The Earth-Saving Power of Trees

As any long-time Santa Monica resident will tell you, our summers are getting hotter, our winter rains are getting scarcer. (How much is Santa Monica’s climate changing? Read More here).

Trees are one of the most effective ways Santa Monica residents can combat climate change.  There is also correlation with increased tree canopy and lower temperatures, as well as cleaner air and less crime. Unfortunately, across the country, city tree canopies are shrinking due to natural disasters, disease, and other factors. In addition, lower income neighborhoods are seeing less canopy coverage and therefore higher temperatures.

The problem of canopy loss has become so large that the City of Santa Monica (along with cities across the nation) are seeking help from residents. Luckily, it’s one of the simplest and most effective climate change solutions we can all take part in!

How do trees help combat climate change?

Trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide as well as other global warming emissions that are released by cars, gas-powered equipment like lawn mowers and leaf blowers, beef production and power plants. In turn, they release oxygen into our air. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that asthma rates are at an all-time high. As the most prevalent chronic disease in childhood, asthma affects one in every twelve Americans. By planting trees, we help reduce pollutants that trigger asthma and other respiratory diseases. People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be hospitalized with asthma when there are lots of trees in their neighborhood.


Trees also help cool the air and reduce temperatures because they provide shade. They also engage in “sweating”, (evapotranspiration), which lowers temperatures. Shade and evapotranspiration alone can reduce summer peak temperatures by 2-9℉!

Santa Monica: Let’s get planting!

Below are a few ways to bring trees and all their benefits into your life. If there is very little space and no way to accommodate even a small tree, consider a large bush or hedge. Live in an apartment? No problem! You can still contribute to increasing our tree population!

  • If your curbside/parkway area is lacking trees or has any diseased trees, call the City’s Urban Forester via the City Hall hotline at 310-458-8411. Here is a designated tree-planting map for 2019 and 2020. If your street is not included in either of these plans, check out the City’s designated plans for upcoming years
  • To provide feedback and input for the City’s urban forestry planning, you can attend meetings at the City’s Urban Forest Task Force, which meets six times a year, the fourth Wednesday of every month, usually at the Santa Monica Main Library. For more information, visit the Santa Monica Urban Task Force’s website.
  • Even small spaces can accommodate trees. Whether you own or rent, walk around your property to see which space(s) make sense for plantings. Tall bushes are also a great option if a space cannot accommodate even a small tree.

    For a list of tree or bush species with specific height and sun requirements, visit your local nursery or use the online Las Pilitas directory. Some wonderful options for small spaces are the Mountain Mahogany which acts as a beautiful low-water privacy hedge, Toyon, Coffeeberry, and many varieties of Manzanita. (Choosing plants that are native to southern California and which have “low” water requirements means less maintenance than plants from other regions, thereby reducing or eliminating your need for water, fertilizers and pest control. By planting natives, you’re also providing food and habitat for our local birds and other native fauna.)
  • Fruit trees are also a great option if you’d like to further enjoy the benefits of your trees. Choose organic when buying. A few extra dollars is worth the healthier variety you’ll be feasting on for years to come.
Manzanita is a great option
Photo from Las Palitas Directory

A few tips for planting:

  • Use planting instructions to understand the growth habits of the tree and guide you both while selecting as well as during planting to determine how far apart to place each plant. Trees and bushes should be spaced based on their height and width at maturity.
  • Plant in the fall: Again, follow planting instructions. Ideally, you’ll want to plant during dormancy and when plants can receive regular watering. Any tree or bush will want regular watering the first 2-3 months, until it establishes. 
  • Mulch: Use mulch around the base of your new plant to minimize water needs and provide slow-releasing nutrients into the soil. Mulch also invites beneficial worms and small soil insects that help keep your soil aerated and healthy.

If you are not able to plant trees on your owned or rented property, consider donating your time or money to a local tree-planting nonprofit organization. One local group that has been championing tree canopy increase in the Los Angeles area for over three decades and which has wonderful volunteering opportunities is Tree People, located in Coldwater Canyon.

No matter where you live in Santa Monica or how much time and money you have to invest in tree plantings, there is something you can do to help increase our city and county’s tree population. If we want to thwart climate change and clean up our air, all capable citizens can and should be active citizens.  Planting trees is a great option.

