Sustainable Living in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has long been known as a city with a smog problem. In fact, the Chumash tribe of Native Americans actually named Los Angeles the “valley of smoke”. Historically, LA was known to have smog alerts for a third of the year, and most recently the city was ranked as the worst city in terms of air quality. A large population, basins and valleys that hold exhaust from air and land vehicles and lack of consistent rainfall to wash away the pollution exacerbate the air quality problem.

The pollution problems in Los Angeles have lead to multiple national and statewide laws to improve air quality. The Clean Air act was developed in response to the air quality issues in Los Angeles and other major cities. In addition, California recently passed legislation mandating low-emissions vehicles in order to curb the rising levels of air pollution.

Air quality isn’t the only major environmental issue Los Angeles faces. The city’s groundwater supply is facing extreme pollution threats. The toxic substance MTBE continues to seep into the groundwater from gas station. Rocket fuel also leeches perchlorates into the water supply, threatening area wildlife and available drinking water.

The governments of Los Angeles and the state of California have developed several pieces of legislation and initiatives to combat the area’s environmental concerns and to create a healthier lifestyle for residents. The city has one of the largest proportions of green space and natural areas in major metropolitan areas. LA boasts over 214,000 acres of green space, 22 miles of beaches, and over 200,000 acres of nature reserves and conservatories. Those seeking a sustainable lifestyle will find a multitude of open natural areas for hiking and other forms of recreational enjoyment.

Los Angeles was also the first United States city to require that all city-owned buildings meet LEED certification and specifications. The Los Angeles Convention Center is also the largest solar-generating building in North America. The Smart Grid Demonstration Project provides funding towards green energy management, allowing developers to use more sustainable forms of power generation. Currently, more than 14 percent of all energy comes from solar and wind power.

LA also leads the nation in recycling. The city was one of the first to develop curbside residential recycling programs to reduce the amount of solid waste in landfills. Today, Los Angeles has a recycling rate of 62 percent, which is the highest of any large metropolitan area in the United States. The trash trucks in the city are also run on natural gas instead of traditional diesel.

The city also boasts a large and efficient public transportation system. The subways and light rail lines are completely run on electric power while the buses are all powered by compressed natural gas. The public transportation system is easily accessible to most area residents in both the city and the suburban areas.

In 1988, Los Angeles began mandating that all homes be fitted with low-flow toilets and shower heads prior to the home being resold. In addition, all residences must have water-efficient landscaping. These regulations assist every homeowner in living a more sustainable lifestyle. Area farmers must also use recycled water for farming operations.

Those interested in living in a sustainable community will enjoy the Los Angeles Eco-Village. The Eco-Village houses approximately 500 people in 164 housing units. Fifteen ethnic groups are represented. In some areas of Eco-Village, those who do not own a car can receive discounted rent. The village is just two blocks from public transportation. In addition, there are over 100 fruit trees and two dozen gardens. Frequent community potlucks and village events help to give the Eco-Village a tight knit feel while also encouraging residents to live in a sustainable way.

While Los Angeles has a long-standing air and water pollution problem, the city has many options available for those interested in living a sustainable lifestyle. More noteworthy, however, are the mandates in place to help ensure that all residents live with a lower carbon footprint without having to change their current lifestyle.

Companies considering opening new office space in Los Angeles or surrounding areas like Beverly Hills and Irvine California will be spoilt for choice when it comes to government supported green initiatives and eco friendly environmental schemes. Moving up the coast to San Francisco or down south to San Diego, there are more opportunities to reduce the impact of new businesses by setting up offices with existing equipment and facilities.