After two days of sitting in on some fascinating panels about environmental preservation, I found myself completely bewildered. While I felt inspired to start living my life in a more conscious manner, I had absolutely no idea where to begin. Should I buy a hybrid car, equip my house with solar panels, low-flow devices, composters? I probably should have already done all of these things, but having done none of them, I felt completely overwhelmed. Luckily, just one week later I was given the task of writing an article on Sustainable Works, an organization which specifically helps individuals identify their environmental impact, and provides them with ways to reduce the ecological footprint that they are leaving behind.
Sustainable Works is a non-profit organization funded by the city of Santa Monica and housed in the Center for Environmental and Urban Studies (CEUS) on the Santa Monica College campus. The group leads sustainable ‘crews’ and sustainable ‘greening projects’ for students, residents, and businesses. Sustainable crews are programs for students and residents, that cost $25 per person and last eight weeks on average. The goal of a sustainable crew is to educate students and residents on how to live in a more sustainable manner.
The first and last weeks of a sustainable crew serve as introductions and conclusions to the program. The six weeks in between are devoted to one of six issues: energy, water, waste, chemicals, transportation or purchasing. At the start of each program, every participant (there are usually 10-20) is given a lifestyle survey. The survey covers issues such as weighing one’s trash and measuring how much gas one uses, as well as looking at the chemicals in one’s house or business, the utility bills, the number of low flow devices installed, and even the food that one eats. At the end of each week, ten recommendations are made with the top three highlighted as the very least or most that one can do. When the eighth week arrives, each participant is given the same lifestyle survey that was completed during the first week, so that he or she may measure their progress since beginning the program. Most participants that complete the Sustainable Works programs have reduced their trash by 50% and increased their recycling by 50%.
Sustainable Works also manages sustainable ‘greening projects.’ These projects are set up as free consultations for businesses in Santa Monica that have the vision of becoming more ecologically sound. Businesses that have completed the Sustainable Works programs have, as a whole, achieved a minimum of 50% waste reduction; 100% of participating businesses have installed low-flow devices in their offices. Not to mention that 80% of last years’ Sustainability Quality Award winners have been through the business greening program. The business greening program is currently working with the city of Santa Monica to create a Green Business certification.
In addition to the most obvious contributions that Sustainable Works is making in people’s lives, the organization also contributes 1200 hours of community service to 20 local organizations. While residents and businesses in Santa Monica can sign up for a sustainable greening project for free, residents and business outside Santa Monica must pay a small fee. If you, like me, are looking for a way to help preserve the environment on a daily basis, Sustainable Works is an excellent place to start.