May 20, 2011

Green Weekend

Los Angeles

Though synonymous with glitz, glamour and, well, traffic, Los Angeles is also home to more EnergyStar-certified buildings than any other city. A quick getaway to L.A. can be made as green as you choose, with a variety of accommodations and activities available within a short distance.

Though it's consistently listed as one of the nation's top polluted cities, L.A. has several sustainable activities for residents. Photo: Wikimedia/Thomas Pintaric

Activity: With so many beaches nearby, beach cleanups are regularly scheduled year-round activities any eager individual can take part in. They’re also a fun way to escape the city center for a bit, meet new people, while doing something productive at no cost.

Eat: Finding a green restaurant in Los Angeles is quite easy as the Green Restaurant Association certifies nearly 20 restaurants in the area. Mendocino Farms, for example, is a neighborhood sandwich eatery and marketplace.

Mendocino Farms uses local, organic and seasonal ingredients; recycled, tree-free, biodegradable and organic products for service-ware; and of course, recycle their waste. Average menu item is $7-$10.

Other restaurants may not be certified by the Green Restaurant Association, but they are definitely leading the way in sustainability. Street works with sustainable fisheries, local family farms and sustainable ranches to supply the menu.

As part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, they serve lesser known sustainable seafood and distribute pocket seafood guides to customers. They never serve bottled water, use recycled and/or biodegradable containers and only produce 3 percent pure waste, as the rest is recycled and composted. The average lunch and dinner prices are $10-$15.

by Lori Brown of Earth 911.

Excerpt taken from her article 10 Green Weekend Trips near You.

May 17, 2011

A Green Commute

For those who must drive.

Within the U.S., approximately 77% of us insist on driving alone to work, burning up 34% of the energy used in getting around. Yet we still want to do the right thing. Luckily, the following considerations can help.

  • Avoid high speeds. Calculations demonstrate a decrease of 3 miles per gallon between 55-65 mph, which rises to 4.3 mpg between 55-70 because of wind resistance.
  • Avoid jackrabbit starts. Gentle acceleration definitely cuts down on gas usage. The "Driving Change" pilot program in the Denver area harnesses an innovative accelerometer (made by Cartasite, Inc.) with the access of the Internet to help motorists track their driving techniques in an effort to help reduce air pollution and increase mpg.
  • Avoid unnecessary sudden braking. Coast to a stop to save gas and lower the amount of asbestos fibers in the air.
  • Only use "cruise control" on the open highway. In heavy traffic, it simply wastes gas.
  • Practice optimized shifting techniques. Get into higher gears as quickly as possible.
  • Switch off the air conditioner to save 5% to 15% of the energy your car uses.
  • If idling is anticipated for over 60 seconds, shut the engine off.
  • Lighten the load: 1% of fuel efficiency is lost for every 50 pounds of extra weight in your trunk.
  • Remove bike, luggage, or ski racks from the top of your SUV or truck for less wind resistance.
  • Keep tires fully inflated to manufacturer's specifications for a 3% gas savings.
  • Use a multi-grade (versus "straight") motor oil to improve mileage by 1.5% to 2.7%.
  • Keep your vehicle in good state of tune.

Lastly, practice combining errands. This reduces "cold starts," which account for a disproportionate amount of air pollution.

By David Rizzo

May 16, 2011

Green your Events and Celebrations

Whether it’s a holiday party, board meeting, graduation ceremony, or school picnic, you can easily plan and create greener events. From location, to invitations, to the food you serve and what you serve it on, you can reduce the carbon footprint by reducing waste and conserving resources -- all while modeling sustainable behavior for the kids.

