Read About One SGA Staff’s Approach to Zero Waste

Remember the last time you said you were going to start a new diet, go to the gym, or eat healthier? (To be honest, we make those pledges at least once a week too!) While the intentions are great, for many of us, taking those first steps is hard to do. But once we force ourselves to get over the initial hurdles, it is a little easier to adapt to the diet every day until eventually, they become routine. Well, the same can be said for adopting pro-environmental behaviors. The more you do it, the more it becomes ingrained.

To help people understand the process of becoming more environmentally friendly, one SGA staff member has documented her first steps in reducing her carbon footprint and embracing a zero-waste lifestyle.  As a vegetarian, Carolina Gonzalez (Project Manager) has always felt a kinship with nature and environmental issues. Adopting a zero-waste mentality was a natural progression. Zero-waste is about reducing what we need/consume and reusing as much as possible in an effort to reduce what we send to landfills.

“Having moved nine times in the last eight years, I’ve definitely seen the freedom that comes with owning fewer things. Now, I’m beginning the challenge of creating less waste in the world as well,” Carolina says.

One of the tenets of going zero-waste is to reduce the amount of waste entering the home in the first place. So how is Carolina accomplishing this? With a little planning, she has reduced the amount of waste she brings in every time she shops or goes out to eat. Instead of simply telling you how she has been doing this, we are going to go shopping with Carolina so she can show you how to practice zero-waste tactics in your own life.


PRE-SHOPPING: Choose a Grocery Store That Has a Bulk Item Section
Some chain grocery stores have them, but these will more often than not be small, private or local companies.

PRE-SHOPPING: Don’t Leave Home Without Reusable Bags and Storage Containers
Just before Carolina heads out to the grocery store, she does a quick check for: her shopping list, small reusable cloth bags and glass containers for food items, and larger grocery/ tote bags to transport everything.
“I prefer cloth bags, but you can use any reusable bag. Glass containers are good because store employees can tare the glass container easily before items are placed inside.”

Why use cloth bags? Because plastic and paper bags use a lot of energy to produce. Unfortunately, many paper bags are made from trees, not recycled paper, while plastic bags are made from byproducts of oil or natural gas. Not to mention, many cities these days have ordinances that make you pay for paper or plastic bags. Some people choose to reuse their paper or plastic bags, but these can only last for so long before they have to be thrown out, so your best option is to try to avoid them in the first place!

What about the glass containers? According to Carolina, glass containers are best used for items in the deli section like sandwich meat, olives or cheese as well as for bulk section items like peanut butter, honey, sugar or flour.

DURING SHOPPING: Shop for Loose Items That You Can Weigh and Measure on Your Own
Once at the store, Carolina buys almost everything in the bulk and fresh produce sections. She puts it all in the cloth bags she brings or leaves her fruits and vegetables loose.
“I used to be intimidated by the bulk section, but now it’s where I do most of my shopping. It’s amazing the variety you can find there (who knew there were so many types of sugar and salt?).”

DURING SHOPPING: Avoid Small Items of Trash That Can Accumulate While Shopping
Carolina avoids using ANY extra paper or plastic when shopping if she doesn’t have to. She keeps her shopping list on her phone and refuses a receipt whenever possible. She never uses zip ties provided by stores to tie up her bags of food and she avoids using price identification stickers.
“Just keep the bags in order so you know what’s what, and take pictures of the items code to tell the cashier (so you don’t have to use tags!).”

DURING SHOPPING: Prioritize Recyclable Containers
If Carolina can’t find something she needs in the bulk or fresh produce section, she tries to buy items in more environmentally friendly containers such glass (rather than plastic or cans) or cardboard (rather than Styrofoam). Glass is a better choice because you can re-purpose it for many other uses (i.e. holding other food items, hip drinking glasses, trendy home-made terrariums) AND it has the smallest carbon footprint compared to plastic and aluminum. That’s a big win!

POST SHOPPING: Make Sure That You Never Forget Your Reusable Bags or Glass Containers Again!
Admit it. We’ve all done it. Carolina’s done it. Gone into the grocery store only to realize that you’ve left your reusable bags at home. Hitting yourself in the head as you try to stuff as many items as you can into your pockets and hands before giving in and having to use the store bags. Or you bravely insist you can carry it all and walk out of the store with 10 items balanced in your arms.

