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Green Up Your Act with Sustainable Works:

How can you tell if you’re ready for a “Green Living Workshop?”

That cute Rustic Canyon waiter won’t give you the time of day till you start composting;

A visit from the ghost of species past shattered your holiday shopping reverie;

You saw An Inconvenient Truth and resolved to do…something. Anything.

Whatever the impetus for your green-naissance, you’re ripe to reduce, but overwhelmed by the recent explosion of environmental messaging to hit the mainstream: organic vs. local, biodiesel vs. electric, carbon offsets, biodegradable plastics and – oh my god, are we really running out of sushi???

Deciphering the myriad eco labels, libel and legends these days seems to require a PhD – and nerves of recycled steel. Fortunately, local nonprofit Sustainable Works will guide you through the ins and outs of low impact living, and introduce you to a growing green community along the way. Funded by the City of Santa Monica and Santa Monica College, Sustainable Works is committed to fostering a sense of sustainability in cities, colleges and businesses.

In 2001, Sustainable Works launched an experimental “Green Team” program, small groups of residents meeting in homes or cafes for a six-week workshop on Green Living. Each week residents would discuss a different topic with a trained instructor – water, energy, waste, transportation, household chemicals and food/shopping – focusing on ways to save valuable resources, lower utility bills, reduce unnecessary waste and keep toxic materials out of the home.

Now known as “Green Living Workshops,” the program continues, steadily building a cadre of eco-savvy citizens committed to leaving a lighter “footprint” upon our unparalleled surroundings. Workshop participants do indeed measure their environmental impact through completing a comprehensive before and after lifestyle survey. Seeing what just a few small changes look like in kilowatts, gallons and pounds of carbon emissions saved inspires people towards even greater green heights.

When I first learned of this workshop years ago, I already considered myself well evolved in the eco-arena, and probably “beyond” the course. So I was pleasantly surprised when, having now joined Sustainable Works’ staff, I sat in on my first class and discovered “Miss Green” had much to learn. Here are just a few tips that hadn’t entered my quotidian eco-arsenal:

Installing faucet aerators in my kitchen/bathroom sinks. Cheap, user-friendly and readily available, these tiny metal nuggets can cut water usage in half, adding air to maintain pressure at lower volumes;

Keeping my car tires inflated. A biker should know this. It takes extra effort to pedal with flat tires; in cars, this effort translates to a 4-8 percent increase in fuel consumption;

Unplugging unused devices. I’m fairly vigilant here, but with much room for improvement, hadn’t realized the extent to which electricity is sapped powering machines on “standby” – TV, stereo, computer, etc.

There were numerous others – far more than I’d care to admit.

Most of us, by virtue of living in a busy, urban environment, are…well, busy. Reusing shower water for houseplants, checking tire pressure, installing a faucet aerator – all of these virtuous tasks tend to fall by the wayside…until we are kept honest by telling a group of people we’ll commit, given to understand why this is important and handed a free aerator to take home and install: tonight. (Hint: the green goody giveaways are indeed part of the workshop – $100 worth of free tools.)

Many of these bite-sized behavior changes may sound like insignificant details faced with the global warming juggernaut. Yet this vision of the planet as infinitely tolerant of our infinite abuse is precisely what landed us here in the first place. We’re now faced with the “inconvenient truth” that our actions – multiplied by generations, across cities, states and nations – carry a heavy collective weight.

So lest we condemn our grandchildren to oxygen masks and jellyfish sushi, we must begin making the small changes, inspire those around us to follow our lead and educate ourselves to be better leaders. Today.

The next workshop cycle begins Monday, January 22, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., at the Unurban Café, 3301 Pico Boulevard. For more info or to register, contact Sustainable Works, 310.458.8716 x1 or go to

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