Category Archives: Sustainability

This California Summer

This heat and drought in California is truly something else. I’m sure many of you have seen the “before and after” photos of bodies of water in California that have experienced devastating consequences from this drought (if not, check it out here). We are particularly feeling the effects of this drought here in Southern California. On top of that, we’re in the middle of a really horrendous heatwave right now that has led to some planned (and unplanned!) power outages around this region. I’m saying this in part to highlight a lot of the important issues that we’re facing in California, but also to really show that we don’t always have perfect, 75 degree temperatures in Southern California! In the Orange County area this past weekend, there was a fire burning over 1,000 acres of land in Silverado Canyon. This particularly hits close to home because it literally was close to my parents’ home in Orange County. Interestingly enough, this fire was started by the metal roofing of a vegetable garden! What a small way for such a devastating fire to start! You can find out more about the story here. Okay; end rant!

As a result of all of this, I have really made an effort to conserve as much water as possible. One way that I’ve been doing this is by choosing more drought-tolerant plants for my balcony garden. Of course, my small, unassuming balcony garden probably wouldn’t use up much water in the first place, but every drop counts, right? On top of that, keeping plants alive in this summer heat is a whole different ballgame, particularly regarding plants that are not suitable for high temperatures. As a resident of the top floor of my apartment complex, my balcony experiences inexplicably high heat. So instead of planting snapdragons and basil as I have before, I’ve planted succulents in my overhanging balcony planters! I feel like it’s a bit of a non-traditional way to use planters, but I love it!

Succulent Planter #1

Succulent Planter #1

Succulent Planter #2

Succulent Planter #2

This is a really great way to also use cuttings of succulents, propagate more succulents, and also, to minimize how many pots you use. I was tired of having so many separate little planters so I threw them all together.

Here are some photos of the rest of the balcony! It’s slowly but surely coming together!


Balcony Gardening @

What are you doing to keep cool in the last few days before fall begins? Leave a comment! 🙂

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Santa Monica: A Bicycle Safety Analysis

Today, I’ll be focusing in on a beautiful, vibrant city in Los Angeles: Santa Monica.  For several of my classes, I have focused on Santa Monica’s sustainability initiatives and have made a bike-safety map, done neighborhood design analyses on the City and its initiatives. Believe it or not, Santa Monica is one of the greenest and most sustainable cities in the US  I was amazed by how much progress they’ve made as a city and how seriously they take being sustainable.  For more information, take a look at Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Report Card and their Climate Action Plan. They have an Office of Sustainability and the Environment  as well!  Frankly, their initiatives are impressive and inspiring.

However, I wanted to further analyze their bicycle safety initiatives.  In my research, I discovered that biking in Santa Monica actually wasn’t as safe as I had previously thought. It’s easy to see how it could be dangerous- millions of tourists, pedestrians, cars, buses, and bikers all convening into one city could easily cause many problems.  Today, I’ll be posting a bike-safety map I made using ArcGIS (Geographic Information Systems), a program that allows you to make maps and overlay important information in a visual way.  In all of my research, I was not able to find a map of Santa Monica’s most dangerous intersections and roads, so I created one myself.

I used the top 10 most dangerous intersections from the collision statistics collected by the Santa Monica Police Department from 2006-2011 and hand-digitized them onto the map as well. The top 10 intersections most dangerous intersections for bicyclists in Santa Monica are listed below.[iii] 

Top 10 Most Dangerous Intersections for bicyclists in Santa Monica

Top 10 Most Dangerous Intersections for bicyclists in Santa Monica

The datasets I used to map Santa Monica were bike routes, bike paths, street centerlines, truck routes and city-block boundaries. I was able to download the bicycle data for this project from Santa Monica Government’s GIS data website,[i] which I downloaded as a shapefile and integrated into my project. For bus routes, I used the Big Blue Bus routes [ii] and hand-digitized them onto my map.

After adding the layers from Santa Monica’s GIS data (bike routes, bike paths, street centerlines, truck routes and city-block boundaries), I hand-digitized the main Big Blue Bus routes to provide a layer that can shed light on the most congested streets. Buses often drive on the most ‘popular’ and likely places for people to be, so this can substitute for a traffic layer that I was not able to otherwise find. The blue circles on the map account for the top 10 most dangerous intersections in Santa Monica. (Hint: click on the map to see a larger view).

