Mar Vista is rapidly becoming ground zero for local sustainable initiatives, and many of its residents hope that trend will continue at the Wise Power Use Expo beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Nov. 3 at Windward School in Mar Vista.

The event is geared toward helping the public learn about how they can reduce their use of electricity or convert to clean fuels like solar power.

A panel of experts has been invited to educate the attendees on the benefits of solar energy. They include Kevin O’Donnell of former Vice President Albert Gore’s “The Climate Project,” Nancy Barba of Sustainable Works (Bki) and André Villasenor, the Southern California sustainability coordinator from the Environmental Protection Agency.

O’Donnell, a sustainable design strategist, was a guest at last year’s Wise Water Use Expo, a forum on water conservation that was also held in Mar Vista.

Chris Paine, a filmmaker who directed the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, will also be one of the event’s panelists. The documentary explores the creation, commercialization, and subsequent destruction of the battery electric vehicle in the United States in the mid-1990s.

There will also be a number of items raffled, such as a $1,000 gift certificate on solar installation from Constant Solar and a $499 whole house energy audit from Carbon Reduction Services.

Sherri Akers, a Mar Vista environmental consultant, said each guest brings their own expertise on energy reform, which she feels will give the expo a special touch.

“We selected the speakers to form an arc,” Akers explained. “What makes them unique is how they weave together to tell the complete story. Our table presenters represent solutions that our guests can take right away.”

Patterned after the Wise Water Use Expo, this year’s initiative will offer consumers an opportunity to learn more about power sustainability and to showcase Mar Vista’s commitment to a cleaner environment, says Joseph Treves, one of the event’s organizers.

“We’re certainly highlighting our interest in (wise power use) and it’s also an opportunity for the public to learn through education about the options that exist to incorporate some of these alternatives into their lifestyle,” Treves told The Argonaut.

Open Neighborhood, a Mar Vista organization that is involved in connecting and informing local neighborhoods with social networking services and open Internet access and clean energy, is another organizer of the clean energy expo.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a Mar Vista resident, congratulated the organizers of the expo for their dedication as well as the residents and businesses that have gone solar.

“Mar Vista is taking a great leadership role in the energy issue,” Rosendahl, whose district includes Mar Vista, said. “I’m so impressed with how they are moving forward on these important issues and how they appreciate the importance of being more energy efficient.”

Jeanne Kuntz, a Mar Vista resident, said the expo could be helpful in “keeping the conversation going about solar energy” in the public conscience.

Akers, a co-chair of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Green Committee, also views the energy forum as an opportunity to showcase the community’s reputation for green living and sustainable initiatives.

“Absolutely,” she said. “Mar Vista has a goal to convert to 100-percent clean electricity and this event is an important part of that.

“We hope to have 500 people attending the expo. Imagine the impact as each of them inspires their friends and family.”

Mar Vista has been at the forefront in recent years of hosting local events geared toward sustainability and stimulating conversations about green living, water conservation and clean energy. In September, Sustainable Works in Santa Monica honored the Green Committee, and Akers was given the 2010 Residential Greening Program Eco Star Award.

In addition to last year’s forum on water usage, the committee has hosted two “Green Garden Showcase” tours of sustainable gardens and homes throughout the community. And last July, Mar Vista was selected by Los Angeles city officials to be part of a pilot program for an innovative water-saving project, the Rainwater Harvesting program.

The community was chosen largely because of its collective passion for sustainable alternatives and green living, said Wing Tam, an assistant manager of the Los Angeles Watershed Protection Division. “Mar Vista has a very active community that values green standards and water conservation,” Tam said.

Treves said the people who live in Mar Vista have rallied to the call of sustainability with great enthusiasm because of the makeup of the neighborhood.

“There is a wonderful, hip group of people who are receptive to this kind of change,” Treves, a realtor who lives in Mar Vista, explained. “We have a way of sharing things and disseminating them through our farmers market or community council, and people really seem to like learning about the importance of changing the way that they’re living, whether it’s wiser water usage or cleaner energy.”

Akers and Treves also planned the water conservation expo and they both say their involvement with that venture has helped them with staging this year’s event.

“We learned so much from last year’s event with a key lesson being to reach out for help and to delegate,” said Akers, who was named the “Pioneer Woman of the Year” in Council District 11 for her environmental work in May. “We have a larger organizing team this year and have been blessed with contributions of time, talents and services by so many more.”

Treves added, “A lot of what we did seemed to work last year, and that sort of gave us a road map for this year.”

Kuntz thinks the clean energy venture could serve as a catalyst for people to become more aware of the benefits of solar power, including saving money on their electricity bills.

“People who attend the expo will be surrounded by alternatives on how you can reduce energy consumption and have hope for the future,” she said. “This can be a huge shot in the arm for behaviors that we want to change.”

Akers credited Kuntz for her role in the power use forum. “Jeanne has enlisted an amazing team of volunteers to insure that things run smoothly the night of the expo,” she said.

Rosendahl told The Argonaut that he has also decided to install solar panels on his home.

“It’s one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made,” the councilman said.

Akers said she hopes that those who attend will consider moving toward cleaner energy as a priority.

“Our goal for the evening is to inspire action and make it easy to take steps right away,” she noted.

Environmentalist and actor Ed Begely Jr. was scheduled to attend the expo but cannot due to an earlier commitment.

The Windward School, one of the first in California to receive a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) verification for schools, is at 11350 Palms Ave. in Mar Vista.