The volunteer members of the city’s Environmental Committee are dedicated to making El Segundo energy-efficient, sustainable, and healthy for residents, visitors, and the workforce. Here’s what the committee has been up to in recent months.
By Maureen Kingsley
This April 22nd is Earth Day both here in El Segundo and around the world. In honor of this day that celebrates environmentalism and conservation in communities across the globe, The El Segundo Scene spoke with members of El Segundo’s Environmental Committee about its current initiatives and goals. The committee’s priorities and recent accomplishments are presented here.
Photos from top left: Member Kevin Maggay, Vice Chair Corrie Zupo and Chair Tracey Miller-Zarneke celebrate recycling efforts at the 2020 State of the City Address. Vice Chair Corrie Zupo and Chair Tracey Miller-Zarneke display their Committee pride in banner style at the 2019 annual Environmental Committee Earth Week Farmers’ Market booth. Committee Member Caroline Hawks with a young eco-warrior at the 2019 annual Environmental Committee Earth Week Farmers’ Market booth. Rachel McPherson explains the eco-benefits of cloth diapering at the Environmental Committee’s “Screening and Greening” event in 2019. Future Member Sarah Brockhaus seen in reflection with Chair Tracey Miller-Zarneke, as well as former Member Kristin Faivre and a young eco-friend.
Green Business Program Grant
Environmental Committee Vice Chair Corrie Zupo and Chair Tracey Miller-Zarneke each point to the El Segundo Department of Public Works’ recent approval by City Council to apply for a green business-program grant, offered by the California Green Business Network (CGBN) in the amount of $30K, as one of committee’s most significant accomplishments. Members of the Environmental Committee worked with the El Segundo Chamber of Commerce to bring this grant program to City Council’s attention. If El Segundo is awarded the grant, the funds can be used to recognize local businesses for their environmental and conservation efforts, provide consulting to businesses wishing to minimize their environmental footprint and conserve resources, and offer technical assistance to businesses in support of green goals.
This well-structured state program, Tracey explains, would put the awarded funds straight into city efforts to directly assist local businesses of all sizes that are seeking the help, guidance, and technology necessary to go green.
What’s more, Tracey adds, the program and associated funds would work in support of two of the Environmental Committee’s main goals: reducing solid waste in the city and expanding water-conservation efforts.
Tracey says the city expects to learn the status of its CGBN grant application in May of this year.
Early in 2020, at the urging of the Environmental Committee, the city of El Segundo restricted the offering of single-use straws and utensils at local eateries to “upon customer request only,” following in the footsteps of its neighbor cities Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach. That ordinance, Tracey explained, was “put on pause” early in the pandemic to account for increased hygiene protocols and expanded take-out business at El Segundo dining establishments, but resumed again in late summer, she says. Committee member Caroline Hawks has been focused on the solid-waste-reduction goal, and the whole committee has an eye toward banning polystyrene (Styrofoam) food and beverage containers altogether, as other South Bay cities have done, once pandemic-related challenges have been overcome.
Greener Construction Standards
While the state of California “has done relatively well with setting standards for environmentally aware, energy-efficient construction,” Tracey says, “many California cities set their own higher, better standards in order to create buildings that are healthier from many perspectives.” She and the committee would like the city of El Segundo to do the same. “The creation of heat islands, the existence of poor stormwater drainage, and the room for improvement upon water conservation and energy efficiency efforts are all concerns,” she explains. “We’d like to work toward going beyond the CalGREEN building standards here in our city,” she says, referring to the state standards developed in 2007 as part of a comprehensive program to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels. “We’d like El Segundo to make its construction standards greener, with the goal of healthier living and working in and near such structures.”
Committee members Sarah Brockhaus and Corrie Zupo have researched standards in other municipalities, evaluated incentives, and met with various City departments to discuss options for such a program, but have not yet taken a presentation to City Council.
An idea generated by Environmental Committee members that is in its early research stages is a possible ban on smoking in both public areas of the city and common areas of multi-unit residential complexes. The main issue from an environmental perspective, Tracey explains, is that cigarette waste finds its way directly to the ocean and contains harmful plastics “that will never go away.” The committee continues to examine this idea, and member Kevin Maggay has been working on a presentation for City Council.
Originally brought to the Environmental Committee by resident and home-gardening consultant Chia-Ming Ro, a proposal to allow regulated bee-keeping in El Segundo was recently pitched to City Council and approved by the Planning Commission. “I am such a strong advocate for backyard beekeeping because without pollinators, it won’t matter how much we plant if they do not get pollinated to bear fruit and vegetables,” Chia-Ming, who spoke at a City Council meeting in March, says. “I wanted to make sure I was not the lone advocate [for an urban bee-keeping program] before I approached changing the legislation around it. I polled the community through informal channels and realized that bees were welcomed in El Segundo, even by those who feared them or were severely allergic.”
The proposal will make one more pass through City Council for final approval, Tracey explains, before an ordinance is adopted.
Water conservation remains a priority of the Environmental Committee, Tracey says. Committee member Rachel McPherson is focused on this area of concern, and the whole committee appreciates that nearby West Basin Municipal Water District is a strong partner for community education and programming around this issue.
Committee Vice Chair Corrie mentions another initiative, expanded community gardening, that she and the committee are exploring and that is “in its infancy” [as of this writing], she says. Some of the potential ideas for the expanded-community-garden concept include utilizing some additional space in Recreation Park for small garden beds, incorporating community gardens into the eventual El Segundo Civic Center redesign, and coordinating with the Arts & Culture Advisory Committee on garden-box and planter design and other elements.
This Earth Day, enjoy the natural spaces and wildlife El Segundo has to offer, and perhaps recommit yourself and your family to recycling, item reuse, and water conservation. Reach out to El Segundo’s Environmental Committee online at elsegundo.org or via email to Jasmine Allen at email@example.com.