Santa Monica Bike Safety Analysis Map.

Santa Monica Bike Safety Analysis Map. Please feel free to share, but give credit to

As evident in the map, the intersections of bus routes and truck routes undeniably are the most prone areas to bicycle accidents. This is evident by the intersection of yellow and red lines through a blue circle. For a majority of the top 10 most dangerous intersections, it seems to be clear that they are 4-way intersections that are wide, packed with cars, trucks, buses, and have the potential for serious vehicular accidents. Additionally, within 6 of these intersections, I noticed that there were no bicycle lanes or paths on the intersecting streets. These intersections included Wilshire and 4th St., Lincoln Blvd. and Pico Blvd., Pico Blvd., and 17th Street, 4th Street and Santa Monica Blvd., Broadway and 4th St., and Colorado Ave. and 2nd St.

I have done a much more extensive analyses of this map with policy recommendations  in my courses at USC, but I will include that information in my next post.  What do you think? Are you surprised? Leave me a comment and let me know!




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Spring Renewal

Spring in Southern California is kind of a joke. We have “perfect” weather year-round. California’s subtleties in seasonal cycles can make it difficult to differentiate between the months. You have to go through the darkness to see the light, right? Figuratively, we don’t have that “darkness.” At the risk of sounding unappreciative, sometimes it’s hard to appreciate that beautiful day outside because we can trust that it’ll be there tomorrow and the day after. At least that’s how I feel.

My point is, it’s easy to fly by the seasons doing the exact same things when you live in a place that doesn’t obviously display its seasons. But I’ve made it a point of mine to change my actions/attire/perspective seasonally. That’s why I’ve planted a colossal amount of seeds. Even if spring is practically year round, it’s finally that time of year! So I went a little overboard at Home Depot and Orchard the other day. I always feel so dorky when I talk about plants, like I’m “too young” to be gardening. Then I realized that it doesn’t actually matter because at the end of the day, you’ve got to be unabashedly YOU.


Yep. This happened. I usually never buy/plant any thing other than herbs, succulents and ferns. I’m branching out (puns)! I’ve decided to grow more vegetables and flowers. I used to think flowers were frivolous on such a small balcony but I’ve changed my mind. Flowers are awesome. Some flower seeds I got were Foxgloves, which are TREMENDOUSLY BEAUTIFUL and definitely too big for my balcony, Zinnias, Poppies, Baby’s Breath, Lupine and a few more. I also got more vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard, lettuces, arugula, malabar spinach, etc. AND herbs, as usual. Here are some herbs I cut today from my balcony.

Rosemary, grapefruit mint, chives, dill and parsley

Rosemary, grapefruit mint, chives, dill and parsley

I bought the 72 pod Greenhouse Jiffy kit from Home depot and put some seeds in! I was wondering how to label the seeds so I used some plastic-y tabs and wrote on them with permanent marker and devised a little organizational system to make sure I don’t mix them up.

seeds at

seeds at


At first, this was the container I was using. Jokes! It’s too small. So that’s when I bought the 72 pod container and transferred these guys over (that’s why you’ll see that there are a couple of already-sprouted rows).

seeds at

What do you think? I’m so excited for these little guys to grow. My balcony/apartment will be a complete jungle. No complaints here!

Sushi, my little parakeet

Sushi, my little parakeet

This is my bird, Sushi. Don’t ask about the name. Named her 13 or so years ago! Ironic that I never had tried sushi at the time that I named her, and no longer eat sushi now…

terrarium at

Also, I got bored with the moss terrarium so I took some of Sushi’s bird seeds and just threw them in the terrarium. They’ve sprouted. Surprise!

Lastly, this is some seaweed concentrate that I got for the plants from Orchard. It’s apparently really great for the soil and foliage of plants and apparently keeps bugs from infesting your plants because they don’t like the taste. We’ll see!

seaweed concentrate for gardening!

seaweed concentrate for gardening!

Have you started planting yet? Spring cleaning? Let me know!


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My Recent Ecospiration

Hellooo! It’s been too long since I’ve written. There are really no excuses. I guess you could say that I wasn’t very ecospired in those long “dreary” months. That’s not true. And actually, I don’t even have the weather excuse because California’s “fall” and “winter” look exactly like its spring and summer this year. It’s actually an extremely dire problem here in California; we’re in the middle of a bad drought with little to no rain. As much as it sounds crazy to complain about the sunny days when the rest of the US has been in the middle of a polar vortex, our problem is real too.

