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California’s Sustainability Heroes

Not all heroes wear spandex and capes which is why we offer our appreciation to the people, businesses and cities doing their part to make the world a more sustainable place. Here is a list highlighting some of California’s incredible earth-friendly heroes.


Abby Ahlgrim and Emma Thieme of SLO CAL
In SLO CAL’s Morro Bay, Abby Ahlgrim of Surf Gems has made it her mission to “repurpose waste and bedazzle ocean lovers both in and out of the water.” She crafts sustainable, wearable art using upcycled surfboard resin, a material often discarded after surfboard production. Similarly, at Maven Leather + Design in Cayucos, artist Emma Thieme repurposes what would otherwise have been discarded American buffalo leather hides and creates products like purses, bags and plant swings for visitors. 

Oceanographer Jean Michel-Cousteau
Jean Michel-Cousteau, a Santa Barbara local and son of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, has spent over four decades dedicating his work to a sustainable future for the planet. Cousteau founded the Ocean Futures Society, a highly influential voice for the sea. In partnership with The Ritz-Carlton, Cousteau and his team created a family-oriented educational program called Ambassadors of the Environment at select properties, including The Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Goleta, to foster a greater understanding of local habitats and their connection to the global ecosystem. This November, the resort will host the 78 Years of Diving & Discovery gala to celebrate Cousteau’s contributions.

Ashley Vellis of Ashley’s Seafood 
Ashley Vellis of Ashley’s Seafood on the North Coast is a true sustainability entrepreneur. Established in 2019, the market is a cooperative network of smaller fishing businesses that support a healthy and sustainable industry from both an environmental and business perspective. Vellis and her husband are working towards creating a dockside fresh fish market that will allow small fishing businesses to sell directly to customers.

Zero Waste Chef Davin Waite
Owner of Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub, The Plot, Shootz Fish & Beer, and The Brine Box, Oceanside Chef Davin Waite embraces total utilization and zero-waste cooking. Waite has participated in panels discussing underutilized species and local sourcing and was the keynote speaker at the California Resource and Recovery Conference where he showcased the full use of fish resulting in the most sought-after demonstration on sustainability for the region. His expertise has been employed by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the San Diego Food System Alliance. In 2022, Waite received the Sustainability Advocate Award from the California Travel Association for his work.

Chef Duskie Estes of Farm to Pantry
Seen on Top Chef, Beat Bobby Flay, The Next Iron Chef and various PBS shows, Chef Duskie Estes’ primary focus is Farm to Pantry, a nonprofit that visits 350 farms and backyards throughout Sonoma County, gleaning produce that would otherwise be discarded and sharing it with marginalized families. The organization works with the help of more than 300 volunteers, who share produce with 100 community partners.

Elisabeth Barton and Bryant Burnette of Echo Adventures Coop
Echo Adventure Cooperative, a Certified B Corporation, was founded in 2016 by Elisabeth Barton and Bryant Burnette with the purpose of prioritizing quality guest experiences, member empowerment, environmental sustainability, and community development over profit. It is a worker-owned cooperative offering socially and environmentally sustainable guided adventures, vacation packages, and travel experiences in Yosemite National Park and throughout the Sierra.

Andy Chapman of North Lake Tahoe 
Andy Chapman, president and CEO of Travel North Tahoe Nevada, actively works on the Destination Stewardship Plan, a shared vision of North Lake Tahoe where people, communities, and nature benefit from a thriving tourism and outdoor economy. His team is credited with the creation of several sustainable initiatives including the Traveler Responsibility Pledge, a promise by visitors to visit the region respectfully; TART Connect, a free on-demand shuttle service to reduce local traffic and pollution; lake clean-up events; and more.

Anna Brittain of Napa Green
Anna Brittain of Napa Green is leading the way for local Napa Valley grape growers, wineries, and recently added hospitality partners to achieve Napa Green certification. Through the groundbreaking program, businesses can work towards reducing their impact on the environment. The initial eight-partner pilot program will soon expand valley-wide, allowing travelers to not only visit wineries that have implemented sustainability practices but reserve a stay at a Napa Green-certified hotel as well. 

Julie Lucido of Filler Up Shop
Did you know that only 9% of our plastic gets recycled? The rest gets disposed of in a landfill where it will stay for thousands of years. This startling reality is what empowered Julie Lucido to open Filler Up Shop. Located in Morgan Hill, the store’s philosophy is “refill, not landfill,” where they focus on reducing single-use plastics by offering bulk body, home and bath products by weight that can fill customers’ reusable containers.

Rita Casaverde’s Fight for Climate Equity in San Luis Obispo County
Community leader Rita Casaverde is at the forefront of Diversity Coalition San Luis Obispo County’s work for climate justice and racial equity in San Luis Obispo. The coalition received a $340,000 grant from TECH Clean California that will enable it to promote climate equity by ensuring that all members of the community have access to resources and information needed to mitigate the effects of climate change, reduce the cost of energy bills, have access to climate solutions, and ultimately build resilience.

The Ecology Center
The Ecology Center is one of the country’s only non-profit Regenerative Organic Certified™ farm and education centers located in San Juan Capistrano that serves as a hub for southern California’s ecological movement. Founded by Evan Marks in 2008, the internationally renowned organization attracts 100,000 visitors annually, including culinary and creative collaborators from around the world, and partnerships with some of the most innovative and sustainable brands. The Center’s guiding concept of agroecology is used to steward the earth through farming practices that give more than they take by focusing on soil health, animal welfare and social fairness. 

Sausalito’s The Bump Bar by California Caviar Company and Davey Jones Deli
Sausalito’s The Bump Bar by California Caviar Company is a luxurious experience where visitors taste sustainable premium caviar alongside chef-curated menus and a Champagne-centric wine list. For something a bit less fancy yet equally delicious, visit Davey Jones Deli inside the New Bait Shop Market in the historic Marinship. Chef Dr. Jones is committed to using only fresh and local ingredients sourced from neighboring businesses and creates a majority of his ingredients in-house.

Rosalind Bakery in Pacifica
Recognized by the SF Chronicle for having some of the best sourdough in the Bay Area, Rosalind Bakery does more than just make great bread. The bakery directly employs an estimated three dozen people and ensures they receive wages that reflect the local cost of living. In addition, the bakery is committed to working with and supporting local farmers within a 30-mile radius of Pacifica. The bakery believes in making the world a better place and does so by working with its neighbors and leaving behind a small footprint.

Santa Barbara’s The Good Lion
The Good Lion, Santa Barbara’s premiere cocktail bar, was the first green-certified bar on the Central Coast adopting a list of 75+ items from energy efficiency to pollution prevention to be a Green Certified Business via The Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County. Co-owners Brandon Ristaino and Misty Orman source mostly produce, recycle and compost more than 85% of the bar’s waste, and use only paper straws. Their hospitality team also supports local environmental-focused nonprofits including collaborations with White Buffalo Land Trust, a global hub for regenerative land stewardship, ecological research and education.

Small Vines and Ron Rubin Winery 
Small Vines in Sonoma County is a pioneering wine brand that embodies eco-conscious excellence. Their 100% estate, grower-produced wines, and Burgundian-inspired techniques are a testament to its unwavering dedication to organic and regenerative farming practices. Eco-packaging is a growing trend among Sonoma’s vintners like Ron Rubin of Ron Rubin Winery. Launched in June 2023, Rubin’s “Blue Bin” line of recycled bottles helps to reduce the carbon footprint by replacing harsh packaging with 100% recycled materials. His winery is Sustainable in Practice-certified, with a third-party audit of his vineyard, water, and energy management. The winery is also Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.


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