Category: Sustainable Lifestyle

Interview with a Highland Park Innovator

     Many believe the first step towards change begins with one’s self; this belief has proven to be more than just an idea to an extraordinary Highland Park resident. Chan Wing Lam has proven himself much more than just a loving husband and father, but also an innovator who has recently acted upon his lifelong interest in electrical engineering and the world of eco-friendly living.

     Born and raised in Hong Kong, China, Lam first found his interest in electrical maintenance when in high school. Moving to America in 1984, he began working long hours in a seafood restaurant and later as a BBQ chef. It was not too long ago that he began putting his time into solar powered apparatuses to help cut back the cost of his electricity bill.

     In 2013 he started his first solar panel project with broken glass windows and pieces acquired via eBay. Today he has several panels installed over the roof of his home and is even attempting to build a windmill. Each panel produces around 130 watts that go into one of his 3 inverters he has set up around his home. We got a chance to take a look inside his home and workshop to see for ourselves his mechanical endeavors.

     Within a day and a half, and given the right materials, Lam can build one of his solar-powered automatons all by himself. He has given no thought to passing on his knowledge of mechanical money-savers down to a new generation, but did seem intrigued when posed with the question. Although his legacy may end with him, it has influenced the way Highland Park residents think about conservation. With the sight of his home just across the street from Franklin High School, hundreds of students pass by noticing not only his solar panels, but also his front yard garden full of vegetation he grows for his family.


Chimes for Change: A Success at Soundwalk 2013

RuckusRoots premieres ‘Chimes for Change’ at Soundwalk 


Last Saturday, Loyola High School students from our pilot ‘Chimes for Change‘ program displayed over 30 wind chime sound installations at Soundwalk, one of the country’s biggest sound art exhibits, in Long Beach. The program was a collaboration with music and sound art teacher Steven Speciale and visual artist James Peterson. Students worked with RuckusRoots over 6 weeks to fabricate wind chimes out of recycled materials, each one expressing a sustainability issue through their piece.

Soundwalk attendees not only got to view the collection chimes, but also scan QR codes affixed to each piece using their smart phones. The code allowed them access each artist’s electronic song as well as  read his artist statement, which described the sustainability issue inspired by the chime.


After working with Peterson to conceptualize and build their chimes, Speciale taught students how to create electronic music using Yellofier, a digital song making application. The students recorded their chimes and then composed songs using those sounds in Yellofier.

The students’ songs and statements will be available on our Chimes for Change page in the next week. We are excited to continue Chimes for Change with several community organizations across Los Angeles, and can’t wait to share the results with you!


Thanks to Monching Flores for the images

First Listen: Songs by Chimes for Change Participants

chimes for change
A student made his chime out of recycled bottles, picture by Monching Flores

The pilot of our Chimes for Change program is humming along nicely, and we’re excited to give you a sneak peek of student songs!

This weekend, we’re revealing our students’ hard work at Soundwalk 2013, a premier sound art exhibition in Long Beach, CA. Over the last couple months, students from Loyola High School worked with RuckusRoots to make wind chimes out of recycled materials, each one representing a sustainability issue important to the artist. Along with making the chimes, students learned how to use a mobile application called Yellofier to record sounds from their chimes and turn them into electronic music compositions.

Steven Speciale, a music composer and sound art teacher at Loyola High School, collaborated with us on this aspect of the program. Some of the students’ songs are already posted on his blog. Below are two of them for your listening enjoyment, along with accompanying artist statements.

To see and hear more like this, please join us at Soundwalk this Saturday! At our installation, you’ll find a QR code next to each chime. Scanning it with your smartphone will yield access to the artist’s song and statement. If you’re wondering which sustainability and community issues matter to the youth of this community, here’s your chance to find out. The conversation has begun, thanks to these creative young people!

Mamá by Andy Bregazo

Sustainability is the capacity to endure, so my mom, who has cancer, would be great inspiration for my project. My mom has to constantly endure and keep herself healthy everyday without any breaks. The chime’s frame is a heart, and various things that represent moms in general. Also, the CD’s that are hanging down say “Love” in 6 different languages. The nails represent my mom holding me together, even when the times are rough. Also, the forks and spoons represent the nourishment that my mom provides for me. In all, the chime is a representation of my mom and all the things that she provides for me.

