Bonnie Freeman

Everybody’s using it these days; it seems like the new catchword is “sustainability.” Almost everyone agrees that sustainable systems should be the goal for everything from energy to materials and food usage to production and more. What individual sectors of society mean by sustainability can be quite different, however. According to the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development publication Our Common Future (from way back in 1987), sustainability is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.” Sounds good, although one person’s need may be another person’s luxury, leaving room for failure down the line. And, although many would say this anthropocentric viewpoint is not necessarily the best, it does begin to set some ground rules for progress.

Many more discussions need to be engaged in about how to balance our desire for our quality of life as industrial-age humans and the need to preserve the entire biotic world. What level of loss of biodiversity through our actions can we survive? Will our continued removal of primary growth for agriculture and housing and our continued contribution to global warming result in our own demise as well? While we are having those discussions, it is also important to see what individual humans can do right here on the South Coast to become more sustainable. Growing your own food is a start. Minimizing your use of non-renewable fossil fuels is a no-brainer. But once you start looking around, there are plenty of other steps you can take to “walk lightly on the Earth.”

Goleta Valley Beautiful is launching the first annual Garden Tour Party to showcase some of the efforts to live and garden more sustainably. Take yourself on a self-guided tour to six award-winning landscapes plus an urban farm. These landscapes were all accomplished by owners interested in minimizing their impact on the environment. They incorporate low-water-use plants such as California natives and succulents and utilize recycled materials, for example. It is the hope of the organizers that they will provide inspiration to others to make changes on their own. The tour date is Saturday, July 14, from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Tickets (with directions to the venues) may be purchased on the day of the event at 5200 Austin Road and 845 Norma Way. Tickets are $20 with a discount of $5 per person if you go in a group of four or more; children younger than 12 are free. All proceeds go to Goleta Valley Beautiful, a nonprofit organization that plants 500 trees a year in the area and supports other beautification efforts. For more information, call event chair Bonnie Freeman at 683-1878 or visit

There will be exhibits of drought-tolerant plants from area nurseries Terra Sol and Australian Native Plants Nursery as well as information on conserving water and water-saving irrigation techniques from the Goleta Water District and Aqua-Flo. Other demonstrations include composting and vermiculture and there will be handouts, door prizes, and free refreshments all afternoon.

At the urban farm, visitors will be able to tour a remodeled house that utilizes solar energy for all its electrical needs including a new, more efficient heating system. The owner has also incorporated energy-efficient doors and windows, skylights, and recycled products such as wood flooring made from reclaimed railroad ties in Southeast Asia. The landscape is all low-water using and the owner’s goal was to also grow as much of her food as possible on her one-third acre property, so fruit trees and vegetables abound. She claims to have not bought eggs for four years as her chickens have supplied all that she needs. Goleta Valley Beautiful is joining in the effort to investigate ways to improve our urban environment and, through this tour, to educate and inspire citizens to join in the movement toward more sustainable cities.

Sustainability may be a difficult concept to pin down, but the effects of our efforts to achieve it will be very rewarding. In fact, sustainability is not an option; it is inescapable. The sooner we all get started putting its principles in practice, the sooner we all (humans and all other living earthlings) reap the benefits of a clean, green environment.


Goleta Valley Beautiful’s Garden Tour Party takes place Saturday, July 14, from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Tickets (with directions to the venues) may be purchased on the day of the event at 5200 Austin Road and 845 Norma Way. Tickets are $20, with a discount of $5 per person if you go in a group of four or more, and children younger than 12 are free. For more info, call Bonnie Freeman at 683-1878 or visit


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