Mona Telega is a Principal at the Monmark Agency and Chair of the Committee on the Environment at the American Institute of Architects (COTE AIA | LA). There, she and her team create programs to advance sustainable built environments and encourage sustainable lifestyles for city dwellers.
FACING A CHALLENGE
The architectural trade in Los Angeles and the AIA LA are very involved in designing, building and living in sync with our natural environment. Part of that involves preventing further fossil fuel emissions in our cities. To that end, COTE has been working to reward projects that meet these goals, pushing attendees to use negligible or no footprint transportation to our events. We therefore encourage people to walk, bike, take the bus or train to arrive to events like the AIA | LA’s annual Design Awards, which just celebrated the addition of the COTE LA Awards category.
For the COTE Awards this year, we had a large initiative for attending the awards via clean transportation, and were successful in encouraging many walkers, some bikers and a few “busers” and “trainers.” While we always strive to push alternate modes of transportation, for the awards we did a big social-media push complete with stickers, which participants received upon arrival. We are trying to have our constituents set an example in how walkable, bikeable and overall accessible our metropolis really is.
We at COTE are a small entity within the trade, so raising awareness has been our main goal. So this year we launched an online resource library including reference literature on green architecture, sourcing sustainable materials, and related organizations (wildlife, surfers, ocean, river and water, etc.)
By changing and redefining the way we design and build cities, we can transform our society’s wellbeing and, by extension, the planet’s.
FINDING A SOLUTION
We set up and launched a thorough social presence online: a professional group on LinkedIn, a page on Facebook and an Instagram account, where we have seen growth. We grew our numbers on the Committee with passionate and able people that have helped with our programs when we needed it. As a volunteer-committee, our budgets are non-existent, so we share our ideas, gifts and talents, and whatever possible contributions to achieve our goals.
KEY TO SUCCESS
- Have a clear mission: I am not an architect, but care deeply about the environment, our planet and its health, and us people here on earth. I value architecture’s social and economic impact and have been working with professionals from within the architectural trade to help sustainable practices reach a wider range of clientele. Through this work, I feel that we are educating the public about the most tenable way to live with one another in harmony with Mother Nature.
- Stay committed and collaborate: I have been on the committee for nearly three years. Last year I vice-chaired and while I am the chair this year, I will still co-chair next year. I come from a place where I have made a conscious effort to go and meet similar organizations (the Sustainability Office at the Mayor’s City Hall, Fortune’s Sustainable Summit in Carlsbad, New Urbanism Film Festival, TreePeople, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, museums, etc.) with a firm belief that we all want the same thing—to diminish the damage we have done to the planet to date, and build paths to a healthier one for future, smart generations.
- Keep the hope alive: I see the existence of all of these entities as little droplets of water dispersed across the city, or the country if you will, and the more these droplets increase, the more people are included and acting in each of them, they will eventually merge into this immense ocean of making possible, making it big as a beautiful ocean in which we all swim/contribute together. And I think we are getting there. For some good reason, I have no idea how or why, most people responded to my call and action, and in the architecture trade we managed to attract to COTE some very valuable members and have grown from three to seven.
Looking back, I learned that it is important to be sincere in your awareness of the climate situation. It is important to lead by example and walk your talk. I learned that this is a great fight, now greater than ever, and that together we can make a big difference, even if we start with small steps. By changing and redefining the way we design and build cities, we can transform our society’s wellbeing and, by extension, the planet’s. That happens when we all step in and share our inner genius and hard work with each other, for each other.
Thank you for bringing us even closer together into our resolve to find climate solutions.