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Santa Monica's Sustainable Award Nominees Share Common Goal Across Different Fields  


By Melonie Magruder
Lookout Staff

April 9, 2012 -- When Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment hands out its Sustainable Quality Awards next month, officials will pick winners from an eclectic group of local buisinesses.

Created in 1995, the awards recognize businesses that exemplify significant achievement in economic development, social responsibility and stewardship of the natural environment.

This year’s theme was “Green Messaging: How to Change Consumer Behavior,” and the nominees are uniquely poised to influence consumer thinking across a range of businesses.

“We want to ‘breed’ social awareness in our customers,” said Jordan Vaine, an associate with Healthy Spot, a full-service boutique catering to dogs and their owners. "Veterinarians actually receive little education in food product lines, so we try and offer the best information and pet foods at our store.

At the same time, we want to take care of our employees as much as our customers, so we offer 401k plans, which is sort of rare in retail," Vaine said. "We’re all family.”

Co-owners -- and dog-owners -- Andrew Kim and Mark Boonnark both left successful corporate careers to start the business after the pet food recall of 2007. Appalled, they looked into the pet food market and realized there was a gapingly empty market for organic and environmentally responsible pet supplies.

Accordingly, they rounded up wholesome, organic food lines, along with a range of sustainably produced pet supplies, such as doggie mats and toys made from recycled plastic bottles and non-toxic, biodegradable grooming products. In 2008, they launched their flagship shop in Santa Monica (there is also a location in West Hollywood).

Bridgid Coulter, of Bridgid Coulter Design, also opened her residential and commercial interior design firm in 2008. A native of Berkeley, Coulter said she fell in with like-minded, sustainable living designers in graduate school at UCLA.

Her business philosophy lies in creating ecologically sound living and work environments. “The thing about environmental design, if it’s not financially sustainable, it won’t work,” Coulter said. “Fortunately, there has been a huge shift in supply availability in the past 10 years, so that now, people might spend five or 10 percent more for sustainable products, but it pays off in the long run in terms of health and maintenance.”

Coulter said her choices as a small business owner reverberate in sustainable and communally responsible ways throughout every aspect of her work, whether it's installing water-saving filters on her office taps or fully indoctrinating local student interns into every step of the design process.

“Getting my customers to see the overall wisdom of green design is such a great, fulfilling challenge,” she said. “Just having the discussion opens their minds, and whether it’s a chair made from recycled materials or something they never thought of, like American clay as a wall covering, this kind of philosophy can change their lives for the better.”

Two hotels and a restaurant made it onto the list of nominees. Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows were both cited, along with the Fairmont’s signature restaurant, Fig.

Loews first achieved Santa Monica Green Business Certification in 2011 and features a number of sustainable practices, from sun-sensitive outdoor lighting, to providing customers with information via flash drive instead of printed paper.

The hotel also incorporates water and energy efficiency systems and green building elements, such as low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paint. They recycle food waste for composting and donate excess food to local charities like Meals on Wheels.

The Fairmont Hotels launched a Green Partnership program in 1990 to minimize its operational impacts on the planet, making sustainability one of its core corporate social responsibilities.

Energy and water conservation and green waste management are part of the Miramar's everyday operation, as is local sourcing for all supplies and partnerships with local environmental champions, like the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

And the yellow cherry tomatoes that Fig serves were likely purchased at the downtown Farmers Market that morning by Executive Chef Ray Garcia. His philosophy is to work only with local growers and producers for the best organic cuisine possible.

The Media Policy Center is a nonprofit media foundation dedicated to building better communities through localized outreach and creative media messaging. That means they provide multi-media programs, content and research to schools, local governments, urban planning departments and medical organizations to build healthier communities.

Co-founders Harry Wiland and Dale Bell have known each other since 1968. Both are lifetime Fellows in Ashoka, a nonprofit association dedicated to finding innovative solutions to pressing societal needs, and both believe that a giant collective step toward a more sustainable planet lies in education.

Their four-hour program, “Designing Healthy Communities,” was broadcast across the country (including on local PBS station KOCE and, soon, KCET). In it, they examine the impact urban living has on key public health indices such as obesity and asthma, and discuss how communities can improve the lives of their citizens.

“Our media model is designed to create a strong impact for change,” Bell said. “We tie together TV, books, school curriculums, town halls -- all of these to show people that environmental sustainability is the key to healthy and productive, achievable communities. Fortunately this city already is following or instituting the changes that create those communities.”

“We knit people together through media,” Wiland said. “It’s how you change consumers’ behavior and make the community, and planet, better.”

The Sustainable Quality Awards luncheon will be held at the Sheraton Delfina Hotel May 2. For more information, visit


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