How to avoid this? The solution is easy! 1) Include a reminder in your grocery list, 2) Keep these items by your door or in your car, 3) Embarrass yourself into remembering – if you forget once, don’t allow yourself to use the store bags, force yourself to carry all your groceries out by hand (multiple trips if necessary) and you will never forget again!
“Trial and error is a huge part of the process.”

POST SHOPPING: Be Prepared When You Go Out to Eat As Well
Grocery shopping makes Carolina hungry. Sometimes she can’t wait to get home to make something! If you also like to grab a bite to eat after you’ve hit the shops (or ever, really), make sure to be prepared. Take your own re-usable items and refuse unnecessary waste such as plastic straws and napkins.
“I carry bamboo utensils and a cloth napkin in my purse in case I’m going to a place that uses disposable utensils. I’ll also bring my own to-go container for food when I know there will be leftovers – like Chinese food.”

A few more helpful tips from Carolina:
“Reusing and conserving is not the social norm so I’ve found myself having to put myself out of my comfort zone to stick to my zero-waste goals.”
“Facebook groups can connect you with people and resources that are local to you. I’ve been able to connect with people with similar interests and it’s been amazing to see what others are doing, too.”
“What helps is to remember that even the small things I’m doing, if I do them for the next forty years, it’ll make a huge difference.”

3 Steps to Pedal Forward and Make Positive Change

May 19th is Bike to Work Day!  At SGA, we believe that bicycling is a great way to demonstrate behavior change. Remember when you were a kid and you first learned how to ride a bike?  At first, you were scared: Don’t let me fall!  Of course, you fell.  But then you got back up because you were motivated: Learn to ride a bike by yourself.  This whole process involved removing barriers, while promoting motivators. In essence, the steps needed to change behavior.

So how do you remove barriers to get people to bike more or to get them to change? Here are three wheely good ways to overcome barriers:

1) Remove the perceived danger of riding by making the experience positive. A short bike ride can:

  • Break down old perceptions: hard and scary
  • Create new perceptions: easy and fun

2) To overcome resistance, start with baby steps. Overcoming one small step of the task is easier than tackling the whole task at one time.

3) Make bicycling a social norm. Get beginners to team up with other bike riders.  If they are the only person riding, it feels odd, but if they see more people doing it, the more normal it becomes.

While it’s important to overcome barriers, it’s also crucial to promote the motivators. We asked SGA staff what their motivations were to bike to work. Here’s what they said:

“I love riding my bike to work. I ride to work to help create a friendly biking culture in Long Beach. Our city has this big goal of being named as the most bike-friendly city in America. It’s up to us to make this dream happen.”  Joy Contreras

“Biking to work makes me feel good, charges me with positivity, and allows me to enjoy the outside. I also want to show my daughter that cars aren’t the only way of transportation, especially for short distances.” Anya Liddiard

“I ride to get one less car off the road and a little bit less carbon going into the air. I ride 10 miles each way which gives me time to clear my mind and gets in my daily exercise in one fell swoop.”  Stephen Groner

Changing behavior isn’t easy, but it can be done.  Remember, change is like riding a bicycle. Hard at first, but easier as you practice.

Develop a Relationship You Can Work With

Do you have a best friend at work? This question elicits pause, but it is also a question that reveals one of the foundational characteristics of a highly productive workgroup. According to Gallup research, there are 12 key factors that describe great workgroups. One of these relates to the quality of the relationships we have with co-workers. Employees who report having a best friend, or a coworker to share a quality relationship with are:

  • 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development
  • 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important
  • 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day

Here are some suggestions that can foster quality relationships between coworkers. Best of all, these relationship-building activities can be done during lunch hour. Take a break, enjoy each other’s company, and get to know the people you work with over a meal.

Buddy Lunch: Pair a new employee with an older staff member to have an informal one-on-one lunch at a nearby eatery. Use this time to take a walk and bond by sharing a meal in a casual environment.

Themed Potlucks: Once a month, SGA holds an hour long meeting to reflect upon working developments. After some critical conversations, each SGA staff brings in a dish to share. The conversation continues all the way into clean-up time where we tag team to do the dishes. Teamwork and funny conversations naturally develop over Alphabet, Prediction, Campfire, and Smelly Food-themed potlucks.

Salons: Recognize that each and every employee has passions and pursuits outside of work. Take a lunch break to have an open forum to share and cross-pollinate new ideas. As examples, one SGAer shared her experience surviving the Eastern Sierra wilderness in the winter. Another SGAer shared the lessons he learned as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama.

