Women of the Green Generation


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By Susanne Green
May 25, 2012

LOS ANGELES —  I head south on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, anticipating a day full of inspiring speakers, activists, and business owners. Even though it is Saturday, I see small groups of serious men walking to their offices wearing black pants and ironed white shirts. At Seventh Street I turn right, then left, into a parking structure where the attendant, a cheerful Latino man, slaps on cologne and waves me ahead.

Since 2009, Kris Willis has brought together a group of over 800 women for Women of The Green Generation. Women of the Green Generation is a networking group composed of female business owners, eco-innovators, writers, organic farmers, yogis, health practitioners, and others involved in sustainable businesses. Willis hosts monthly meetings in addition to the annual conference. I saw her circulating unobtrusively among the attendees and sponsors on May 19, when it all came together for a day-long conference.

I then met Patty Gleeson, who distributes for Amazon Herb Co. Amazon Herb supports the indigenous people of the Amazon by promoting the sustainable gathering of medicinal rainforest plants and by archiving time-tested remedies for healing.  Right now they are promoting camu camu. This herb is said to catalyze the production of serotonin, the hormone that controls sleep, mood, appetite, and libido.

Jennifer Perez of Growing Roots sat behind a display of indoor plants, which she sells, leases, designs, installs, and maintains. I learn about the different species of plants that are used to abate the presence of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene in buildings. In fact, due to the workplace benefits plants provide– reduced absenteeism, enhanced employee problem-solving skills, job satisfaction and feelings of well-being– the return on investment for indoor plants is estimated to be $14.51 per 100 square feet of greenery!

In a corner of the loft where time-seasoned red brick meets the windows that showcases the city beyond, the artwork of Cassandra Tondro caught my eye. Tondro rescues paint from Los Angeles recycling centers and store “mistint” shelves to create a beautiful array of individually-crafted abstract paintings. Tondro, incidentally, has a painting selected for the American Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon in conjunction with the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies Program.

A variety of green food options were available at the conference to members and guests alike. I sampled broadly, and did not go hungry. My main course was the gluten-free sweet potato lasagna by Jennie Cooks Catering. I then enjoyed the chocolate cake and coconut macaroons provided by Fabe’s All Natural Bakery. Fabe’s delicious vegan, organic baked goods happen to be sweetened with fruits, veggies, and grains instead of refined sugar. I washed it all down with Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, first peach ginger, then goji cacao berry. My final slice of decadence was the vegan organic truffles and chocolate munch by Nicobella Organics.  The truffles are made with a creamy ganache center infused with high antioxidant ingredients like green tea, blueberry, and pumpkin.

There was not a single speaker who was less than amazing, and it seemed a shame to miss any of them– although scheduling made it impossible to see each one. Tracy DeNezio, who founded a company that sells gently-used bridal gowns and accessories, was first to take the stage.

“I can’t feel my feet right now,” says Tracy DeNezio, “My legs have been completely reconstructed.”

DeNunzio went on to describe how Agent Orange altered her father’s DNA, causing her to be born with spina bifida. She says that through her challenges in life, she learned how to be sensitive, flexible, resilient, and awesome under pressure. Apparently DiNunzio used to think she limps, but a friend helped her see that she has her own swagger.

“Occupy your space,” says DeNezio, “It promotes testosterone and releases cortisol, the calming hormone.”

When the young Sundance Film Festival winner Rebecca Harrell Tickell took the floor, she captured the audience with a recitation of her life in poetry, á la Dr. Seuss.

“There’s no one else coming. It’s up to me to set us free,” Harrell Tickell says, reciting from memory her life up to her investigation of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Her documentary The Big Fix debuts next month, and the film can now be queued on Netflix.

The dynamic and funny naturopath Dr. Kathy Gruber educated us on water as medicine, as well as the importance of drinking generous amounts of clean water, soaking in clean water, and replenishing ourselves with the vital water that we lose daily just by breathing.

DeAna Vitela Hayashi of AquaBio Environmental Technologies discussed “bioremediation,” using microbes, fungi, and bacteria to break down wasterwater, and “biomimicry,” imitating nature in design.

“Most of [AquaBio’s] clients are in violation of some law [of nature],” says Vitela Hayashi, explaining that she uses water treatment methods that produce quick and effective results for her clients.

The svelte Andrea Robinson of ARC Sustainability put on a slide presentation with a slim touch computer, and demonstrated the economic viability (if not necessity) of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) model in today’s business arena. In short, consumers increasingly demand that companies clean up their act and do the right thing. Robinson urged companies to consider the triple bottom line, and she warned that greenwashing will ultimately backfire.

Sherry Watson, a grant writer and consultant extraordinaire, shared how she was pronounced D.O.A. after a three-wheeling accident that happened when she was a young mother. Against stacked odds, Watson’s family told to the hospital doctors to “get a room ready.” Not only did Ms. Watson live, she re-learned how to walk and talk.  She then went on to Washington D.C. and, under the direction of Jim Brady, created the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The ever camera-ready Rachelle Carson Begley of the television show Life With Ed was very down-to-earth when she spoke about her green life with Ed Begley, Jr. The Begleys are wrapping up production on a new Web series called “On Begley St.,” which will follow the building of their new home in Los Angeles. They aim for sustainable living that balances comfort with consumption.

“There are so many more shades of green nowadays. If I can do it, you can do it,” says Begley.

In the waning afternoon, the attendees gathered around a makeshift runway for the much-anticipated green fashion show.  Green fashion incorporates craftsmanship, natural or recycled materials, dignity for textile workers, and great style. The event was produced and styled by Rebecca Mink, creator of the Mink Italian-made vegan shoes that are embraced by Hollywood names like Pam Anderson and Alicia Silverstone. Mink’s fashion show highlighed green designers including Anita Arzé, Violetta Villacorta, Sita Couture, Liza Shtromberg Jewelry, Fahmina, and Ecouture Clothing.

Finally, I head over to the Young Living essential oil table. Several of the sponsors have been cross-selling the Young Living oils, so I follow my nose to the diffuser where natural healer Carla Sridevi Cohen consults with me. Young Living carefully grows and distills its essential oils, and catalogs each oil’s chemical constituents. The oils are therapeutic and even edible. Cohen thinks I could benefit from an oil blend called Peace and Calming, which she applies to the base of my neck. I think she’s right.

For related articles, see:
Environmentally Friendly Fun at Green Long Beach
Rainforest Hero Leaves Brazil for Los Angeles
Cleaning Santa Monica Beach for all of Los Angeles 

Susanne Green is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about green homes, purple hearts, and white elephants.  She is a finance professional who has travelled on foot through varied countries on six continents and now lives with her daughter in Southern California. 

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.

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