A successful advocate knows that no matter the cause, organization, dedication and passion are necessary ingredients if the objective is to be realized.
And as Mar Vista’s goal of spreading the concept of sustainability throughout the community and beyond its borders continues to progress, those who are on the front lines of the movement say categorically that Sherri Akers embodies all of the abovementioned qualities.
Akers, a Mar Vista resident of 10 years, along with several of her friends and neighbors have made their community a touchstone in environmental advocacy. For her efforts, she was honored in May by Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl as the 2010 Pioneer Woman of the Year in Council District 11.
“I am truly honored to accept this award as it recognizes that each of us can make a difference. I feel very lucky to be part of a community that is dedicated to public service and shares my passion for conservation and environmental change,” said Akers. “We have the perfect ingredients n strong civic support from Councilman Rosendahl, the Mar Vista Community Council and an engaged community with an environmental focus. It’s exciting to see our efforts seeding action in other communities.”
Rosendahl touched on Akers’ role in making Mar Vista a beacon for community activism and environmental causes.
“Sherri is a remarkable woman,” the councilman, who also lives in Mar Vista, said. “She is leading the way in sustainable living on the Westside and is a living example of how we should all try to live in a way that respects our environment and saves costs in the long run.”
For the past 22 years, the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women has held the Pioneer Women of the Year award ceremony in recognition of leaders whose accomplishments have contributed to the strength and vitality of the city. The awards are presented to 16 women representing each council district and one woman selected by the mayor to represent the city at large.
Akers said that she was thrilled to be in the company of other women who had been spotlighted for their outstanding community work at the City Hall ceremony.
“I was so touched when Councilman Rosendahl selected me for this honor. It was really humbling as I heard the list of accomplishments of each of the women honored and I was honored to be included,” she told The Argonaut. “It’s exciting to realize the real numbers; while we may have been acknowledged individually, we each represent a much larger group and it is thrilling to recognize how many people there are in each community that are so willing and eager to give.”
Akers, a green consultant, said having so many of her friends and neighbors involved in efforts to increase sustainability makes the task much easier.
“We have a perfect storm in Mar Vista with a civic minded community, the support of the community council and Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who recognizes how important the environmental work is to the community,” she said.
Mar Vista Community Council Secretary Laura Bodensteiner said the energy that Akers has brought to the environmental effort is palpable.
“Sherri has brought a special vibrancy to the community council’s Green Committee,” Bodensteiner, Akers’ committee co-chair, wrote in an e-mail response. “She works tirelessly to bring environmental information to the community and leads by example. She has a unique vision that goes beyond merely hosting ‘green’ events to actually inspiring the lifestyle changes that lead to a more sustainable existence.”
Akers, who discovered the community council and the Green Committee through the local farmers market, said the advisory council has provided the platform for her and other green-minded residents to launch their sustainability initiatives.
“I think the Green Committee has given me a lot of visibility, but the truth is that I am not all that unique,” said Akers, in typical humble form. “My husband, Scott Littell, and I became passionate about changing our lives to make a difference to the planet and have been on a journey for about seven years. The results were exciting and I was eager to find a way to share and inspire.
“When the community council launched the Green Committee, I was incredibly excited,” Akers continued. “At that point, I was in a bubble and had no idea how many in the community shared our passion.”
Akers is one of the principal organizers of the Mar Vista Green Gardens Tour Showcase, which spotlights a diverse number of local gardens with various stages of sustainability, including lawns without grass, edible gardens and water-saving features in the residences. Earlier this spring, in its second year, the number of new homes showcased on the tour nearly doubled from 44 to 80.
She was also part of the organizing committee of last year’s Wise Water Use Expo, a forum that focused on water conservation. In November, Akers and her fellow environmentalists will host the Wise Power Use Expo, similar to last year’s event with the focus this year on solar power and utility rates.
Joseph Treves, who worked with Akers on the Wise Water Expo, said her ability to follow through on projects that she feels passionate about is one of her best qualities.
“Sometimes when you’re involved with something that’s very time consuming, it’s hard to sustain the effort over a long period of time,” Treves, who first met Akers on the Green Committee, noted. “Sherri has the ability to sustain that energy and when she says that she’s going to do something, she does it.”
Akers said the environmental initiatives have helped bring the community closer.
“The committee and our events helped us all find each other, and I was thrilled to find that I was part of a community that shared our passion,” Akers said.
On Sept.16, Akers will receive yet another commendation for her community activism. Sustainable Works in Santa Monica will present the environmentalist with the 2010 Residential Greening Eco Star Award at its third annual fundraiser.
The award recognizes Mar Vista for putting together the Green Living Workshop, which is the first ever funded by Los Angeles as well as the largest workshop in the program’s history.
“This is really a recognition of the efforts of the entire community council and the Green Committee,” Akers said. “But most important, it reflects what a special community we have.”
Treves admires Akers’ outreach efforts on sustainability, which he attributes to the continued interest in Mar Vista’s green initiatives.
“She’s very smart, she’s highly organized and she’s excellent at social networking,” he said. “She’s really quite special.”