This Valentine’s Day, nurture and celebrate all relationships, but especially ones within the workplace. Take initiative to build a stronger work community.

SGA’s ‘Whistle While You Work’ Vol. 3

Break out of your normal pattern of thinking. According to an article published by The New York Times, when the mind is wandering, music can bring you back into focus and “make a repetitive job feel more lively.” Enliven the post-Holiday lows, expand your mind and listen to SGA’s personally curated playlist to boost 2017 as a year of energetic change in the world.
SGA’s “Whistle While You Work” Vol. 3

STAFF Songs in Playlist (Title/Artist)
Lauren The Imitation Game Soundtrack
Megan “Work on It” by Alicia Keys 
Jackie “Selfish” by Slum Village ft John Legend & Kanye West
Angie “Blessings” by Chance the Rapper ft Jamila Woods & Byron Cage
Carolina “You Can Go Now” by Schmieds Puls
Paloma “History Has It’s Eyes on You” by John Legend
Joy “There You Are” by Pogo
Ly “Dancing On My Own” by Calum Scott
Jessica  “My Favorite Part” by Mac Miller ft Ariana Grande 
AND “Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur

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7 Green Holiday Tips for Your Business

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” -Rumi

People may mistakenly believe that they have to make grand, life-altering changes to make a difference. This can lead to frustration and disappointment. SGA believes that true change begins with a series of small steps — little things you do everyday can make an impact. Small steps turn into daily occurrences and daily occurrences turns to change.  This concept can also be applied to businesses. That’s why this holiday season, we are sharing 7 small steps you can take to help your business become a little greener.  Start implementing these changes now to lay the foundation for a greener tomorrow.

  • Donate to your favorite environmental organization this holiday season. Choose a non-profit that is local to your community to make the most impact. Want to donate products to needy communities and other non-profits? Consider donating via
    • Bonus: Donate in your employee’s name and bask in the feel good nature of giving.
  • Volunteer time at soup kitchen or shelter. Need more inspiration? If you’re in the Los Angeles area, there’s an annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count that will be held in January. SGA staff will be grouping together to make sure everyone counts regardless of where they live. Get a group of your coworkers and go together!
  • Donate leftover holiday party food. If food is being served in abundance, refresh trays rather than putting all of it out at once to prevent spoilage. Any food that has not been put out at the end of the party can be donated to a local shelter or food pantry. Not only will this reduce waste, but this will enhance the spirit of Christmas giving to those in need. Call ahead for details on what the shelter can use and how to deliver.
  • Decorate the office with natural or recycled items. It is completely possible to turn trash into treasure. It’s called upcycling. If you need any last minute gift ideas with a more personal and eco-friendly touch, this is it. Get started with a mason jar. Use it to gift baking sets, remake your desk lamp and more. Get ideas here. If you’re wrapping last-minute gifts, use recycled paper or organic material to wrap a gift instead of using a new roll of wrapping paper which can save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • Don’t use disposable utensils for lunches or dinner.
    Twenty-five percent more trash is discarded from Thanksgiving to New Year’s than any other time of year. Let’s apply positive behavior change within ourselves and not add to that percentage.

    • Bonus: Before the year ends, set up a casual potluck with your coworkers and aim for a zero-waste shared meal.
  • After the season ends, recycle your Christmas tree. Yes, it’s possible to recycle your Christmas tree. Live trees are biodegradable. In the Los Angeles area, there are many locations where your tree can be turned into mulch. Find a location near you.
    • Bonus: If you don’t have a recycling program in your area, contact the National Christmas Tree Association: to learn how you can begin one in your community.
  • Green employee gift ideas. Give gifts of locally produced food and products in cloth shopping bags or baskets with your company’s logo. Reusable coffee cups or travel mugs can also be purchased with company logos.

SGA’s ‘Whistle While You Work’ Vol. 2

With an entire Slack channel dedicated to exploring other music, SGA employees are verified audiophiles. Working in an office with people of varied backgrounds and an eclectic taste in music means a constant supply of fresh new music to listen to as we make the world a better place.
When your mind starts to wander or you’re in need of some inspiration, pop on a pair of headphones and discover your new favorite song below, courtesy of SGAers!

