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4th Annual AltBuilt Expo:

Within the confines of an old airplane hangar, itself an example of adaptive reuse, the 4th Annual AltBuild Expo, May 19 and 20, was a diverse display of environmentally conscious building materials and methods for designing, building and decorating living spaces.

 May 19 was a trade-only day, but on May 20 people were lined up before the 10 a.m. opening time for “Trade and Public Day.”

Exhibitors offered sustainable and eco-friendly products and solutions for just about every nook and cranny of a home or office. Eco Elements displayed customized bamboo kitchen countertops, “extremely strong and durable” and “easy to clean and maintain.” Green for Baby, an organic bedding and baby clothing outlet, featured all-wool pillows and mattresses covered in organic cotton (hypoallergenic) and baby cribs made from natural woods, non-toxic, solvent-free and made without toxic glues.

Caroma, an Australian company, displayed their “dual-flush” toilet, a device that saves water by using a two-button, two-flush system (one button releases a measured amount of water for liquid and paper waste, the second releases water for solid waste).

Solar power companies and organizations were ubiquitous, including SolarCity, which is offering a Collective Power program (15 percent savings) and free solar site evaluation to Santa Monica residents through July 31, and the City’s own SolarSanta Monica program.

SolarSanta Monica offered a seminar about understanding solar power, “Solar 101.” Stuart Cooley, an energy efficiency engineer for the City, explained the different types of solar power available and what options might work best for people in different living and working environments.

“Green Schools,” another seminar, offered some insights into the way school environments should be built. John Zinner, a consultant who has advised school districts on CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) guidelines, pointed out that classrooms designed to CHPS specifications – good natural light, free of glare, northern or southern exposure, good acoustics, low-emitting materials – are more conducive to helping students learn and do well in school.

The seminar tent was at its most crowded for Ed Begley, Jr., who offered tips on the subject  “Live Simply So Others Can Simply Live.” What exactly did that mean? Begley wanted to clarify that although it might seem that only the wealthy can acquire solar devices and other energy-saving equipment, it is possible for the average person to adopt a sustainable lifestyle and actually save money by doing so.  Begley suggested, “Pick the low-hanging fruit first. Get fluorescent compact bulbs. Start a vegetable garden. If you don’t have space outdoors where you live, rent space in a community garden. Start small and build.”

Begley’s advice was echoed by Monica Gilchrist of Global Green, an organization devoted to working with governments, businesses, nonprofits and individuals to foster a more sustainable world. Interviewed at Global Green’s booth, Gilchrist told the Mirror that even Santa Monicans who rent, and those who can’t afford items like solar panels, can still find ways to be eco-friendly.

For example: a renter might want a new paint job. “Non-toxic paint can be cost-neutral,” Gilchrist observed. ”You have to make contact with your landlord. Maybe [you as] the renter can buy the paint and get reimbursed by your landlord.”

Global Green’s Santa Monica office holds periodic seminars to teach environmentalism and tips on living “green” to the public. Gilchrist also mentioned Sustainable Works, another local organization that holds regular six-week workshops that teach both homeowners and renters a more sustainable lifestyle.

“You can’t do everything,” Gilchrist summed up. “But of what you can do, there are lots of positive choices.”

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