Wind Chime Song by Gilmore Agustus

Everyday, nearly forty percent of the 4.4 billion tons of food produced in the United States is wasted each year. Shelved food within an average supermarket or restaurant is thrown away at an alarming rate, showing the inefficiency of the food distribution industry. My wind chime addresses this issue, using various pieces of silverware and small trinkets suspended by a hanger. The various silverware are representations of this issue.

Off the Grid for a Greater Good


Not many people can say that they’ve even traveled across the country, let alone cycled across its entirety. And that’s not even the impressive part. Rob Greenfield set out with a mission to ride across the US living entirely off the grid. Meaning he would eat locally produced, organic, and unpackaged foods, use water solely from natural sources like rivers, wells, and rain, use electricity generated purely by portable alternative energy devices, create near zero trash​, compost all food waste, and shop at businesses that are committed to creating a healthy planet.

And on August 2nd, after 104 days, 4,700 miles and 18 states, he did just that.

His trip began in San Francisco in April  and ended in Waitsfield, Vermont. That’s the location of 1% for the Planet, Greenfield is promoting the alliance of businesses that donate 1 percent of their revenues to environmental organizations.

Greenfield, from San Diego, decided to make the journey because he was  determined to demonstrate that it’s possible to live more sustainably, also to encourage people to decrease their impact on the environment. And to get peoples attention (even biking naked at times!) and not only thinking of living more consciously, he wanted to show it was actually possible. 

During the trip, Greenfield would often dumpster dive for food that was still good or fill his water bottle with leaky faucets or half empty water bottles he found. When it came time for cleaning up, he bathed in rivers, oceans and lakes. While he claims that biking wasn’t about his message at all, even the bamboo bike he rode was used to promote the elimination of deforestation.


For more on his adventure and pictures from  his trip check out the GreenfieldAdventures website.

 Photo by Brent Martin

RuckusRoots attends LIB: Greenest fest around

Waste collection center at Lighting in a Bottle
Waste collection center at Lighting in a Bottle

This weekend Lightning in a Bottle, a festival celebrating art, sustainability, music and life kicks off this weekend at its new location in Temecula, CA. The festival is produced by The Do Lab, an LA based event production company that heavily emphasizes sustainable approaches in its work. Lightning in a Bottle, or LIB, has won the ‘Greenest Festival in America’ award, presented by the non profit A Greener Festival, the last 3 years in a row, a feat no other US festival can claim.

Some of the RuckusRoots team will be there to participate in the festivities, helping friends sling coffee as a vendor, and take in the awesomeness of one of the greenest festivals in the country. With an expected attendance of over 15,000 people, campers and one day attendees alike, frontrunning the green festival movement is no easy task.

One of the biggest reasons LIB remains the leader in green festivals is The Do Lab’s strict policy requiring all vendors  to use 100% compostable items. That means all cups, straws, forks, plates, you name it… are entirely compostable! After attending the festival, and especially after working as a vendor, I’m often dismayed by the fact that many cafes and restaurants in LA haven’t switched to such a method. And with free filtered water offered, there’s no need for festival goers to bring anything other than reusable water bottles, eliminating plastic bottles you normally see littered all over festivals like Coachella or Bonnaroo.

Transportation to and from the festival is another big reason it stays so green. Carpooling is practically a must for attendees of the festival as arriving in a single occupancy vehicle will set you back $30. The Do Lab aids attendees in eliminating this issue by offering Lightning Bus options as well as a widget on their website to help match you with festival goers who have similar travel plans.

Like most of The Do Lab’s productions, Lightning in a Bottle features stages and art made from rapidly renewable and reused materials, such as bamboo, rattan, and trash. This gives the festival’s aesthetic a unique look, which some even call a ‘favela chic’ vibe. The festival makes an effort to reduce energy use through energy management initiatives like LED stage lighting, compact fluorescent bulbs to illuminate walkways and campgrounds and  solar lights where ever possible. In addition to LIB’s commitment to making the festival as sustainable as possible, since 2007 they have published the Green Report, a guide for industry professionals and academics to learn about their successes and failures, and communicate a collaborative effort in the green festival movement.

Thank you to Lighting in a Bottle for the image