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Big Sunday looks good in green

by Jay Firestone

April 3, 2008 | 6:00 pm

Environmentalism may be trendy, but expensive hybrid cars and solar paneling aren't the only ways of being fashionably green.

Big Sunday, an annual citywide volunteer community service event scheduled for May 3-4, is adding a Green Sunday option, which groups together environmental projects like tree planting, beach cleanup and switching area businesses from incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent.

"In the past two years, we've found that people were just really anxious to do environmental projects," Big Sunday Executive Director David Levinson said.

Big Sunday began in 1999 as Temple Israel of Hollywood's Mitzvah Day, an event that initially drew 300 volunteers to 17 projects. Last year a supersized Big Sunday drew 50,000 participants and 250 projects over two days.

While Big Sunday has regularly featured green programming and worked with such varied environmental groups as Heal the Bay and the California Native Plant Society, this year marks the first time the environmental track has been specifically highlighted.

Green Sunday has scheduled more than 50 eco-friendly projects, including "e-cycling" drives to give old computers and electronics to those in need, cleaning up the L.A. River with the Pacific American Volunteer Organization and refurbishing burned-out areas of Griffith Park.

The goal is to "help as many nonprofits as we can and get more people involved in the community," said Dave Cooper, Green Sunday manager.

Another project, a bike collection, encourages Angelenos to ride bikes more frequently or at least provide others with that option. Levinson said this could have a great effect on reducing carbon emissions, if successful.

Big Sunday is also taking its green talk seriously by increasing the steps the organization takes to reduce its own carbon footprint. Behind the scenes, the nonprofit is printing fewer flyers and brochures and moving away from Styrofoam products. Participants are encouraged to carpool or ride public transportation. In some cases, event organizers will even arrange for busing to the larger projects.

While the group hasn't quantified the overall carbon impact of the two-day event, organizers expect that its green efforts this year will demonstrate a reduced impact compared with activities in 2007.

Attendance for Big Sunday's events vary, but organizers are hoping to see a turnout of at least 5,000 for Green Sunday. If Green Sunday is anywhere near as successful as hoped, Levinson said he would like to see the event as a Big Sunday spinoff on a separate day.

"It'd be cool if it did. The sky's the limit," he said.

For more information about Big Sunday, visit http://www.bigsunday.org

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