Building a Green Collar LA

Building a Green Collar LA

By Sarah Rich
Dwell in Design is a mere three weeks away and we're getting excited to welcome dozens of speakers and thousands of visitors to the LA Convention Center for the big weekend. On Friday June 26, the Dwell editors will moderate a day of panels based on the sections of the magazine. I'm very much looking forward to Off the Grid, in which I'll talk with three experts about sustainability and the green collar economy in Los Angeles.

Panelist Philippe Hartley will be joining us to talk about entrepreneurship in the solar sector. Hartley is the founder of Phat Energy, a small southern California company that offers solar electricity and water heating technology for both residential and commercial applications.

While California now has many small renewable energy ventures sprouting up, Phat Energy has several unique facets, perhaps most noteworthy among them being that the company employs solar installers who are building careers in the green industry after being released from prison. Phat Energy works with Homeboy Industries—a Los Angeles organization on a "Jobs not Jails" mission to assist ex-cons with skills training, education, and job placement—to recruit new additions to the burgeoning green collar workforce. With renewable energy being one of the few industries that's still growing during the economic downturn, it's a great place to plug into job opportunities. ABC has a nice segment on Phat Energy's commitment to both environmental sustainability and social justice (and the Wall Street Journal did a good piece on Homeboy Industries back in February). We're looking forward to hearing more from Hartley about integrating these two two goals into a successful young business.

We'll also be joined by Spencer Sherman, Senior Development Associate at the National Resources Defense Council. Sherman oversees the Environmental Action Center at the NRDC's Los Angeles office, which is beacon of green building unto itself. The LEED Platinum project—a renovation of a 1920s building in Santa Monica—boasts sustainable features from rainwater harvesting and grey water systems to a transit-friendly, pedestrian-focused location. Sherman will talk with us about the design and renovation of the NRDC's southern California home and the wider sustainability efforts of the city of Santa Monica.

Representing the City of Los Angeles, we're pleased to have Jose Gutierrez, an Environmental Supervisor in the Climate and Air Programs Division of EnvironmentLA. As an urban planner, Gutierrez has been involved in many aspects of regulation, zoning, development and conservation in the city of LA. In our discussion of a city where drought, car-dependence and suburban sprawl all pose great challenges to environmental progress, Gutierrez will bring an important policy perspective and insight from years of experience coordinating and implementing city-wide solutions for sustainability.

If you'll be in Los Angeles June 26, please join us. You can register for the conference at For those of you who can't make it to the live event, follow our coverage here at and on Twitter @dwellondesign and @dwell.

Image: Atwater Village Newbie


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