There are those of us who bemoan the un-green-ness of our neighbors and the lack of community in our ‘hoods. Then there are others who actually take action — and create a green community by convincing neighbors that’s what they want, too.
The latter, in essence, is what just a few Mar Vista residents have managed to make happen. This L.A. neighborhood’s put on both a popular Green Garden Showcase with 1,000+ attendees and a Wise Water Use Expo with local celebs in the last year. Not only that, Mar Vista residents get treated to an eco-speaker and expert at the local farmers market each week. All those green initiatives helped make Mar Vista one of the pilot program areas for the City of L.A.’s free rainwater harvesting program, allowing Mar Vistans some of the first in the city to get free rainbarrels installed in their homes.
How did Mar Vista make all this happen? The green force behind all those eco-happenings is the Mar Vista Community Council’s Green Committee. Created less than two years ago by a few eco-minded MVCC members, the Green Committee today’s a vibrant part of the Mar Vista community, educating and connecting neighbors, serving as a hub for local green resources and knowledge, and throwing the occasional big green event.
“Our focus has been serving as a connector, says Green Committee co-chair Sherri Akers (above, in the center with name badge), “really finding a way for people in the community who have this passion for making change to find each other — but also to help them find the resources they need to support these choices — in our community.”
While the Green Committee’s now a successful community group, efforts to green Mar Vista didn’t always run so smoothly. Apparently, the first year was rocky for the Green Committee. Formed back in early 2008, the three to five people on the committee, according to Sherri, had lots of well-intended intended ideas, but “no handle on where to start.” The group tried to connect the community through an educational booth with a speaker at the farmers’ market, but “it quickly became apparent that people weren’t going to make an appointment [to sit and listen to a speaker] on a Sunday at the farmers’ market,” Sherri says. “Nothing was really happening.”
That’s when the Green Committee decided to plan an event to introduce the neighborhood to the group. So in Fall 2008, the Green Committee took over the MVCC’s open community meeting, bringing in speakers to talk about everything from composting to solar power. “The turnout was unbelievable,” Sherri says. “And it gave people the chance to find out that there were so many like-minded people in the community.”
That event served as a wakeup call of sorts, opening the way for a big Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase (above are the showcase participants) in April this year, which let 1,000+ people take tours of 44 local lawns and gardens turned into drought-resistant or edible landscapes. Then came the Water Use Expo in July, featuring L.A. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and actorvist Ed Begley, Jr.
All this greening work’s also gotten the Mar Vista community some nice eco-bonuses from the city, too. After all, city councilmembers are more likely to select a location where they know people will get behind the programs. “They knew we’d do a lot to make it happen,” Sherri says, pointing out Mar Vista’s not only a pilot area for the L.A. rainwater harvesting program — but also on the list for a pilot green street program.
Now the group’s come full circle. The farmers market booth gets steady traffic all day, with the experts and speakers talking one-on-one with residents about how they can apply eco-changes to their individual lives.
Was the Mar Vista community simply more green than other communities to begin with, thus making the Green Committee’s work easy? “I don’t think it’s that Mar Vista has more eco-friendly people than anywhere else,” says Sherri. “We’ve just found this channel to find each other.”
Want your neighborhood to have a Green Committee? All it takes is a few people, Sherri says. “It really is neighbor-to-neighbor. Find three or four people who are like minded, then approach the city council or neighborhood association.” Then let your neighbors know the new green group exists. “Hijack something that happens anyway and give it a green flavor,” Sherri advises.
And rest assured that it won’t always be the three or four of you pulling all the weight. “One important key to our success is that this is such a hands on community, with so many people willing to volunteer and contribute,” Sherri says. When we put on events, it truly seems effortless because so many people pitch in!”
Photos and image via MVCC Green Committee