Main Street businesses see green

A gray Capuchin monkey with an orange apron and the face of an old man was accepting money at the Third Street Promenade. Signs read: “$1 to shake monkey's hand,” and “No photos.” A fearless toddler wearing pink Crocs held out a one-dollar bill. The monkey, restrained by a leash, hobbled over, took the dollar and stuffed it in the pocket of his smock. Then he held out his hand. The parents captured the moment on their iPhones. A passerby quietly ridiculed the crowd. "This is animal cruelty," he said as he passed, never stopping to make sure he'd been heard.

To most locals, the promenade is the ultimate shopping destination in Santa Monica, with brick roads, street performers, and a huge variety of ways to spend money. But just one short block west and a few blocks south of Pico is Santa Monica's much quieter, and much greener, Main Street.

Home to the Santa Monica community gardens and a wealth of small businesses, some are hoping to make Main St the green shopping destination.

Frank Angiuli owns Natural High Lifestyle on Main St., where he sells clothing made from sustainable fabrics like bamboo, hemp, and organic cotton. Near the register of the small shop is a farmer’s market bag with birds stenciled onto it and the words 'Fly away.' Angiuli wears light purple pants and a loose white pullover with unfinished seams. He says the clothing and accessories he sells are meant to inspire 'simple living.'

Natural High Lifestyle was one of the first businesses to be certified green by the Santa Monica College Small Business Development Center. The SBDC Green Business Certification is administered by Sustainable Works, an active non-profit in Santa Monica.

Although the city of Santa Monica offers its own Green Certification (also through Sustainable Works), it is limited to businesses with more than 5 employees. The SBDC caters to any small business, and covers a larger area than the city of Santa Monica.

The certification program helps businesses green their operations, like energy and water usage, lighting, and waste management. "Our focus is to help small businesses operate more efficiently”, says Michelle King, director of SBDC.

Steve Sedlic, a Business Advisor at the Small Business Center, has a background in finance and marketing and believes that being green is in the best interest of businesses. According to Sedlic, many small businesses don’t have the capital they need to invest in energy-efficient products and systems, even if it will save them money in the long run.

“We always save people on water and energy," says Sedlic. Although there are some additional costs that the certification demands of small businesses, such as using at least 30% post-consumer materials for all their paper, "In the end they wind up saving more than they spend."

Fresh Lunches, a small business certified by the SBDC, was able to cut energy costs by 25 percent simply by installing plastic curtains in their freezers.

At Natural High, receipts are sent by email, the furniture is from replanned wood, and the bags for your purchase are 100 percent post-consumer material.

Angiuli is working together with some of the merchants on Main St. to coin the area ‘The Green Light District,’ and hopes more of the businesses will join the certification program.

“Green means eco-friendly, but it also means safe, family-friendly. It’s going forward,” says Angiuli. He hopes the green branding will attract visitors who don’t know the area.

On the corner of Main St. and Strand are the Santa Monica community gardens, and just across the street is RAWvolution, a cozy and popular raw food restaurant who state on their menu, “As you eat our food, waves of intention ripple out the doors of our café into the larger world.”

Two doors down is another sustainable-fabric clothing store with a sign over the front door that says, “Hemp! Hemp! Hemp!” The man behind the counter is Daryl Snyder, a Santa Monica College student who is back in school training to be a registered nurse. He speaks knowledgeably about the need to legalize the growth of hemp in the United States. “They used to make ropes and sails out of hemp,” he says, explaining how durable and strong it is. However, it was outlawed in the U.S. because of its close relation to marijuana. According to Snyder, corporations who preferred cotton to hemp largely influenced that decision.

Sedlic supports the Green Light District project. He says that even before he started working at SBDC, “just living in the area and hanging out on Main St., I learned that it was called the Green Light district."

Right now he’s focused, together with the SBDC, on greening small businesses in the food industry. “There is so much waste in restaurants and in groceries,” says Sedlic. On May 2, the SBDC organized a workshop called “The Simplicity of Sustainability: Green Restaurant Operations made easy,” to educate food-service merchants in the business of going green.

“To me, green is really about intelligent design,” says Sedlic. “It’s about longevity and quality.”

Back on Main St., passerby Andrea Davidson would agree. “You can make 25,000 products out of hemp!” she says.

She says that in comparison to her native Kentucky, Maine St. is at least a 9.75 in terms of eco-friendliness.

Walking with her is Martin Dunkerton, who wears a beanie and a plaid shirt. He also thinks the area should rate highly on the scale of eco-friendliness. “Right up the street is Urth Café,” he says in an Australian accent. “Did you know that every time you buy a coffee from them you’re saving a baby gorilla? Did you see those baby gorilla faces?”

“That’s a ten right there!”