Earth Hour at Setá – Interview with Aimee Winkler Clugston

Today I caught up with Aimee Winkler Clugston of the interior design firm Partners In Design to talk about Earth Hour on March 26, 2011 at 8:30pm.  Earth Hour began in Australia in 2007 when over two million individuals and two thousand businesses turned off their lights for one hour to take a stand against climate change.  Since then Earth Hour has become an annual global event.

Aimee teamed up with the eco-conscious restaurant Setá dine:lounge in Whittier to plan a special Earth Hour dining experience.  Setá dine:lounge believes in using sustainable farming and organically grown produce resources.  Renowned Chef Hugo Molina, former chef of Pasadena’s acclaimed Parkway Grill, provides the amazing cuisine at Setá. Setá received the OpenTable 2011 “Diners’ Choice Award”.

Aimee Winkler ClugstonEB:  Hi Aimee!  Would you please tell the EcoBuzz Los Angeles readers about yourself?

AWC: My grandparents on my mother’s side, migrated from Italy. My grandfather started a textile company back East and I am sure that my creativeness and love for textiles was inspired by him.  I was raised in Palos Verdes, graduated from UCLA and have been designing hotels for the last 20 years.  I am the Founder/CEO of Partners In Design, which is an interior design firm specializing in hotels.  I am married to a wonderful man and have two step-children (my step-son will be graduating from Cal State Fullerton this May – we are so proud!).  Our home is a similar to a miniature zoo….with 3 dogs, 2 cats and a horse.

EB:  We’re very excited to speak to you about Earth Hour from 8:30pm-9:30pm on March 26, 2011.  You’ve been talking about it for the weeks leading up to now and it sounds like you have some great plans.  Tell us about them.

AWC: Awareness is key!  This year my goal was to make Whittier more aware so I contacted one of my favorite local restaurants, Setá, located at 13033 Philadelphia Street, Whittier, CA, phone: 562.698.3355.  Seta Jeen, one of the owners, and I had a great conversation about Earth Hour and he pledged Seta’s support for the event.  The Chef has planned a special menu and they will be going dark from 8:30pm to 9:30 pm by turning off non essential lights (switching off main lights, including exterior lights). They will be illuminating the restaurant with candles. The staff at Setá is conscience of the environment and uses only bio-degradable to-go boxes and purchases as much as possible from local growers and farmers. The staff is really excited about being the conduit of awareness. So, needless to say, we will be joining them in the celebration.

EB:  How did you first become interested in environmental causes?

AWC: I have been interested in the environment and the planet all my life, really.  My father was an Engineer and was always inventing or perfecting ideas and products.  He was very inspiring and creative. I remember when I was 9 years old, we worked together and made the first “water saver shower head” which we installed in my bathroom.  It always make me happy that I could turn the water off while I washed my hair then try to calculate how many gallons of water I was saving.  Silly, right?

EB:  Not silly at all – I love that!  What are some of the things that you do to reduce your carbon footprint?

AWC: We do not use plastic bags!!  I am super crazy about that!!! [See “Why We All Need to Be Part of the Solution]

AWC: Using reusable cloth bags is wonderful.  We also must be conscious about the type of materials used to make reusable bags.  Unfortunately not all reusable bags are created equal – some reusable bags are made from polypropylene which is not biodegradable or recyclable and has been shown to contain an unhealthy amount of lead.  Look for reusable bags made with natural fibers.

AWC: I also purchase my organic fruits, vegetables, fish and eggs at the local Farmers Market.  Plastic water bottles were eliminated by installing a water purifier on our kitchen faucet. Clothes are washed in cold water as much as possible and our thermostat is set low during the winter months. Fans are also big at our home during the summer months.

EB:  This year, Earth Hour wants you to go beyond the hour by making change in your life that will benefit the planet.  What are some things that we can do to “go beyond the hour”?

AWC: Well there are a ton of things we can do, we just have to be willing to “stop, think, then think green”.  We live in a get it now society and don’t slow down to smell the roses.  Well we all need to act now and all need to participate! Try making small changes at first then challenge yourself and your family to go beyond.  It really is fun.

AWC: So some things that are really easy would be:

1.   Selecting organic beef from a local farm.  Believe it or not your plate creates a lot of carbon emissions. Farms that raise organic beef raise cows that grow to a normal size so they don’t create more methane (a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide) than necessary. Organic farmers do this by letting the cattle graze outdoors, are given no anti-biotics or growth hormones, and graze on organic pastures without artificial fertilizers. So keep your beef organic and your carbon footprint lean.

2.    Invest in a small solar charger for your laptop, iPod or cell phone.

3.   Unplug appliances when you’re not using them. Or, use a “smart” power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts “phantom” or “vampire” energy use.

4.   Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.

5.   Plant drought-tolerant native plants in your garden. Many plants need minimal watering. Find out which occur naturally in your area.

6.   Shut down the computer, unplug it then take your family outside.  Go for a walk, play ball or have a picnic in the park.  With all the technology these days I feel that kids don’t get outside enough.  They are straining their eyes by looking at a monitor for hours then sit on the sofa for another long session of video games.  What happened to climbing trees, riding bikes across your neighbor’s lawn and finding tree branches as swords?  Imagination is key to the development of the mind!

7.   Make your own cleaning supplies.  All you need are a few simple ingredients: baking soda, vinegar, lemon and a drop of soap.  Making your own cleaning products saves money, time, packaging and indoor air quality.

8.   Adjust your computer monitor’s brightness.  The Saving Energy blog found that reducing a flat panel monitor’s brightness from 100 to 0 shaved 12 watts off of the energy use, with an almost identical reduction with CRT monitors.

EB:  As we the world unites for Earth Hour our thoughts are with the people of Japan and the devastation they face as a result of the massive earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the resultant tsunami.  How can participating in Earth Hour help?

AWC: The devastation in Japan is incredible.  So many people are without food and shelter. As the nation struggled with a rescue effort, it also faced the worst nuclear emergency since Chernobyl; explosions and leaks of radioactive gas took place in three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station that suffered partial meltdowns, while spent fuel rods at another reactor overheated and caught fire, releasing radioactive material directly into the atmosphere. Japanese officials turned to increasingly desperate measures, while their American counterparts gave a far more dire appraisal of the dangers. As of March 24, the official death toll had been raised to more than 9,500, and more than 16,000 people are listed as missing. It is said that the final toll is expected to reach nearly 20,000.

With all the devastation and chaos the Japanese people are patiently standing in line for food and water and ONLY taking what they need…it is incredible to see! And we as Americans should be taking this all in, praying for them, donating as much as we can and learning from them.

How can we help? Pray! Donate to the Red Cross.

EB:   Thank you Aimee, for taking the time to talk with EcoBuzz about Earth Hour, the event at Setá dine:lounge and the impact plastic has on our planet!

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