City leaders and residents find that, with a little help, it’s easy to be green.

by Kaena Keefer

You hear it everywhere you go, people and places all “going green.” But taking on a greener lifestyle is not just about helping to preserve rain forests. It can also mean improving your health, your bank account and, ultimately, improving your overall quality of life.

That’s just what staff and faculty at the University of La Verne thought when they hosted the 2009 Earth Day Environmental Fair, made possible by the Green Institute of Village Empowerment (G.I.V.E.), a non-profit organization founded by the senior and vice president, Emily Romo, only one year ago.

“I really care about the environment, and I really care about people, and those are interlinked with each other. If you’re going to care for the Earth, you have to care for its resources that provide for the people,” she says.

She found out about G.I.V.E. through ULV science professor Jay Jones, who took students to a conference in which the hosts approached Romo and asked whether she would like to start a new chapter at ULV, and she agreed.

Earth Day was organized through the Sustainability Campus Committee for about 30 years. G.I.V.E. took it over last year with help from the Society of Physical Life Science Scholars (SPLSS), Associated Students of ULV, and the Campus Activities Board (CAB).

“Since we’re trying to promote sustainability, it’s become our big project that we do every year,” says Amanda McCadden, current president of G.I.V.E. United by the theme “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reconsider,” the event provided a variety of ways to change the way people live in order to improve the environment. It encouraged people to swap their shampoos and soaps for ones with biodegradable packaging and natural and organic ingredients. Booths promoting alternative electricity and water conservation were present. CAB also celebrated the event with commuter day and provided lunch and “goodie” bags to the first 200 commuter students who came.

Concerning sustainability in our community, McCadden says, “I think La Verne is great. I think here on campus we have a lot of work to do. We are working with facilities to really try and get people to recycle more, but I think we’re doing a great job, and it can just keep getting better.” Other projects that G.I.V.E. has been a part of include “working with Heal the Bay by attending their beach clean-ups and having beach clean-ups of our own. Also, we held a recycling fair in November that was a great success on a smaller scale, as well as family fairs and different things like that.”

Romo says that G.I.V.E. now has about 60 students on the email list. “I’m really happy. Last year was a success. This year is even bigger and better than before, and I’m just really grateful that we have people from the community coming out—commuters, residents, faculty, administrators—here to celebrate Earth Day and find out ways they can help the planet…that is what I envisioned, and I just hope that we can reach out to the community more.”

According to La Verne City Hall, it is the government’s responsibility, to an extent, to protect the environment. This is where Administrative Superintendent and City Treasurer Jeannette Vagnozzi, of La Verne’s Public Works Department; and Associate Planner Amy Altomare, certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Associate Planner of the Community Development Department of La Verne, have their work cut out for them. Their mission includes “…to provide a full range of effective municipal services to members of our community. To accomplish this we are committed to focusing on the quality of life for all, meeting challenges collectively through sound leadership and teamwork and conducting government in an open environment that encourages community participation and promoting the ‘Pride of La Verne’ through employees, community organizations and citizenry.”

Working at City Hall in La Verne for 18 years, Vagnozzi started as a graduate intern working under the city manager, primarily on recycling mandates from the state. Now, after having worked to get as much 50 percent of the waste out of La Verne in the year 2000, the city is proud to say it is currently at 52 percent. La Verne City Hall supports five components of sustainability, recognized by the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO): environment, economic, equity, education and development—to promote the health and vitality of the community.

The city contributes to the residents through energy efficiency, air quality, waste reduction, water efficiency, emissions reduction, economic development and education. Some sustainable activities already taking place include variable energy speed pumps on city wells, lights being on timers in all city facilities, and discounts on train and bus passes available at La Verne City Hall. Most city vehicles use a natural gas alternative fuel with their own fueling station because it costs less and pollutes less. The city also offers e-waste and hazardous waste round-ups, including four kiosks available for battery recycling. This program collected 1,600 pounds in 2008. Other programs include shower head swap-outs, water-efficient toilet exchanges, residential recycling and pollution prevention. They even have a smart controller for irrigation so if it is raining, the irrigation system will not turn on. Through water conservation there are rebates available if people meet the simple requirements for discounts on water-saving devices.

In California, 2.8 million plastic bottles are going to waste in our landfills every day. Aluminum cans are beginning to add to the crisis too. Overall, there are 6 billion beverage containers that are not recycled every year, according to La Verne City Hall’s website. As part of their ongoing efforts, the state Department of Conservation, Division of Recycling, awarded a grant to the city in which they have initiated a public outreach and education program. The city also purchased various types of equipment made from recycled plastic to help the environment and close the loop of recyclable products, including 18 picnic tables located in Las Flores Park that replaced the wooden ones. The city Fire Department uses plastic cribbing beams now instead of wood to support unstable structures during rescues because they can be sterilized and reused, and because the wood beams had to be replaced. And, instead of concrete, La Verne has plastic wheel stops located in parking lots now to help make use of environmentally friendly practices.

