Sustainable Works Working Towards Building You A Better Future

Did you know that the number one pollutant in the Santa Monica Bay is urban storm run-off? Did you know that the number one cause of industrial air pollution in America is the production of electricity? What about the fact that if only 15 percent of all college students across the country would use mugs instead of disposable cups, it would reduce 1 billion pieces of trash annually?

With that in mind, what can an individual Santa Monica College student do to decrease these awful statistics and make a difference on our planet? If you said nothing, you're dead wrong! The answer lies in joining a Sustainable Crew.

On Thursday, Feb. 24, the first of a series of Environmental Lectures had guests from Sustainable Works, a nonprofit organization based out of Santa Monica to help SMC students, residents and businesses reduce waste, save energy, and conserve water.

They focus on six main topics, and have many different programs and services offered to help clean the environment and teach people to live eco-friendly lives.

"Sustainable Works has done so many wonderful things for our community. This is one of the most important efforts in Santa Monica and the Westside," said Bill Selby, a geography professor who hosted the free lecture for SMC students, and members of the community of Santa Monica.

Aside from giving lectures, Sustainable Works offers a six week workshop entitled, "How to Live Sustainable." The topics covered in the program are transportation, energy, waste, water conservation, chemicals and consumer habits in shopping and food.

Ferris Kawar, who runs one of the six-week programs, says that he can help cut down costs on water and energy bills, as well as reduce junk mail by 75 percent. The goal is to cut down wasting valuable resources. Each six-week program has six to 10 people in each group, and meetings are held once a week, with one topic being covered each week.

"People who take this workshop aren't just learning important principles," Kawar said, "they are creating a sense of community."

In the past, most of his students have seen reduced costs in their water and energy bills. He uses himself as an example pointing out that he and his wife, who live in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Santa Monica pay $11 to $14 per month on their energy bill.

Suzy Holyhead, who is in charge of the Business Greening Program, told the audience how Sustainable Works has helped 50 local businesses so far reduce waste, conserve water, start employment recycling programs, and reduce the cost of water and energy bills.

"Usually we work with 16 to 20 businesses per year," she said. The program includes free employee training programs, incentives and rebate programs for employees who make eco-friendly choices such as walking or riding bikes to work, on-site assessments, and writing recommendations and commendations reports. "Nothing is forced though," Holyhead pointed out.

"We also track successes of businesses who use our program. Our biggest success so far has been the Santa Monica Waste Collection program, as well as the Food Scraps Program, in which leftover food from hotels and restaurants is collected each month and taken to a center in Bakersfield to make compost," said Holyhead.

"You don't have to be a tree hugger to make a difference," said Maryam Hall, student program director. "Just by improving life, and producing less waste, we can all make a difference."

Though the programs are currently open to only Santa Monica residents, or SMC students, every member hopes that one day other cities, and soon the entire county and state will follow in Santa Monica's footsteps. "Knowledge is action," said Hall. "We need to redefine our community. This is just the start."

Last semester, approximately 160 SMC students completed the Sustainable Crews program (formerly the Santa Monica Green Team Project).

In addition to learning about sustainable practices and issues, students also provided almost 500 hours of community service, including special projects on the SMC campus.

"The presentation was just amazing," said Derek Popham, a SMC student who plans to major in geography and environmental science. "What they are doing for the city is just awesome. It's genius."

For information about Sustainable Crew and Sustainable Works, contact Susy Holyhead at (310) 458-8176, ext. 2, or Last day for crew sign-up is March 10.