A beautiful Magnolia Tree, a common species in Santa Monica

CASM Joins LA Climate Strike with Greta Thunberg

On Friday, November 1, 2019, members of CASM and thousands of Los Angelenos and Santa Monicans gathered at LA City Hall to strike for the Climate Emergency as part of a larger series of Friday strikes by young people around the globe, ditching classes and work for the sake of the planet for a movement known as Fridays for Future.

This Friday’s march focused primarily on the oil and gas industry that is heavily prevalent and influential here in Los Angeles. We gathered and marched to Governor Gavin Newsom’s LA office demanding that the Governor begin to act on behalf of the people and planet instead of continuing business as usual favoring profits and big fossil fuel corporations.

Specifically, according to a press release the strike was organized to “uplift three core demands for Governor Newsom around California’s fossil fuel production”:

  • Roll out a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer to protect frontline communities;
  • Stop issuing any new fossil fuel permits to protect our climate future; and
  • Drop existing oil production with a just transition to a clean energy economy.

The group was joined by the original Fridays for Future Climate Striker, 16-year old Swedish Activist, Greta Thunberg, who’s been here in the United States since September inspiring the youth of North America to wake up, rise up and make sure their voices are heard by those in power, that the time to combat the climate crisis is NOW. There is no time to waste.

The march was followed up by a number of our leading local young activists as well as Thunberg. Their messages were inspired, authentic, and empowering. They shared horror stories of the adverse health consequences affecting them and our local communities forced to live in proximity to oil fields, refineries, and congested freeways. They also shared stories of triumph where our local government has stepped in to put the welfare of the people first and curb polluting corporations. Finally, they instilled hope, reminding us that we have the power when we come together in large numbers to have our voices heard, when we get out and VOTE to put the right people in office, and finally in our everyday choices and actions. We always have the power to make a choice to ride a bike instead of drive, choose beans over beef, and refuse to buy goods wrapped in plastic.

Group shot of all the speakers

Combating the climate crisis will require action from every single one of us. We at Climate Action Santa Monica believe that together we can save humanity and the planet, especially if we continue to support and uplift the efforts of our younger generation. They are the future.

Here are some of our favorite photos captured during the event.

Photo credit:

Jobs for the Future: SMC Trains a Green-Tech Workforce

As part of the National Solar Open House on October 5th, Santa Monica College’s Sustainable Technologies Program opened its doors to the public for an inside look at the campus’s solar installations and its award-winning sustainable technology learning facilities. 

Climate Action Santa Monica (CASM) Steering Committee members got a tour of the large-scale solar power installation on a 10,000 square foot city-owned office on the airport property.  Hundreds of solar panels cover the roof of the building and generate 53,000 watts of electricity, enough to fully power all the offices.

Solar-powered office building just east of the Museum of Flying on Airport Avenue

This is an example of the numerous facilities that are being planned to meet Santa Monica’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.  Implementation of the city’s Climate Action and Adaption Plan (CAAP) will require a growing workforce to fulfill this critical mission. Learn more about CAAP.  

SMC renewable energy professor Stuart Cooley in the lab of the school’s Sustainable Technologies Program.

This is where SMC’s nationally recognized Sustainable Technologies Program comes in.  It was launched in response to this rapidly expanding need for skilled workers in the green jobs sector. The program provides students with topflight training for employment in solar energy, recycling, resource management, energy efficiency, public policy, and other sustainability-oriented fields. 

Learn more about SMC’s Sustainable Technologies offerings or contact Stuart Cooley at or call (310) 434-8721.

Photo credit:
Photo credit: SMC students performing a public installation at the Dept. of Energy’s Sunshot Conference.

Things to Know About Natural Gas in Santa Monica

Santa Monica, and many other cities, are moving away from natural gas because of the climate crisis. Using gas to make electricity or to heat homes is more polluting than doing so with solar or wind. It is estimated that natural gas (methane) is roughly 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas than carbon.

The City of Santa Monica recently amended its building code to favor electricity over gas in new construction. Recognizing that natural gas is a fuel preferred by some and a part of our existing energy supply system, the City is providing a pathway that will allow natural gas to continue to be used, in exchange for other energy efficiencies. It is hoped that natural gas usage will gradually decline. This is a positive step. Climate Action Santa Monica supported the city’s plans and offered suggestions for additional measures.

