Local Climate Leadership: Garrett Wong

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Garrett Wong is Senior Sustainability Analyst for the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment and will be a guest speaker at our next Leadership Circle Quarterly Meeting on February 7th.

Tell us about your work related to climate.

I lead policy, programs and projects in climate action & adaptation planning, energy efficiency and renewable energy and electric vehicle charging. We started with the City’s first Climate Action Plan in 2013; an EV Action Plan in 2017 and now a forthcoming Climate Action & Adaptation in 2018.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

I spent a year in India working on sustainable development issues. There, many Indians admire the US for its wealth and aspire to have more things like Americans do. From then, I felt it was necessary to make my community (SoCal), a better example of sustainability.

I feel really wonky, but I like doing GHG inventories and plans. It’s technical, yet bridges many sectors so it requires a breadth of knowledge and engagement with others.

Also, I have a daughter now and it’s pretty grim to think about the world she is growing up in.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

Time and capacity. Which also means there is a lot of great work to do and I just can’t do it all. Our team is growing, as it used to be just me, so it’s getting easier.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

  1. Make Santa Monica its own CCA (don’t tell anyone else that!).
  2. Pull together some kind of cross-sectoral turnkey project and finance delivery model to address multitenant building needs (energy, water, solar, storage, EVs, seismic).
  3. A sweet RV to travel all the national parks.
Posted on Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

California Leads on Lighting Efficiency

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How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

California legislators recently put a new twist on this riddle and instead asked, “How many lumens does it take to make a change?”

As of January 1, 2018, the correct answer for Californians is at least 45 lumens per watt. By setting this high efficiency standard on light bulbs, California legislators hope to reduce energy demand for lighting and help Californians save on their energy bills. In order to understand how this will save consumers money and reduce energy consumption, we must first understand what lumens and watts are. Lumens measure the amount of light produced by a bulb, and watts measure the amount of power the bulb uses (NRDC).

So in purchasing new CFL or LED light bulbs, rather than looking at the wattage, you can look at the lumens equivalent. CFL and LED bulbs require much less energy to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb. For example, a traditional incandescent bulb needs 40 watts to produce 450 lumens, whereas today’s LED bulb only requires 5 watts for the same amount of light output. With an estimated 250 million sockets with inefficient light bulbs in California, the new standard will drastically improve energy savings.

Another reason for switching to LED bulbs is the improvement of comfort in your home. Replacing old bulbs not only saves you money but can also reduce heat production. Because of their design to reduce energy waste, LED bulbs emit less heat than incandescent bulbs. To observe the difference in heat production between the two bulbs, check out this video: youtu.be/rAcc1WBbE1M.

If you’re worried about not finding the right LED replacement for your light fixture, fear not! Today, LEDs come in all shapes and sizes – fit for everything from your outdoor flood light to that vintage candelabra that you thrifted. Costs of LEDs have also dropped significantly since they were first introduced to the market. And don’t forget: if you’re an LADWP customer, you can visit LADWP’s Efficient Product Marketplace (EPM) for rebates on LED light bulbs and other appliances. (More LADWP rebates here)

For more information on California’s new standard, visit this link: www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/lightbulbguide.pdf

Posted on Monday, January 8th, 2018

California Tackles Food Waste

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You’ve heard it before–to act on climate, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane is one of those potent greenhouse gases with natural and human sources. In nature, methane is emitted by wetlands, termites, and the ocean. Human sources include agriculture and other organic wastes (food, paper, yard waste) that end up in landfills.

In California, 8.3 million tons of greenhouse gases are released each year from uneaten food and other sources of organic wastes, contributing to 20% of California’s total methane emissions. How can we build a cleaner future with this knowledge in mind? We can start by reducing food waste.

Here in LA, the City of LA’s sustainability pLAn is helping to reduce food waste and food insecurity in Los Angeles. The city’s RecycLA program allows food business owners and multi-family residences to donate edible surplus food. Rather than introducing more waste into the waste stream, food ineligible for donation can be tossed into green bins for composting. By 2025, LA hopes to divert 1.1 million tons of total waste from landfills annually, resulting in2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions eliminated. In the presence of local and statewide efforts to reduce food waste, even small collective actions can result in an exponential scale of greenhouse gas reduction.

The Golden State is also stepping up to reduce waste and food-related greenhouse gases. In October 2017, Governor Brown signed three new laws to help divert food from landfills, addressing everything from confusing food labeling to food donation rights.

California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act

AB 1219, also known as the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, was authored by Assemblymember Susan Eggman. This new law will protect food donors. Until recently, households and businesses have been cautious about donating food due to liability issues. This bill works to clarify and expand existing protections for food donors. Before this law, food donors were not legally protected for donating directly to final recipients, nor were they protected when food was donated after the sell-by date. In general, people have been unaware of their rights and protections as food donors. Now, Californians can safely donate food that has exceeded the sell-by date, including citizens, businesses and  gleaners (people who harvest crops for free distribution and donation). A key component of this law is the education aspect, in which public health inspectors are required to promote Good Samaritan laws through newsletters, bulletins, and handouts.

Food Labeling: Quality and Safety Dates

You know how hard it is to interpret the dates we see on food packaging, such as “sell by” and “best if used by” dates? To address confusion with dates on food labels, Assemblymember David Chiu authored AB 954 ( “Food labeling: quality and safety dates”). This new law will encourage food manufacturers, processors, and retailers to use uniform terms for food date labels to avoid confusion among consumers. Because the sell-by date exists as a reference for stock rotation in grocery stores, food distributors and retailers are encouraged to develop an alternative system for “sell by” dates that will not be visible to consumers. Similar to AB 1219, this law creates a Consumer Education Fund within the California Department of Food and Agriculture to educate consumers on food label jargon.

Food Donation and Schools

Food waste is also prominent in schools and educational settings. To address this issue, Senator Ed Hernandez wrote SB 557, which allows schools to donate food to food banks. Faculty, staff, and students can place unwanted food on sharing tables, which will then be donated to local food banks and charities. Categories of eligible food items include food in closed containers and protected from contamination, food that has been checked for safety on a daily basis, and unopened food in original packaging. SB 557 gives  schools with the opportunity to address food insecurity, while reducing their contribution to organic waste in landfills.  

Posted on Tuesday, December 19th, 2017
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