Sherri Akers, “almost 60,” moved to Mar Vista from the Hollywood hills a little over a decade ago at a time when she says, she and her husband were “becoming much more focused on sustainability.” In fact, “it became a bit of a competition between us,” Akers said, “to achieve our personal best” at conserving energy and reducing their environmental impact.
As Akers grew in her environmental commitment, she found that continuing her 30-year career in the garment industry was “too at odds with my personal values.” “The idea that my professional work was so toxic was really dissatisfying,” she said.
Akers left her full-time job and started work as a consultant. That transition gave her more time and, she said, “the best opportunity for community involvement” she’d ever had.
Akers seized that opportunity, when, looking to expand on her personal commitment to sustainable living, she met at the . Kuntz was there with a booth promoting wellness and she and Akers agreed that they’d like to get Mar Vista engaged in broader environmental work.
Kuntz said of Akers, “Sheri is incredibly good at getting things done and also incredibly naïve.” Akers, said Kuntz, “ really believes she can save the planet if she just keeps at it.”
It was Kuntz who brought Akers to the , which Akers didn’t know existed, to help start a “green committee.”
Akers said it was rough sailing in the beginning. “For the first few meetings, it seemed like we were not getting much accomplished,” but Akers said, “Jeanne told me not to give up.”
“We kidnapped a quarterly stakeholder meeting” in the fall of 2008, Akers said. The green committee hosted the meeting and invited a number of environmental activists and city employees working on green initiatives to present.
Paula Daniels spoke about the city’s “Green Streets” initiative, and presented on solar power, talked about composting and Rob Kadota spoke about recycling.
“We were blown away by the response,” Akers said. The meeting was packed with Mar Vistans eager to participate in local environmentalism. “We realized we had a vibrant community focused on sustainability. What we needed,” Akers said, “was a way to connect.”
The committee was invited by , manager of the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market to take a booth at the market every Sunday, where they now host master gardeners, school garden groups, sustainability and solar information experts who have a chance to meet locals right in the neighborhood.
Flashing forward, Akers can point with pride to a record of collaborating with the Mar Vista Community Council and her partners in the , Kuntz, Wilhelmi, , , , and newer additions like .
Together they’ve begun to develop a reputation for Mar Vista as a hub of environmentalism within Los Angeles, what Akers calls, “ a little bit of Portland on the Westside.”
City Council Member Bill Rosendahl told Patch, “Sherri's contributions to the Mar Vista Green Committee have helped make the organization a city-wide leader on sustainability issues.”
Sharon Commins, MVCC chair echoed that sentiment, saying, Akers “has helped establish ‘brand’ Mar Vista as a forward-thinking community when it comes to conservation issues.”
The Green Committee organizes the “,” now in its fourth year. The tour, held in April began with 40 gardens in the neighborhood that use water sparingly, feature native plants, edibles or pollinator-friendly landscaping. The idea was to inspire people to remake their own yards and ditch the grass, the watering, the mowing, the fertilizers and pesticides that waste resources and pollute the ocean. Akers estimates this year’s tour will include 80 gardens and more than 2,000 visitors.
The MVCC Green Committee were pioneers on the city’s distribution program, ensuring that the neighborhood has more of the rain collection tubs than any other part of the city. They have become advocates for , first in Mar Vista and then citywide. Recently, they’ve taken up the cause of .
These city-wide initiatives are where Akers is dedicating much of her energy these days, because she says, Kuntz, Stoller and others have much of the local Mar Vista work so well in hand.
Using the MVCC Green Committee as a starting point, Akers has now made connections with environmental groups like the National Resources Defense Council, Heal the Bay and the Sierra Club and with many of the city’s other neighborhood councils who are also interested in sustainability.
Akers said, “Everything cross-pollinates. Now we have relationships we can call on with other neighborhood councils. Because of the Green Committee we have a platform.”
Akers said the access she has gained to local officials and real decision-making by building those alliances has been the greatest surprise of her work. She can call Councilmember Rosendahl’s office and “be on the phone brainstorming with him in just a few hours” and that the mayor’s staff are also very responsive to her calls.“It’s truly astonishing,” she said, that “as an average citizen I have that kind of access.”
“I think people don’t realize that this is possible.”
Her activism, Akers said, has “given me so much more that I’ve given it. It’s made Mar Vista into a small town for me.” “Truly,” she said, “It’s the most satisfying thing I do.”