President Barack Obama even made a point of visiting the Electric Vehicle Technical Center, a vehicle test site in neighboring Pomona, to announce a $2.4 billion grant program in hopes of making electric vehicles more widely available and to open up more job opportunities in the area. The President toured the “Garage of the Future” test platform run by Southern California Edison, one of two federal Department of Energy test areas designed to evaluate electric car performance. President Obama pledged to put a million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015. The President arrived in Southern California during a campaign to sell the administration’s economic policies to a region coping with increasing unemployment, reduced housing prices, and a continuing state budget crisis. At one town hall meeting, President Obama was joined by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been a big supporter of the federal stimulus package. The President finished the day making an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” to discuss the issues at hand and their benefits. California has reportedly received approval for $625 million in federal funds for 57 projects so far. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says, “the President’s decision to go west and do two town hall meetings was to discuss with the American people and give the American people the opportunity to discuss with him their concerns about the economic challenges that we face.”

Kohl’s department store in La Verne switched to solar power paneling on its rooftop one year ago, saving the chain a bundle in electricity. The store has half its lights set to shut off as soon as the store closes, and it has changed to strictly electronic pay with direct deposits to save paper. Kohl’s also encourages shoppers to use recyclable bags.

Another huge contributor to the community is La Verne’s own Bonita High School. La Verne City Hall granted the school money to install artificial turf to replace their football field, saving approximately $10,000 a year in water costs and just as much in maintenance fees. Bonita High School has a recycling club that sets up bins outside every classroom for students to discard recyclables. The club collects and separates a significant amount of material every day after school to put into Waste Management dumpsters. Bonita also has an agreement with California Conservation Corps to clean up all the trash from football games.

The city of La Verne and Bonita High School freshmen also team up every spring to host an electronic waste collection. This typically coincides with Earth Day to help people dispose of their electronics the right way. Residents and business operators are encouraged to discard old televisions, computer CPUs, monitors, keyboards, printers, cell phones and more. If businesses have too large a load or cannot make it that day, they can still call Neuwaste to schedule a pickup by calling 310-734-6700. One can go to for a complete list of what can and cannot be brought to the round-up.

The University of La Verne has been doing its part as well, working to reduce energy demands for its buildings through various measures. The Arts and Communications building has made renovations to gain better energy, integrating natural light and using updated insulation. The building hosts an efficient heating and cooling system as well as energy-efficient lights, all using the Southern California Edison “Savings by Design” Program–an initial renewable energy project to integrate solar electricity into the ACB. This system utilizes optimal sunspace using net metering to set up a Distributed Generation Association that could fund, own and depreciate renewable energy assets.

The University’s new Sports Science and Athletics Pavilion added insulation and natural heating at the Tent peaks and installed a more energy-efficient heating and cooling system. The Pavilion was connected to a central chiller that now provides cooled water for air conditioning. ULV combined water meters, reducing the number of meter charges it pays. Plus, the new student housing ULV proposes to build will have water-conserving appliances and low-flush toilets (two-and-a-half gallons or less, compared with five gallons now), resulting in less impact on the water and the sewage system. The University currently has a recycling program to reduce solid waste disposal, and an ongoing program that complies with federal, state and local statutes and regulations related to solid waste.

Using the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Standards for all new ULV buildings, the new Sara and Michael Abraham Campus Center, slated to open in the fall, already has gold status and green school accreditation. Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, this will reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts. Making use of LEED criteria during programming and design will improve the performance in future buildings. Even though there are costs that come with LEED certification, it compensates for the lower operating costs. As a result, there is some payback for “green building.”

In addition to creating healthier environments, green buildings are consistent with the university’s master plan to improve production and provide educational values. The “Savings-by-Design” and other motivation programs administered by Southern California Edison provide the university with rebates and other economic incentives to save energy. Other buy-downs and grants are available for fulfilling “green building” guidelines. Making use of these programs helps the University generate a healthier and more sustainable campus, not only to reduce ongoing operating costs, but also to help attract and maintain quality students, faculty and staff.

La Verne’s ongoing efforts to make their city more sustainable are in high demand. La Verne’s City Hall suggests that people visit its Web site for disposal information regarding “useless items” so optimally they can be recycled for somebody else’s new products, saving natural resources.

At, one can click on the Community link to read about all the environmental programs offered, including ways to prevent storm drain pollution, or ways to conserve water. Residential Recycling offers suggestions for used motor oil disposal, battery recycling locations, and vendors who accept used items such as books, clothes, sporting goods and furniture, as well as appliances, cell phones, computers, toner cartridges and compact discs.

If one person can make a difference, imagine what a community can do together.