At recent City Council hearings on this issue, our local gas company, SoCal Gas, made the case that gas is a vital part hour energy infrastructure moving forward, and that the city should plan for ongoing use of gas and developing renewable natural gas. Some of their arguments made sense. Solar and other renewables have, for the time being, some limitations. There just aren’t enough batteries for storing the solar power generated during the day so that it can be used at night. Sometimes there is not enough solar, wind power, or other forms of renewable energy available to meet peak demand, for example on extremely hot days when everyone is running air conditioning. So, for the time being, it looks like we are committed to continued use of natural gas, with the hope that our reliance will decrease over time.

Are we fully aware of the risks that come with our continued commitment to gas?

We should be.

A report by the California Council on Science and Technology states that a nearby natural gas storage facility, in Playa del Rey, is problematic. It has a history of gas leaks, and industrial scale gas leaks can be particularly harmful to our climate. In addition, the report states the facility “located near a large population center in a very high wildfire hazard zone, stands out as a facility with relatively higher risk to health and safety than the other facilities in California. Aliso Canyon, Honor Rancho, and La Goleta also present higher health and safety risks than other facilities because of their locations near large numbers of people.”

Several groups have recently begun to call for closure of the Playa Del Rey facility, making us all more aware of the full cost associated with continued use of our natural gas infrastructure. Legislation has been introduced to investigate the facility and its compliance with local health and safety rules.

We do not have a lot of choice in who provides our gas. But we can, for the safety of our children, friends, and family, and for the health of the planet, be vocal and conscientious consumers. We can question why this gas storage facility is so problematic. We can go electric when it’s time to replace a home furnace, clothes dryer, stove, or car. We can install solar panels on our homes, or ask our landlord or homeowners group to consider it. We can let our elected officials know that we support taking action to move away from gas and provide more safer renewable electricity. If we do so, perhaps one day we will no longer need to have troublesome gas storage in our backyard.

Thinking about going electric?

Check out new electric cars and other technologies at Alt Car Expo in Santa Monica on November 2!

National Solar Tours Coming to Santa Monica

Do you have solar? Does it work for you? Don’t have solar but curious to learn more?

The National Solar Tour is October 5th and 6th, and Climate Action Santa Monica is looking for people in Santa Monica to sign up and show off their solar systems. This is an opportunity for people who are curious about the potential of solar and want to know what it is really like to live with solar power.    

Research shows that people are more likely to get solar when their neighbors have it. Solar power figures prominently into the City of Santa Monica’s Climate Adaptation Plan. It is also considered one of the top solutions to the climate crisis globally.  Even better, for many homeowners it makes financial sense. It creates local jobs, too.   

Interested? Please contact and learn more about the event

If you don’t have solar but want to learn more, you can visit a home on the solar tour and ask a real user (not a sales person) about their experience. 

And what if you live in a multi-unit building? New laws make solar for condos more feasible and pilot programs are being run to investigate ways to bring solar to multi-unit buildings of all kinds. Advocates are always needed to shift laws and regulations so that solar is available and affordable to EVERYONE! Find out more by emailing

The Electric Big Blue Bus has Arrived, and Not a Moment Too Soon!

The first of 18 electric buses that Big Blue Bus will acquire by 2021 was celebrated by a press event and ribbon cutting this past Wednesday, August 21,2019, at the city’s bus facility on Colorado and 6th Street.  The state-of-the-art vehicle then went into service on BBB route 1 that afternoon.  

These battery electric buses are the key to the transit system meeting its goal of being a zero-emission fleet by 2030.  The agency will not buy any more internal combustion-powered buses; all new buses purchased will be battery electric, eventually replacing the entire fleet with zero-emission buses.

Electric bus battery details

The new 75 passenger bus will have a range of approximately 150 miles which is anticipated to power it for a full day’s service.  A full recharge takes under three hours using ChargePoint Express fast chargers at BBB’s facility.  The bus uses lithium-ion batteries similar to what are used in modern electric cars like the Tesla.  And like all electric vehicles, the bus is extremely quiet, an added bonus for people near our busy streets.

Gillig is the manufacturer of the new buses, which are being built at their plant in Livermore CA.  The powertrain and batteries were developed and built by Cummins at their facilities in Tennessee and Indiana, so the entire vehicle is U.S. made.  It was in development for over 5 years in close collaboration with BBB.  

