The City and the Chamber of Commerce presented the 12th annual Santa Monica Sustainable Quality Awards (SQA) at a Fairmont Miramar luncheon that was itself a tribute to eco-friendly practices. Dean Kubani, Manager of the City’s Environmental Programs Division, explained that the Miramar hotel had been selected for its many “green” programs, the organizers had purchased carbon credits through TerraPass to offset the CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions generated by the event and the guests traveling to it, the luncheon programs had been printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink, and all of the organic waste left over from the meal would be composted.
Actor and environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr. emceed the May 15 awards presentation, and Cindy Tuck, Assistant Secretary for Policy of the California Environmental Protection Agency, delivered the keynote address to an audience of nearly 250. (Kubani remarked that when City Councilmember Kevin McKeown arrived, he looked around the room at the crowd and said, “What’s happened? We used to have these things and there was nobody but just us chickens.”)
The growth in the impact and influence of sustainability was also noted by Begley, who said that this is “a time of opportunity – we once were overcome by [environmental] problems, and we are now being overcome by solutions.” Helping to select the best solutions is the job of Sustainable Works, a local nonprofit funded by the City of Santa Monica, whose work in “promoting sustainable practices in the urban environment” (its motto) assisted four of the six businesses that were awarded the SQA Grand Prize this year.
Kubani explained that Santa Monica businesses were judged in three categories: stewardship of the environment, excellence in economic development and excellence in social responsibility. The Grand Prize winners rated “excellent” in all three categories. Businesses rated “excellent” in one or two were given Excellence Awards.
The six Grand Prize winners were: Eco-Limo, with its fleet of hybrid, CNG and biodiesel-fueled vehicles; The Phelps Group, an integrated marketing communications firm with eco-friendly offices, employee profit sharing and pro bono work; reDiscover, which rescues discarded business materials from the waste stream and makes them available for use in educational programs; RMC Water & Environment, an engineering firm specializing in water recycling and water resource management, and practicing energy conservation in the office; Wilshire Restaurant, serving locally grown produce and sustainably harvested and organic meats in a setting built with eco-friendly materials; and Yoga Works, which has a responsible employee benefits package, and which convinced its office supply company, Staples, to carry permanent lines of biodegradable cleaners.
Excellence Awards were given to four firms: London Sole (environment), California Recycles (environment and economic development), Ramer Architecture (environment and social responsibility) and Venice Family Clinic (environment and social responsibility).
In her keynote address, Cindy Tuck said that the State’s environmental programs are based on the theme that threats to the environment are by their nature also threats to the economy. Under these circumstances, she said, “It would be irresponsible not to act.”