By Guest Blogger Lorraine LoBianco
On a recent Sunday night, press and photographers gathered at the Loew’s Santa Monica hotel to film celebrities as they arrived. It was not the latest Hollywood film premiere but The Green Lounge, an eco-luxury experience and wellness symposium.
A recycled green carpet replaced the traditional red and even the soft LED lights were green-tinted. According to the program, Limo service was provided by LAcarGUY, who uses hybrid and clean Diesel limos. Starlets in formal gowns mixed with hipsters in jeans. The music pulsated, the hors d’oeuvres and food (organic, locally grown food provided by Whole Foods Market Santa Monica) were passed around by formally-attired waiters using recycled or biodegradable napkins and cups and recyclable flatware and silverware. All surplus food was composted and donated to charitable organizations. At the bar, wine, and wine, tequila and Ginger Cosmos flowed.
The Cosmos were made with a non-alcoholic ginger-based cocktail mix called Elixir G. Described in the literature as being “made in small batches from the finest ginger in the world, Elixir G has been recognized for its excellence by the Western Food and Hospitality Expo in Los Angeles, where it was awarded Best in Show.“ Elixir G is all-organic and has the bite and fragrance of fresh ginger. CEO Bill Tocantins poured the drinks himself. A funny, friendly man, Tocantins takes pride in his product – and justifiably so. Elixir G is delicious. The hand-out for Elixir G featured several recipes, including the Ginger Cosmo – 2oz Vodka, ½ oz. Triple Sec, a splash of Elixir G, and a splash of cranberry juice. Many more recipes can be found on their web site www.elixirg.com.
On both floors of the event booths staffed by manufacturers displayed furniture, jewelry, water, cosmetics, skin care, candles, clothing, – even hair dye. They all had one thing in common – environmental responsibility. D’Bodinus showcased a beautiful couch from their Eco-Luxury™ collection made from environmentally safe materials including sustainably harvested woods, water-based low VOC glues and finishes, and NAF (no added formaldehyde) Plywood. The cushioning is 100% Rubber Latex and the springs and staples are made from recycled steel. The fabrics are eco and organic wool, and natural, organic and AZO-free textiles. D’Bodinus is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. www.4greendesign.com
EcoSkin showed their Holiday ’09 collection of clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics including Hemp Silk and Bamboo Tencel, which they describe as requiring “no pesticides, insecticides or fertilizers. Bamboo is also one of the world’s best sustainable resources, as well as the world’s fastest growing plant. It fights global warming by taking in 400% more greenhouse gases and produces 35% more oxygen than standing trees. It removes CO2 and releases oxygen as a by-product. It is 100% biodegradable. In addition, Bamboo whisks away moisture and keeps you dry. It is three times more absorbent than cotton. The result is the garment feels cooler and more comfortable. It is antibacterial, antifungal, and antistatic. Tencel is 100% Organic and a natural raw material. It is extracted from wood pulp and is 100% biodegradable, taken from tree farms that only practice sustainability. It contains no toxic substances. EcoSkin is committed to donating a percent of proceeds to animal and earth friendly organizations and charities.” The collection features softly-draped dresses and jumpsuits, off-the-shoulder knit tops, and silk cocktail dresses. www.ecoskincollections.com
Vito Esposito Salon, located at 308 North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills was in attendance promoting its vegan and organic hair care products and “green initiatives [that] make it the new IT spot for incredible green divas and gents of LA”. Color Lock by BES was featured - sulphate free, 100% vegan shampoos, conditioners and protein sprays that help prevent colored hair from fading. www.besbeautyscience.com
After an hour of cocktails, food and browsing the items, the symposium began. The stage was lit with LED lights, the backdrop made by Green Earth Print and Design, and bordered by a potted tree and a screen made of moss and natural elements by Big Red Sun, who produces “full service architectural, environmentally conscious landscape design for residential and commercial space as well as spectacular living arrangements and décor for stylish events”. They are based in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, where they use only local elements. www.bigredsun.com. Nicole Sherwin, founder of Green Lounge, spoke of being raised by a natural homeopathic doctor father who instilled in her a lifetime of eco-consciousness. Green Lounge was her attempt to inspire rather than be preachy and to prove that being eco-friendly doesn’t’ mean you “have to compromise on style and fabulousness.”