I wanted to let y’all know that I actually HAVE been ecospired lately. I’ll be talking in more detail about these concepts in future posts, but I wanted to lay them all out on the table today.

Here are the things that have really ecospired me lately (if I say ecospired enough, and in enough ways, will it become a word? Will it become a thing?! I’m determined to find out.)

1. The website, Conscious Commerce

I found this website in a funny way. I was on a Netflix binge, and I watched the movie “Drinking Buddies,” starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston. Olivia Wilde was fantastic so naturally I stalked her on the interwebs…that might just be a thing I do. Anyway, I found out that she co-founded this website with Barbara Burchfield. I LOVE IT. And I officially love Olivia Wilde. She’s a passionate activist, hysterical, environmentally conscious and an all around decent person. (On a side note, Olivia has been writing articles for magazines that are hysterical, spot on and support the environment and women’s rights. Read Olivia’s “commencement speech” for 75 years from now in Glamour magazine. I promise it is worth the read!)

These quotes from Conscious Commerce’s website perfectly summarize what they’re all about:

Know what’s not fun? FUNdraising. This is a tragic misnomer.

Whoever thought of this word has never begged donors for money, regardless of how worthy the cause. We spent years in the non-profit world trying to scrape together funds for incredible causes, and have the battle scars and deflated dreams to show for it.

We thought it was high time to create an alternative form of raising cash for good, and why not tap into the dollars already being spent by the billions every single day? We will select the purposeful products that we think you’d buy anyway (this is not your source for recycled gum tampons) and organize them for your perusing pleasure.”

We vote with our dollars. In a time and age where political activism seems to be at an all time low and shopping is probably at an all time high, we can vote with what we do or don’t buy. It’s really the least we can do. What are you voting for? I’d like to vote for the environment, animals, justice, and…peace. Cliche enough? I don’t care. They’re worth “buying” for. It’s worth looking into the background of the products you buy. Is it natural? Free of animal testing? Is it organic? What type of organic? Is it sustainable? Is the product greenwashed or actually green? The concept of “greenwashing” is when a company uses “green PR” or green marketing to make a product or service seem more environmentally-friendly than it actually is. Be careful for these products. Greenwashing is really trending now, and it’s difficult to differentiate between what’s “good” and “bad.” Organics are mislabeled a TON. There are also so many different “versions” of organics that you can never really be sure until you do your research.

2. Portlandia

Not much to say about this show other than the fact that it is HYSTERICAL and so weird and I love it. As much as it pokes fun at Portland’s stereotypes, it really does provide social commentary and, in my opinion, supports a good cause, albeit in a satirical way.

My favorite episode (I believe it’s season 2 episode 7) with harpist Joanna Newsom. I DIE.

3. Minimalism

This is a BIG one for me lately. I’m tired of owning so much. It’s gluttonous. It’s environmentally degrading. It’s excessive. I can keep going. I’m tired of spending half of my time cleaning my apartment and the other half messing it up, because I have so many THINGS all over the place. The more things you have, the messier your stuff will be, even if you’re super organized. I actually love to organize (understatement of the year), but sometimes, organization can mask how much crap you actually have. Do you need 10 lotions? Do you need all those scarves? I’m not trying to go “bare-bones” here, but I’m trying to make a more conscious effort of how much I own. I feel heavy with all the junk I have. I’m tired of the need to buy more crap to be happy. Retail therapy, anyone? I’m totally guilty of it. But it never ends up making you happy in the end.  I’ll be doing a post about minimalism soon. I’m aiming to get rid (or “use up”) of 1/3 of my things, and to only have things that are beautiful, useful and ideally “green”. We’ll see how that goes! I’m hoping to make the transition into really researching the products I use, in order to truly support these causes with my dollars.

Plus, we never really stop to think of how much water it takes to make clothing. Check out this video by the National Geographic and the World Wildlife Fund. The video’s under 2 minutes. Apparently, it takes approximately 2,700 liters of water to make ONE shirt. They state that this is enough water for a person to drink for 900 DAYS.

