My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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Los Angeles is green!

Tonight, i had the fortune of attending a Hollywood Hill event featuring Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley. She spoke about the moves LA is making to turn itself into a green city. The event took place at the home of the producer of “An Inconvenient Truth” and the room was filled with truly engaged Hollywood types invested in social change. The conversation was fantastic but what astounded me was just how many cool projects are taking place in Los Angeles.

My favorite project concerns “bio solids” (a.k.a. crap). When you flush your toilet, your feces is diverted to an old oil chamber where it is left to decompose. As this happens, the shit lets off a bunch of methane which is then converted into energy for the city. (Don’t worry – it’s clean by then.) How cool is that? Apparently, we’re the first city to really do this on a large scale.

Last year, 6% of the city’s energy came from renewable resources. By 2010, the goal is to have 20% of it coming from renewable resources. There are projects involving solar power, wind power, methane, and all sorts of other things. There are also projects underway to encourage the reduction of energy consumption. Building developers who are going to be LEED compliant have a much easier time getting their permits. There’s a group called 18 seconds working with large corporations to move everyone towards environmentally-friendly lightbulbs (lightbulbs can be changed in 18 seconds).

Apparently, in the 1990s, the city had all of these initiatives to move everyone to using low-flow toilets (giving them out for free across the city). The result was a 15% water savings. This is crucial considering LA has to get its water from all sorts of weird places. There are now initiatives underway to bring back the LA river (which was paved over in the 1930s as a flood prevention technique). This will allow more water, more green space, more bicycle lanes, and fewer movie-ified high speed car chases. There’s also a million trees initiative where the city will plant a million trees by 2010 in areas that desperately need them. Aside from being pretty, trees are critical to environmental ecosystems because they like to eat carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen.

I can’t even remember all of the other initiatives i heard about tonite but i’m in awe of how conscious our city government is about these issues, how they are engaging with environmental organizations and city planners, how they are working on multiple levels to address environmental issues in the city, and how they are working to make it a better, more liveable city. I have to admit that i haven’t been that proud to live in land-o-Hummers but this event made me feel much better about Los Angeles, or at least those in charge of the government.

Anyhow, yay Los Angeles! And now, if we can only figure out how to get community sidewalks and eyes on the street…. (And sssshh all of you haters out there.)

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8 comments to Los Angeles is green!

  • AJ Pikul

    The areas that receive the harshest criticism in terms of anything always seem to have the biggest rebound. It’s like some sort of elastic. I’m sure people have studied it. Anyway, look at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6337385.stm . Similar ilk.

  • Bringing back the LA River? Oh no! That’d mean the end of all the great graffiti down there (including this one by Saber— the only graffiti I know of that’s visible from space! 😉

    Oh, and yeah, Jane Jacobs totally rocks.

  • Daniel Haran

    Worldchanging had an article nearly two years ago about planting trees in LA to reduce its urban heat island effect:
    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/000587.html

    They quote $273 million saved annually for planting 10 million trees; I guess 1 million is a goal politicians could envision.

  • pjm

    I think the water issue may be the biggest one for LA (though of course energy consumption has the greatest worldwide impact.) The thing that really interests me about the area, though, is the wildfire/mudslide cycle that John McPhee wrote about in “The Control of Nature.” The mountains around the city are the fastest-rising mountain range in the world, with a very steep angle of repose, so when a wildfire burns off the vegetation (common even without people) they’re extraordinarily prone to mudslides (again, common even without people.)

  • crzwdjk

    LA is definitely improving a lot, and the 1 million trees thing is pretty cool. Especially since not one of those million trees will be a palm. Maybe we can finally have some shade on the streets, and make it easier to walk in the hot summer sun. Oh yeah, and if you want street life and the like, go to places like Koreatown or East LA. The better off parts of LA are too busy hiding from those “undesirables” to pay any attention to their own streets.

  • Check out Pacoima Beautiful for urban fixing. I particularly like their PB-YES program, but it’s all at http://www.pacoimabeautiful.org

    Here’s a Grist profile.
    http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/03/31/wiltenburg/

  • Urbanization is great – seriously. With more congestion, the effects of pollution are more obvious. As they become more obvious, people have more incentive to do something about it. Open spaces may look great, but people living so far apart tend to pollute with less compunction.

  • Hello,

    I own and operate an Environmentally friendly home, office, and event cleaning company. We use only non-toxic, biodegradable products, and we recycle all of our used materials (such as empty plastic bottles). I am trying to find out how to get my company involved with the afformentioned Los Angeles and Pasadena governments new “Green” efforts. Any contact information you have would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you.

    http://www.LAGreenClean.com