A Cool Block for Embury

Beverley Auerbach, April 18, 2024

Resilient Palisades Member

Pacific Palisades owes a lot to Resilient Palisades! Through their events, direct emails and articles in The Palisadian-Post, they are disseminating useful information that promotes healthier living for people and the environment.

 

In one of those emails, Resilient Palisades’ president Ingrid Steinberg mentioned “Cool Block LA”, a now- defunct program that furthered sustainability and disaster resilience through hyper-local education and participation. While I am always interested in leading a more sustainable life, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to take on the responsibility of organizing the 1100 block of Embury, my Alphabet street neighborhood. Nonetheless I decided to give the program a whirl, particularly after I was approached by neighbor Karen Goldberg who coaxed me to team up with her. Working with someone on this initial phase made it seem less daunting – knocking on doors up and down the block, introducing ourselves and explaining the Cool Block concept. We started each encounter by saying – “We’re your neighbors, and we’re not selling anything!” I was relieved to be so warmly received by people I didn’t know, and proud that 30 of the 31 homes on our block gave us their contact information so that they could learn more.

 

We organized an introductory meeting, well attended, in a neighbor’s backyard – this was COVID time, and we needed social distance and fresh air. We provided handouts and explained how the program could help us become safer in the case of emergencies and more sustainable in our everyday lives. An added benefit was getting to know our neighbors and having people nearby on whom we could rely – a support system! At the end of the presentation, we asked who might be interested in participating, hoping that at least some of those present would agree to move forward. Oh, ye of little faith! Every attendee raised his or her hand. Double YEAH!! Many expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to meet neighbors in a relaxed and adult atmosphere. Too many of us knew only the people in our immediate orbit; even those living three or four houses away could be unknown and unrecognizable.

 

The program covered numerous topics and the good thing for me was that it didn’t all fall on my shoulders, since after a time I was the sole administrator. Neighbors signed up to present specific subjects, in effect running the meeting. Sometimes one person was both session leader and host; other times one neighbor would offer her home or yard as a meeting place and someone else would run the meeting. Neighbors stepped up on all fronts, including bringing drinks, wine and hors d’oeuvres to make our learning sessions fun social events. We scheduled our get-togethers on Sundays in the late afternoon, five or six weeks apart, and skipping the summer months when so many of us are away. It was tough to schedule dates that were good for everyone. We mitigated this by taking notes at each meeting which I then emailed to the entire block. Thus all block members have a permanent record that can be consulted later.

 

Among the topics we discussed were preparing for black outs by creating energy-resilient homes; surviving earthquakes, wildfires or other emergencies, including steps to take in advance for possible evacuation; reducing our consumption of energy and water; reducing our carbon footprint; consuming less resources and cutting down on trash; depending less on outside help (e.g. firefighters and police who may be overwhelmed in a disaster) and more on our neighbors. Other topics arose through brainstorming: borrowing resources from neighbors rather than buying items for short term use; creating a plan for checking on neighbors – particularly the elderly – in emergency situations; learning about composting; encouraging solar and battery installations; creating a block-wide WhatsApp group for fast communication; organizing block garage sales; working together for fast action from the City after the sudden collapse of several parkway trees, etc. We were able to share useful ideas such as the need to have at least $200 – $300 at home, in small bills, in case an emergency situation caused bank closures and disabled ATMs; having water storage barrels on property (for bathing, washing and cooking needs) in addition to emergency drinking water; where to purchase shelf-stable, ready-to-eat food that could tide a household over for a week after a disruption; what constituted a complete first aid kit and where to buy/how to assemble it; the value of having a landline, in case cell towers collapse; what to have in the trunk of our car in case an earthquake strands us far from home. These topics are just a few that we discussed.

 

Naomi Saucier, one of our neighbors, wrote this about the 1100 block’s coming together: “I learned who my neighbors were for the first time in a decade. We talked about how I could make myself and the neighborhood more prepared for emergencies  and who I could call if I needed help or could offer help to if I were able. It got me to finally make a ‘go-bag’, organize for emergencies and become a more responsible person. Recycling has become a bigger part of my life and I’m thinking about sustainability as a way of living.”

 

As a block, we progressed from talking to action. Some have replaced water-intensive landscaping, putting in more eco options; installed solar roof panels and battery storage; embraced various sustainability programs such as Buy Nothing Palisades, Imperfect Foods (a grocery delivery service that sources surplus food that would otherwise become landfill) and Ridwell (a subscription company that picks up otherwise unrecyclable waste such as multilayer plastics, plastic film, threads, batteries, light bulbs, etc.)

 

We have also used the block communication chain to pass along useful information (such as ways to save resources or the value of eliminating harmful plastics from our kitchens) and timely opportunities. But of equal importance, the block has become closer as we recognize and greet neighbors who were once unknown to us. That connection, and that warmth, have been priceless!

 

We are open to each other’s suggestions, to sharing knowledge and opportunities. Let’s go, Embury!

 

 

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