Even if you think your choices don’t matter, they really do. Since switching to a vegetarian diet a year and a half ago, few of my closest friends have too. Meat is so energy-intensive to “produce” and requires so much water. And so many less animals are dying each day because of the food that one vegetarian/vegan chooses to eat. It’s worth it to me, and since I made the decision to become vegetarian, I’ve never looked back. Your choices make a difference.

4. Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer

Trader Joes Soy Creamer

Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer

This soy creamer is crack…I’m positive of it. I rarely buy coffee from coffee shops anymore because no one ever has soy creamer and soy creamer MAKES my coffee. I cannot rave enough about this. I’m vegetarian, and I buy my groceries as vegan as I can. So, being able to drink this soy creamer gets me out of bed in the mornings. I literally buy 4 cartons every time I go to Trader Joe’s. Speaking of Trader Joe’s, I have been fortunate enough to perform the harp for Joe and friends at the original Trader Joe’s house. Original Joe’s name is Joe Coulombe. Although he has long since sold Trader Joe’s to a German billionaire, he and his wife are really great, philanthropic people. Fun fact of the day!

What has ecospired you lately?



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“Your Style is Just…Ecospired.”

Hi there! It’s been a few days! In my excuse, it was a national holiday (4th of July!) and I was busy buying furniture. So the little break is completely justified, right?

I was talking with my mom and she was trying to explain my furniture style to me–which sounds weird in retrospect–but she made a good point. It’s going to seem super obvious. She said: “You’re style is just… ecospired.” First of all, it’s adorable and sweet of my mom to use the word I made up, (#1 fan, thanks Mom) and second of all, she’s totally right, although I’m afraid that my ecospiration may result in my place looking like the inside of a Goodwill. I seriously hope not. But, I have a few DIYs coming up, and some new furniture, in which case the fact that I am “ecospired” will become glaringly obvious. Get excited!

This is my newest beauty in my apartment. If this doesn’t scream “ecospired,” then I don’t know what does:

It’s a driftwood coffee table that I bought off of craigslist!

Driftwood Table on

Driftwood Table on

Driftwood Table on

Driftwood Table on

My best friend (the one who endured high school with me) came with me to buy it. I’m always too chicken to go to random people’s houses via craigslist by myself. It was 25 “LA” miles away (which is the equivalent of at least 2 hours) and extremely heavy. But as my best friend said– “We’re women, we can lift this”–which was inspiring enough to sacrifice potentially throwing out our backs and bringing it into my apartment. But as you can see, we are women because it is now sitting comfortably in my living room. 😉

Love it!

Love it!

Um. Gorgeous, huh? I’m getting a bunch of new furniture because I need to love to (my roommate’s moving out). I was fishing for compliments on the table and asked my roommate, “isn’t it prettttyyy?” to which she seriously responded: “Mmhm, my grandma used to have one too.”  Thanks for that, roomie!  Apparently all the stuff I buy was once owned by someone’s grandma, so no hurt feelings here.

I also bought a chest/armoir/desk/I’m-not-really-sure-what-it’s-called a couple days before the coffee table. I’m like 107% sure that someone’s grandma owned this. I bought this at a thrift store, the second someone donated it. I literally followed the worker as they wheeled it into the store and claimed it as mine as the rest of the thrift store jealously glared at my new purchase (or something). I took it to my parents’ house because I’m considering painting it a grey/black or grey/taupe color. Or burnt orange. The white paint of the shabby-chic isn’t really my thing, but it’s growing on me. That might be the laziness in me talking. What color do you think I should paint it? Should I leave it white? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

Here’s an extremely unflattering photo of the “thing” while I was at the thrift store, which is evidently the only photo that I have of it:

The theme of this post is: thrifting!

Buying used is buying green.

I know that I say this all the time, but it’s really true. The more you can imagine different possibilities with a piece of used furniture, the better off you (and the environment, and your wallet!) are. Buying used ensures less production of precious renewable and inefficient nonrenewable resources, and cultivates the mentality that you don’t always need to buy NEW things to have nice things. I’m really into home decor, but I firmly believe that it’s important to recognize your carbon footprint in all that you do, and to do something about it. A huge proponent of sustainability is simply buying used. Try it out!

By the way, am I the only person whose home decor resembles the jungle? If you’re out there, holler!


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