Choose a few or all of the tips and green event resources below to green your next school event:

Invitations and Programs:

  • Save money and reduce paper waste by using Paperless Post, Evite, Sendomatic, or a similar online invitation service.
  • Print programs on recycled content paper.
  • Choose daytime outdoor events -- often doable even in the winter in California. They typically use less energy than indoor evening events.
  • Make sure your location is easily accessible, and encourage attendees to carpool, bike or walk.
  • Provide information about public transportation options.
Decorations & Party Favors:
  • Decorations: Avoid plastic tablecloths -- use paper or cloth. Consider natural decorations (interesting succulents, flowering plants, stones, bare branches decorated with ornaments or ribbon, etc.) that are biodegradable or reusable.
  • Party favors can be eco-friendly and reusable – a t-shirt, a stainless steel water bottle, potted herbs, fair trade chocolates.
  • For elegant and creative décor, gifts and food ideas, see San Francisco’s Temple Emanu ElGreen Celebrations guide (pdf). Also see Green Party Goods for other ideas.
Avoid plastics and non-recyclables: Skip individual plastic water bottles and juice boxes (not recyclable). Drinks in aluminum, glass or plastic containers are recyclable. Or large reusable water dispensers can be used for water or to mix frozen juices.

  • Serve local and organic food when possible, and offer a vegetarian option.
  • To avoid waste, be careful not to overbuy.
  • Arrange with a local food bank to pick up leftovers at the end of the event.
  • Use reusable serving dishes, plates, cups, and utensils – it’s the greenest option. Reusable foodware may be purchased by the school, the Parent Association and/or rented or brought from home.
  • Get students and parents involved in clean up – this should not become a teacher responsibility. Engage several classes in making the event green: separating recyclables correctly, helping clean up, washing dishes.
  • If using disposable foodware, buy compostable foodware (then make sure it goes in the compost!) and/or foodware with recycled content, like paper plates made from recycled paper. Our Green Schools Buying Guide has a downloadable directory of sources for compostable and biodegradable foodware. Vendors of compostable foodware include:
Learn more by checking out the Green School Initiative Webiste

May 5, 2011


Though many think Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, it’s not (that’s Sept. 16). The real significance of the day is that it commemorates the Battle of Puebla, during which Mexican fighters defeated a French military force twice as large. Though it was Mexico’s win, the improbable David-and-Goliath victory has, in America, turned into a good excuse for people from all backgrounds to come together, drink, eat, and partake in general revelry.

Like the battle that inspired these colorful festivities, the environmental struggle we’re now engaged in is one that we can win, no matter how insurmountable it may seem. In that spirit, we’ve culled five tips that’ll help you keep your Cinco de Mayo green:

1. Drinks: We may as well admit it: “Cinco de Drinko” is in large part about imbibing. If you’re hosting a party and are serving beer, opt for a keg – but if you can’t get one, choose glass bottles over aluminum cans. For advice about which brews to buy, check out Sierra magazine's taste test of eco-friendly beers. For all your margarita needs, go for an organic brand of tequila like Casa Noble or 4 Copas. Avoid disposable cups, and recycle all glass, aluminum, and plastic.

2. Food: Mexican food is easy to vegetarian-ize, and beans or mushrooms can be excellent substitutes for beef, chicken, or pork. (Watch this great video to find out about the environmental benefits of going meatless once a week.) Whatever food you serve or eat, try to ensure that it’s organic and made of local, seasonal ingredients. If you’re entertaining, go for reusable plates and silverware; the disposable kind may be easier to deal with, but it’s making a mess of our world.

3. Culture: Practice your Spanish and learn how to make a difference by visiting the redesigned Sierra Club Spanish-language website, Ecocentro, at

4. Transportation: Since Cinco de Mayo falls on a Thursday this year, you’ll likely have to commute from the office to whatever celebration you’ve chosen to attend. After being a good, green employee all day, carry those habits into the evening by walking, biking, carpooling, or hopping on public transit to the party.

5. Cleanup: If you’re lucky enough to live where it’s temperate enough to celebrate outdoors, make sure to carry out everything you carried in. Better yet, if you see someone else’s litter lingering after they leave, take that with you too lest it end up harming an animal or making our oceans’ problems worse.

--Avital Binshtock