Celebrating the new Electric BBB!

As the BBB electric fleet grows in the coming years, it will play an important role in meeting Santa Monica’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 (meaning that none of the energy use or transportation in the city will contribute to net greenhouse gas production).  Emissions from transportation are the single biggest source of greenhouse gases in Santa Monica, primarily from private cars.  So using our comfortable, reliable Big Blue Buses for your transportation needs is one of the most important things you can do to address the climate crisis!

What do you think? Are you excited to try out the new electric Big Blue Bus? Leave your comments below. View the Big Blue Bus routes and schedules here. See you on the bus.


Santa Monica Residents,

We have a HUGE potential to reduce our output of global warming emissions, and it’s very simple: If you are ready to dump your old fridge, freezer or A/C unit, please call the City of Santa Monica’s Resource Recovery and Recycling at 310-458-2223. DO NOT leave curbside or alley as this will lead to a dangerous dumping of the harmful chemicals inside the unit.

This old freezer was recently found dumped in an alley in Santa Monica.  If you see one, talk to your neighbor and/or call the City of Santa Monica to request safe disposal.

Here’s what you need to know:

Did you know that refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners contain gases that are 1,000 – 9,000 times more potent at warming our climate than carbon dioxide? 

If refrigerators, freezers and air conditioning units are recycled and disposed of properly by professionals, then 90% of the gases in each unit are captured and purified for reuse or transformed into other chemicals that do not have climate changing capacity. 

If Santa Monica residents dump their units curbside or in the alley and the refrigerants in those units are drained or released by amateurs, then each unit will spew its gases into our atmosphere with enormous temperature-increasing effects on the climate.

In 2016, 170-nations gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to address the pressing issue with using these climate-warming gases, a.k.a. refrigerant gases a.k.a. HFC’s. Luckily, the countries agreed on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of harmful greenhouse gases starting in 2019. Manufacturers will switch to alternatives such as propane and ammonium. Scientists estimate that the Kigali accord can reduce global warming by nearly 1° Fahrenheit

But the proper disposal of any HFC-containing appliance is key in keeping these potent climate warming gases at bay. Any of us updating to a new unit or, simply, downsizing has the power and the responsibility to make sure these gases are recycled or properly disposed of.

Tossing out your ol’ fridge, freezer or air conditioner? Here’s what to do:

  1. ALWAYS dispose of your unit with a professional. Amateur drainage of the harmful refrigerant HFC gases will result in spewage straight into our atmosphere. 
  2. DO NOT leave refrigerators, freezers or air conditioners curbside or alley UNLESS you have already arranged for a FREE pickup by the City of Santa Monica. Please call the city’s Resource Recovery and Recycling: 310-458-2223. In addition to the environmental risk of leaving your unit curbside without proper disposal plans, this can also lead to playing children trapping themselves inside your unit.  Take safety measures such as removing doors!
  3. If you have arranged for pick-up with the city of Santa Monica (310-458-2223) and are asked to leave your unit curbside or in the alley, PLEASE MARK THE UNIT with a visible note: “For City Pickup ONLY – Harmful Chemicals / Para la recogida en la ciudad SOLAMENTE – Productos químicos nocivos”

If you are replacing with another unit, shop stores that offer free or inexpensive recycling of old units. If you are buying a new unit from a reputable store and they offer take your old unit away, you can generally have confidence that it will be handled properly. But feel free to ask if they are approved or alternatively, look for retailers that partner with EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program

Spring Mixer Brings Climate Champions Together

Climate Action Santa Monica hosted our Spring Mixer on June 9th at the Victorian on Main St., bringing together friends and colleagues to socialize, network and recognize the vital contributions made by two steering committee members who have moved into new roles.

Katharine King was honored for her leadership as a founder of CASM and her years of service as Co-Chair.  Katharine brought her long experience in event production to help organize CASM’s Climate Summits and Forums and has been our group’s organizational rock as co-chair. 

Zac Gaidzik was recognized for his inventive work developing and leading our Climate Corps youth-based climate awareness program. “Its about people”, was his reminder to all of us as we continue our work encouraging friends, family and policymakers to take action on the climate crisis, stressing the power of our personal connections.  

