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A Sustainable Future That Works
Jamie Elfenbein

60,000: number of premature deaths that are caused by air pollution annually (American Lung Association).

1.2 billion: number of people worldwide who drink polluted water, causing hundreds of millions of cases of water related diseases every year and over 5 million deaths (The Ecologist).

1: Organization in Santa Monica that is dedicated to improve the status of our environment.

This is Sustainable Works, a non-profit organization that is funded through the city of Santa Monica. In the fall of 1998, the Santa Monica Green Team Project was founded which encompassed a staff that worked as independent contractors to the school and the community. In the spring of 2001, the Santa Monica Green Team Project was transformed into Sustainable works. Chantel Zimmerman, one of the founders of the Santa Monica Green Team, now serves as the Executive Director of the organization.

Sustainable works’ mission statement describes its goals as “to manifest the concepts of sustainability and the actions associated with living a sustainable lifestyle into the daily activities of individuals, institutions and businesses.” This organization offers numerous projects that endorse environmentally friendly practices in community colleges, businesses, and residential communities.
Although Sustainable Works is funded through the city of Santa Monica, Santa Monica College (SMC) also supports this organization by providing two office spaces, computer networks, a fax line, computer support, and many environmental programs such as recycling, worm composting, and a smart garden.

Along with allocating supplies to Sustainable Works, SMC runs an eight-week student workshop that deals with environmental conservation. Students are able to earn extra credit in specific classes after completion of the program (below is a list of professors that offered extra credit in the Spring of 2004 for completing the Sustainable Works program). Throughout the eight weeks, students are put into crews with a designated crew leader. This leader is usually a student volunteer that has completed twelve hours of leadership training. Students and their crew leader join for an in-depth discussion once a week for an hour and a half at an on-campus site.

Discussions focus on topics in the assigned Sustainable Works “worksbook”. The “worksbook” provides information on environmental concerns in such categories as water, energy, waste, chemicals, transportation/travel, and shopping and food. Each section contains step-by-step suggestions on how to lessen the student’s environmental impact. Recommendations include eating less beef and nuts, changing your light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CLF’s), eliminating junk mail, carpooling, and bringing your own cup when purchasing your coffee. These suggestions allow students to acknowledge the damage created by some of their current habits and work to become more environmentally friendly.

According to Professor Dave Phillips, a psychology teacher at SMC and one of the founding members of the Santa Monica Green Team, “The program [Sustainable Works] has reached, I believe, over a thousand SMC students and perhaps 40 faculty members. The Santa Monica City manager told me that this program is more effective in changing the ecological behavior of citizens in the city than anything else they do.”

One of the thousands of students this program has reached is Lauren Bialek, a freshman at SMC. She says, “The Sustainable Works program run through Santa Monica College is a great way to earn extra credit in classes while also learning about the environmental problems facing our earth. It doesn’t take up that much time, and there are many [practical] suggestions they give you, so you are really able to change your lifestyle and improve the environment.”

Sustainable Works is also helping local Santa Monica businesses become more sustainable. The organization offers to improve the environmental impacts certain businesses have on the community through their Business Greening Program.

The Executive Director of Sustainable Works, Chantel Zimmerman, explained that “We [Sustainable Works] offer a one-year Business Greening Program that includes assessments, environmentally responsible recommendations, support in implementing recommendations selected, employee education and follow-up assessments to determine impact.”

This organization has had a huge impact on the businesses it has assessed. Businesses that complete the Greening Program not only become more environmentally and socially responsible, but they also save money. With cheaper costs, businesses are able to become more competitive. Because of these reasons, 50% - 80% of the one-thousand recommendations given out last year were permanently adopted by the businesses that had completed the Greening Program.

As well as educating local businesses and today’s youth, Sustainable Works is enlightening the community of Santa Monica through its Residential Greening Program. In this program, community members of the city of Santa Monica are able to complete a six to eight week workshop similar to the student workshops held at SMC.

The Santa Monica City website explains, “When whole apartment complexes or condos participate in this program friendships result, community grows, creative and inspiring building-wide programs (like recycling) are established and everyone feels good about helping to improve quality of life. Plus, residents can shave money off their utility bills.” Residents who complete the workshop, and are able to successfully alter their lifestyles, can save up to two-hundred dollars a year by engaging in practices that are more environmentally sound.

Sustainable Works is an organization that has really set itself apart from others by using knowledge and action as its key tools to improving people’s environmental impact. Instead of preaching to society about today’s environmental problems, Sustainable Works is providing viable solutions to these challenges. This organization has raised awareness about the environment, and therefore, people can no longer ignore the ecological crises facing our earth. It’s now up to society to implement the recommendations that Sustainable Works has made easily available.

List of (most) Professors Who Offered Extra Credit in the Spring of 2004 for Completion of the Sustainable Works Program

Diana Aghabegian Phillip Daughtry Jackie Lanum Wendy Parise
Garen Baghdasarian Tina Feiger Ruth Logan Dave Phillips
Ellen Baker Mary Fonseca Laura Manson William Price
Jim Bland Nancy Hanson Dana Morgan Lynette Shishido
Alan Buckly Christian Hart Pete Morris Bill Selby
Dorothy Chin Amber Katherine John Moss Elizabeth Vance
Karin Costello Gina Ladinsky Mini Nagendran Ventris Woods
Audrey Cramer Daniel Landau Lyle Nichols

Jamie Elfenbein is a full time student at SMC. She is majoring in Communications with a minor in Education. She hopes to transfer to either UCLA or NYU in the Fall of 2005. She is in the Scholars Program and the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.






The Women’s College Magazine at Santa Monica College
Copyright 2003 Santa Monica College