Sustainability in Long Beach
From its iconic coastline to idyllic weather, famous music scene to unparalleled athletic successes, there’s a lot about Long Beach to make other cities green with envy. One of those things is just how Green Long Beach is. You see it all over, from historic homes to innovative aquariums, bus stops to tarmacs, much of it due to the leadership of some of the biggest organizations in town that continually strive to create, through education, services and resources, a circle of sustainable life. It’s why Long Beach has long been seen as a leader in that regard, why it was recently recognized with the Green California Summit Leadership Award. It may not always be easy being Green, but these organizations’ actions have proven they’re committed to it.
AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC
Whether it’s climate change, sustainable seafood, online STEM classes, films or cultural events, the Aquarium of the Pacific tackles the globe's most pressing issues through speaker series, online programs, policy forums, the arts, and science events, just to name just a few. And it practices what it teaches. The Aquarium has produced more than 80% of its own energy on-site thanks to a fuel system installed in 2019. It also saves more than 960,000 gallons of water annually, due to such innovations as touch-free faucets, waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets. Its Watershed Classroom, which hosts ongoing exhibits regarding water issues, features an energy saving “green roof,” and reduces stormwater runoff. This kind of commitment is nothing new. In fact, it was in 2012 that the Aquarium became the first zoo or aquarium to receive the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award.
PORT OF LONG BEACH
To understand Long Beach, it helps to understand the Port, which, in many ways, both defines and leads the city. An economic behemoth, generating more than $100 billion in trade, the Port of Long Beach was at the forefront of reacting to the challenges of climate change when it launched its Green Port Project in 2005. The results have been exceptional. For instance, one of the first programs put in place tackled vessel speed reduction to cut air pollution. It now has more than 95% of ships in the port earning incentives by slowing down. The Clean Trucks Program banned older, heavy polluting diesel trucks and led to a 90% reduction in vehicle emissions. Overall, since Green Port was put in place, diesel soot is down 88%. And, thanks it its clean water initiatives, marine life in the area has experienced a two-fold increase in the number of plants and animals living on the rocks and pilings in the harbor.
RANCHOS LOS ALAMITOS AND CERRITOS
These unique, historical jewels embrace their past but also use it to offer a guide to the future. Rancho Los Alamitos has four acres of nationally significant historic gardens that not only engage visitors but offer such classes as nature journaling which allows visitors to engage and appreciate nature while considering their responsibility in protecting it. Through its Looking Back to Advance Forward project, Rancho Los Cerritos is using the latest technology to capture, store and reuse rainfall on its historic property. The Rancho, which aims to increase its stormwater capture from 40% to 95% annually, is creating an innovative model for rainfall reclamation that can serve as a local and national model.
CITY OF LONG BEACH
Where to start? The City's Native Plant Nursery offers workshops in things like planting basics and native plant container gardens. If you’re into mulch, the city offers a self-service pickup area. If you’re more into composting, it offers a variety of compost bins – for backyard composting, yard debris and food debris – at reduced prices. The RiverLink project is focused on revegetating the Long Beach stretch of the Los Angeles River with indigenous plants. There are a lot more resources and programs, all in keeping with the city’s reputation for environmental leadership. It was the first city to join the EcoZone Program intended to measurably improve environmental conditions through public-private partnerships. To that end, Long Beach initiated its Green Business certification allowing local businesses to partner with the city to reduce their environmental impacts; more than 50 local businesses have signed up.
LONG BEACH CONVENTION & ENTERTAINMENT CENTER
The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center does a number of things inside, outside and over, to be more efficient while lessening its overall footprint. It saves significant energy by employing “cool roofs” over the exhibit halls, Terrace and Beverly O’Neill theaters; those roofs act as insulation when outside temperatures are cool, while blocking heat on sunny days. Most lighting fixtures have been retrofitted with LED bulbs. Landscaping waste is composted and utilized as mulch while landscaping “wood chips” are actually made from recycled tires. In fact, the convention center recycles everything from machinery oil, to batteries to more than 1,200 wooden pallets. There’s even an on-site herb garden that’s managed and utilized by the center’s kitchen staff.
LONG BEACH TRANSIT
Providing an alternative to single-occupant car trips, Long Beach Transit's (LBT) “Green Fleet” – i.e. battery electric, hybrid, natural gas buses – offsets more than 312,000 gallons of gas every year. The fleet will be adding 14 electric buses in 2022 with a goal of having its entire fleet qualify as zero emissions by 2035. That’s five years before the state’s regulations requiring public transit agencies to transition to 100% zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. That leadership is nothing new for the agency, which, before the end of 2022, will have more than quadrupled its electric bus fleet. In addition to its Green Fleet, LBT recently signed the American Public Transportation Assn.’s Sustainability Commitment, pledging to engage in an even broader set of sustainability principles.
LONG BEACH AIRPORT
Anyone coming to Long Beach via this historic art deco gem – the BBC named it one of the 10 most beautiful airports in the world, the only U.S. airport on the list – knows it’s something special. What might not be so apparent is how sustainable all that charm has been made through drought-resistant turf, shrubs and trees, low-flow water fixtures and a solar project on top of the airport’s parking structures designed to generate renewable energy to supply 70% of the electricity used in the terminal. The commitment extends to the tarmac, where the Long Beach Airport has been converting all taxiway lights to LEDs that use less energy, are brighter than regular bulbs and have a longer lifespan. To show that sustainability extends beyond Green, airport concessions not only use recyclable materials in their packaging but donate about 100 meals a month to organizations fighting food insecurity.
LONG BEACH WATER DEPARTMENT
The Long Beach Water Department, through a partnership with the city, provides a wide array of innovative resident support programs and initiatives designed to help them, and businesses, be as water-efficient as possible. The programs, which include educating K-8 students and their families to not only save water but energy, while reducing waste, appear to be working. With an average water use of fewer than 95 gallons per person, per day, Long Beach has become a leader in water use efficiency. The department also provides a Lawn-To-Garden program providing rebates for converting from grass to water-wise landscapes. Its Direct Install Garden program makes water-wise conversions available to homeowners in disadvantaged communities. Conversions are handled in partnership with the Conservation Corp of Long Beach, a program connecting youth to their communities through work, education and conservation.