SGA’s “Whistle While You Work” Vol. 2

STAFF Songs in Playlist (Title/Artist)
Angeline Lee Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
Anya Liddiard The National- I Need My Girl
To be completely honest, “The Good Dinosaur” is what my daughter likes, so I have to listen to:
Homestead (From “The Good Dinosaur” Score)
Caitlin Dunham Miike Snow- My Trigger
Carolina Gonzalez Alexandre Desplat – The Danish Girl Original Soundtrack
Jackie Ayala Isaiah Rashad (Ft. Kendrick Lamar & Zacari) –  Wat’s Wrong
Judy Seitelman Gipsy Kings-Bamboleo
Joy Contreras Silversun Pickups- Circadian Rhythm
Lauren Palmerino DVBBS & Borgeous – Tsunami
Megan Kang Alt-J – Dissolve Me
Paloma Rosenbaum Sia- Reaper
Thomas Kim Jeff Buckley- Hallelujah
Roanel Herrera: Gotan Project- Diferente
Stephen Groner Johnny Cash- God’s Gonna Cut You Down

Sign up for SGA’s newsletter to keep up with the latest in community-based social marketing and behavior change.

SGA’s ‘Whistle While You Work’ Vol. 1

Every week the Economist magazine (one of my favorite reads) puts together a music playlist to go along with their insightful, often cutting and highly influential articles about the world and economics (their most recent cover story on China’s President Xi Jinping, resulted in their website being blocked).

Well, at SGA, we love our music and while we might not make it onto China’s blacklist, we thought, why not create a playlist to help influence some positive change here at home.

So here goes, some music to do a little social marketing by. Tap your toes as we help build a better world.

SGA’s “Whistle While You Work” Vol. 1

STAFF Songs in Playlist (Title/Artist)
Adam Quinn The Temptation of Adam” by Josh Ritter
Andy Luo Knock You Down” by Keri Hilson
Carolina Gonzalez “Don’t Want to Fight” by Alabama Shakes
Chris Koenig Hold on, Hold on” by Neko Case
Dani Schmulevich Beautiful Life” by James Morrison
Erin Rode Ragged Wood” by Fleet Foxes
Basil Mangra “Stella”  by Jam and Spoon
Jackie Ayala “Spottieottiedopaliscious” by Outkast
Judy Seitelman Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Sara Bareilles
Rachel Dowd “Who You Are” by Jessie J
Rose Solis “Work” by Rihanna
Sarah Catallo “Worry” by Jack Garratt
Stephen Groner “So What” by Miles Davis
Thomas Kim “If I’m Unworthy” by Blake Mills
Whitney Schmucker “Hurricane” by Halsey

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2015: SGA’s Year in Review

Countdown of the top 11 things we did in 2015

11. Worked with LA Stormwater and Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education on the 22nd Kids Ocean Day.
10. Won a CASQA award for our work with Orange County Stormwater Program and Gnorman.
9. Exceeded goals for County of Santa Barbara’s pilot pet-waste campaign.
8. Boosted social media engagement for San Bernardino County Stormwater with pet photo contests.
7. Helped NRDC and Grant EDC brand their new nonprofit, Watts Re: Imagined.
6. Created a new website for the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department.
5. Co-chaired the 2015 Zero Waste Conference in DTLA and introduced Mayor Garcetti.
4. Volunteered at The Growing Experience urban farm in Long Beach.
3. Read good books on marketing and behavior change in our book club.
2. Went a whole new level of green.
1. Aspired to change the world, one project at a time.
Cheers to 2016! All of us at SGA look forward to another year of working with you to improve our community and the planet.

What We’re Thankful For

At the SGA office in Long Beach, we like to focus on gratitude. And if we ever forget what gives our lives purpose and joy, there’s a 10 x 12 ft chalkboard wall to remind us.

Gratitude for SGA’ers can be brought about by things small (a blueberry muffin from Doly’s can turn any day around) or large (making a difference gets us up in the morning). Being grateful makes us feel good. But it turns out, it actually makes us healthier, too.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine tested the power of gratitude on heart disease. They asked one group to write down two or three things they were grateful for each day in a journal. The other group didn’t journal. After two months, the researchers found that the people who wrote in their journals showed reduced inflammation, improved heart rhythm and less risk of developing heart disease. Looks like our chalkboard scribbles are doing double duty.

There’s perhaps no better time to express gratitude than Thanksgiving. So we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients, colleagues, associates, and friends. It is a privilege to work with you to make the world a better place. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to do what we love and to be part of a team of passionate people that believe in change.