CASM co-chairs Cris Gutierrez and Laurene von Klan highlighted our recent accomplishments and the work we plan to do in the coming years:  expansion of the Climate Corps, more educational forums and new initiatives such as our Solar Brunch project, which are neighbor-to-neighbor gatherings that demystify the process and options for producing solar power on homes.  All of these programs bring our community together to support the city’s ambitious new Climate Action and Adaptation plan. 

CASM is also focused on building its capacity — with more funding, volunteers and skills.  There are numerous ways that you can participate and our success depends on friends like you, so if you are interested, please get in touch!  
And a final thank you goes to the Victorian for so graciously hosting us in their beautiful space!

City to Adopt New Climate Plan

The City of Santa Monica staff will present the city’s second Climate Action and Adaptation Plan to City Council in late May. The Plan focuses on objectives in three sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: Zero Net Carbon Buildings, Zero Waste, and Sustainable Mobility. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of city residents, businesses and visitors by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 and set us on a path to eliminate the city’s effective carbon emissions by 2050. 

Over the last several weeks Climate Action Santa Monica has reviewed the draft document and provided dozens of ideas and suggestions to support developing a visionary plan with concrete objectives. In addition, the city received hundreds of comments during its online public comment period. Those comments and the city’s responses, as well as the plan itself, are available online here.

An important theme in the Plan is resilience, which refers to Santa Monicans’ ability to respond to, and come together, and thrive even when faced with adverse conditions such as extreme heat and weather events. The impacts of climate change tend to hit people who are economically or physically vulnerable most deeply. Solutions that are equitable to all citizens and neighborhoods are an integral part of the plan’s vision. 

The key to the plan’s success will be how deeply the city’s residents, businesses, visitors and other stakeholders support the plan’s goals and strategies.  This will depend on people making climate-aware choices, such as choosing to bike or take transit rather than driving, or considering the impact of their food choices, what to choose for their next vehicle or deciding if installing solar is right for them. CASM’s outreach programs will be accelerating our community’s understanding of the role that each of us play and how to maximize our efforts.

If you are interested in helping CASM work to bring the new Climate Plan to life, please contact us.


There’s a New Brunch in Town: Solar

Ed Begley, Jr. shared his experiences with solar power at Solar Brunch, a new initiative that gets neighbors talking to neighbors about an important climate change solution.

Are you curious about solar power and want to hear how it has worked out for people in your neighborhood? Maybe you have solar, love it and would be willing to share your experience with others?  If so, read on!

Rooftop solar has been around for a while and it is now more relevant than ever.  As one of the top ten steps that can be taken to address climate change, rooftop solar has the potential to prevent billions of pounds of carbon from being spewed into the atmosphere. It’s no surprise that here in Santa Monica, where we have abundant sun, solar power plays a big role in meeting our city’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. 

For many homeowners, solar can make sense. It reduces their electrical bills, pays for itself over time and increases home values. Others install it because it allows them to do something meaningful to address the climate crisis.  Still others see it as a form of energy independence and security — they generate their own power and with battery storage can offset higher peak period rates and keep their homes running during power outages. 

With so many benefits, you would think more people would go solar. But as it turns out many people feel uncertain about it.  Unbiased information from neighbors who have installed solar can help them understand what’s involved.  But in many cases, people don’t even know that their neighbors have solar.

That fact inspired Climate Action Santa Monica to see if they can help by connecting neighbors who have solar with those who are interested in it.

“We started collecting quotes from neighbors who have solar and like it, then we invited people to come hear about their experience,” said Laurene von Klan, a member of CASM’s Steering Committee. “And we turned it into something fun, social and not a sales pitch. We invited them to brunch!” 

Thus, the first Solar Brunch was hosted on March 9th, partnering with Solar Santa Monica, a city program that offers resources for people who are considering solar power.  After a presentation on how residential installations work, local solar professionals answered questions and helped people analyze their homes’ solar potential.  A photo display illustrated the diverse configurations possible. The Office of Sustainability explained how solar and electric vehicles can work together.  And of course neighbors chatted with each other, sharing what they’ve learned and answering questions. 

“We’re hoping these neighbor-to-neighbor conversations will help a hundred more homes install solar,” says von Klan. More solar brunches are planned in coming months.

For information about these upcoming events contact us at:

Reference: Why do people put solar on their roofs? Because other people put solar on their roofs,” by Chris Mooney, Washington Post, October 23, 2014.