Empowerment coach Jason Nelson, led the audience in breathing exercises, stressing the importance of using creative power and intuition to visualize our life’s purpose and to think differently about creating a sustainable home and finding new ways to recycle.
Darren Moore, former host of Alter-Eco on Discovery Networks’ Planet Green channel, used hard facts. Quoting Al Gore, Moore said that 40% of the energy consumed in the United States is by buildings; the best way to improve the indoor air quality of your home is by simply removing your shoes immediately upon entering; and that by composting food scraps, we can reduce landfills by 20%.
Debbie Levin was the next speaker. Levin is President of the Environmental Media Association, a non-profit organization that works to introduce green themes into Hollywood film and television productions. Celebrities and the media can drive trends and be a significant leader in making sustainable living “cool” to the general public. Arriving at awards ceremonies in stretch limos and Hummers is “decidedly uncool”; EMA has worked to convince celebrities to arrive in hybrids, instead.
Businesses also drive sustainability. EMA partners with studios and production companies to make the studios themselves more green. Many studios have environmental departments for the executive buildings but not on the lots where the programs are produced. By working with the studios, EMA has been able to give their green-seal of certification to over 100 productions.
Levin is also involved with the Los Angeles Unified School District to create organic gardens in low income schools. They hope to take the program nationally and to unify splinter groups who are working toward the same goal. Celebrities can be crucial in promotion because they can influence children merely by sponsoring the gardens. They can encourage kids to view a tomato as something more than just a vegetable that comes from a store; as something that they themselves can grow, thereby changing the child’s view of their own potential and how they live. This is something that the Young Hollywood Board wants to become more involved with. And, of course, where celebrities go, the media follows.
Los Angeles news anchor Christine Devine of Fox 11 News spoke of growing up “with the weird mom who recycled, did yoga, and washed out plastic baggies.” Her family was eco-friendly before the term had been coined. Devine praised Fox 11 for the large amount of ecological stories produced for the newscast and the awards won for their series on eco-friendly cars.
Actress Alicia Silverstone, author of “The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet” which is currently number five on the New York Times Best Seller list, was the final speaker. Silverstone’s diet is “kind to you, the plant and all creatures.” Worried at first that eating a vegan diet would “be the end of eating good food,” the self-described foodie said it took about two weeks for her to figure out how much good food there was available that didn’t include meat. Eating a vegan diet made her feel lighter, walk lighter upon the Earth, and opened up her heart. At 21, she wasn’t interested in eating healthy and her body reflected that – she was heavy, sluggish, and her nails brittle and dotted with calcium spots. By changing her diet, Silverstone was able to stop taking asthma shots after only two weeks. When her doctor asked her why she was quitting, she told him about her diet. The doctor admitted that he had heard similar stories. Her goal in writing the book was to take hard medical fact and important information and make it palatable to the general public. Explaining that the origin of the word “diet” comes from the 16th century, meaning “a day’s journey,” Silverstone wants to restore the original meaning to the word by helping people make better food choices, rather than be on a “diet” every day. Now in her early 30s, Silverstone has realized that getting older can also mean becoming more vital, stronger and connected to yourself. Rather than having the reader immerse themselves in a vegan diet all at once, “The Kind Diet” is done in stages – “Flirting” – where meats and animal products are slowly replaced, “Vegan” and then “Superhero” which is a more macrobiotic diet.
Making healthier food choices also helps the planet. Silverstone informed the audience that six months of water used in showering goes into one pound of beef production. That industry also consumes 20-28 billion gallons of oil a year. The United Nations panel on climate change recently stated that a plant-based diet, even if only followed one day a week, will have the biggest impact on climate change.
The Green Lounge was produced by Nicole Sherwin Green Events, which focuses on elite, special events with sustainability.
Lorraine LoBianco has spent most of her life in Southern California where she has worked in the television industry as Director of Programming at Fox Movie Channel and more recently in Florida as Director of Program Planning and Acquisitions at ION Television. Currently, she is a monthly contributing writer to Turner Classic Movies Interactive and is interested in moving to Northern California for writing, editing and/or television jobs.