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LA's Transition to a Greener Economy

This post was submitted for the United Nations World Environment Day blogging competition sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Please “Like” it on Facebook or Tweet using the hashtag #WED2012.

On June 5th of every year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hosts World Environment Day, a national celebration aimed at increasing awareness about environmental issues and inspiring action in support of more sustainable and equitable development. The chosen theme for this year’s event is “The Green Economy: Does it include you?” My recent experience at the VerdeXchange Conference in Los Angeles last week proved that although we may not realize it, the transition to a green economy is underway, and it does affect all of us.

Government organizations and the private sector were there working together to transition my home city to a greener economy. The focus was on how to create new markets for clean technologies that can modernize and decarbonize LA’s infrastructure – not an easy task for a city that was designed for the car. Here is a look at some of the work being done to green the city’s most carbon intensive and highly polluting facilities, operations, and infrastructure:

“Greening and Growing” the ports

LA’s port, which has the largest container volume of any port in the U.S., occupies 1600 acres of land and employs 16,000 residents. Last year, the port was the first in the world to offer Alternative Maritime Power (AMP), which allows ships to plug into electrical power instead of running on diesel fuel. The port plans to expand capacity from nine connection points to twenty-six by 2016. There are also efforts underway to implement a system to move cargo around the port with virtually no fossil fuels and zero tailpipe emissions.

LEED Silver airport modernization

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the third busiest airport in the country, is currently undergoing a major modernization effort that includes the construction of the new Bradley West Project, which was awarded the Silver LEED-EB Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is the first time this certification has been given to a renovation project at an airport in the U.S. According to the Airport Environmental Manager for Los Angeles World Airports, LAX also has the largest alternative fuel vehicle fleet of any other airport in the country.

Clean trucks program

Los Angeles’ Clean Truck Program, the first of it’s kind, has achieved notable success in reducing truck pollution and improving air quality. The program requires that all trucks servicing the meet the toughest environmental standards in the nation and it exceeded its goal of reducing harmful truck emission by at least 80 percent ahead of schedule.

Zero emission freight highway

With the support of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, The LA Metro Highway Program is currently exploring the feasibility of constructing a zero emissions freight corridor as part of the I-710 modernization project. Metro is also taking the lead on forming a Countrywide Zero-Emission Trucks Collaborative to promote collaboration on the development of zero emissions trucks for Los Angeles.

Metro rail expansion projects

In 2008, LA approved the addition of a half-cent sales tax to fund the city’s transit projects over a 30-year timeframe. In order to speed up the completion of the transit projects, Mayor Villaraigosa designed the ambitious 30/10 Initiative, which will allow Metro to build 12 key mass transit projects in 10 years, rather than 30.

Livability & bicycle infrastructure projects

Last year, The LA City Council approved a bike master plan that includes a 1,680-mile bike system with 200-plus miles of new routes every five years. And just last week, the county passed an ordinance intended to promote exercise and reduce obesity by requiring new developments to provide bicycle parking, build wider sidewalks and make it easier to start community gardens.

After learning about all of the work that’s being done in my city, it became clearer than ever that the to transition to this new green economy is really taking place. And it’s only been possible because LA’s citizens, government and businesses are working together to make it happen.

[Image credit: Phillipe Put, Flickr]


Kara Scharwath is a corporate social responsibility professional, marketing consultant and Sustainable Management MBA Candidate. She is currently working as a Graduate Associate in Corporate Citizenship at the Walt Disney Company while pursuing her degree at Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on Twitter @karameredith.

Kara Scharwath

Kara is a corporate social responsibility professional and marketing consultant with expertise in consumer research and environmental science. Currently, Kara is working as a Graduate Associate on the <a href="http://corporate.disney.go.com/citizenship2010/">Corporate Citizenship</a> team at the Walt Disney Company. She is also a founding partner of <a href=http://besui.com/">BeSui Consulting</a>, a boutique marketing consulting firm specializing in consumer insights and marketing communications.

Kara graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in <a href="http://admissions.rutgers.edu/Academics/AcademicContent.aspx?CAMPUS=New… Policy, Institutions and Behaviors</a>. She is currently pursuing her M.B.A. in Sustainable Management from <a href'"http://www.presidioedu.org/">Presidio Graduate School</a> where she is exploring the impact investing space and working to identify new ways to increase access to capital for start-ups and social ventures. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/karameredith">@karameredith</a&gt;.

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