Commissioners, Los Angeles World Airports, led this broad discussion with a diverse panel of green business leaders by explaining the incredible progress made at LAX with the Tom Bradley Terminal that will be LEED certified , completed on time and on budget, and that also happens to be the largest public works project in LA. The panelists spoke of ways they have met the worthy challenges of green business, from Greg Maderios’ eco-conscious and sustainable development in Tejon Ranch, to Adam Warbach, Global CEO, Satchi & Satchi S’s call for us to rethink the prevailing approaches to environmentalism, rooted in 1970s thinking. Part of that relates to his client, Walmart (a perceived enemy of environmentalism in the past), and its incredible goal to eventually run operations on 100 renewable energy, produce zero waste, and have 100 percent sustainable products on their shelves.