The Original L.A. Urban Homestead

You know that band you saw play at your local dive bar back in the day that is totally popular now and playing in arenas? Well, the L.A. Eco-Home is kind of like that. Long before glossy magazines were doing “Green” issues, before hybrid cars and composting became hip, Julia Russell had been giving tours featuring the environmentally friendly aspects of her home and garden. Julia is pictured here in front of her Gordon apple tree which bore over 500 lbs. of apples last year. (We counted, seriously.)

The Los Angeles Eco-Home Network has been educating Angelenos about simple ways to conserve energy and other resources, grow their own food and live a happier, healthier lifestyle, since 1988. The house is a charming bungalow full of warm dark wood. It features a small solar array, a fabulous greywater system and many other features that make this cozy home worth a visit. The most educational part of the Eco-Home, in my humble opinion, is Julia’s actual lifestyle. Sure, technical features such as solar and greywater are great, but living lightly is more about how you live and small simple choices you make everyday. Julia is in her 70’s and doesn’t drive. She bikes. Pretty impressive. She has a nifty cargo bike that she uses to get groceries. The house is surrounded by mature trees that provide deep shade in the summer, keeping the house cool without the need for air conditioning.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson would be environmentalists can learn from Julia and the Eco-Home network is the absolute lack of pretentiousness and holier-than-thou attitude that can plague the green movement. Julia is down to earth and just wants to share her passion for living a green lifestyle. So if you are in L.A. check out one of their tours and bring a friend.
The Eco-Home Network- being green and keeping it real since ’88.

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  1. So pleased to see Julia getting the recognition she deserves, I only wish the movement would catch on stronger here in Florida, where we should ALL be fighting for the state tax credits for solar panels, and solar hot water heaters. The Power company (FP&L) is a huge force that crushes any individual effort that tries to get a groundswell started for independent initiatives. The bought up all the small efforts years ago and refuse to let any toehold begin. Go Julia, we are cheering you on!
    Looking to the future in the Sunshine State!

  2. Ok- I just had my husband do the math- Julia was 56 when she started this in ’88. That makes me feel SO much better because I am three weeks shy of 50, so maybe in six years I’ll have it all together like she does. I don’t feel so bad about starting so late. Better late than never, I guess, huh?

  3. P:

    It is never too late for change! It might sound like a cliche, but it is so true. Erik and I wrote our book because we really believe every little bit helps–that small changes and contributions really add up.

    So celebrate being 50! Try what you like, keep what you love and leave the rest. Don’t feel guilty about things you haven’t done or won’t do. Just do what you can. Happy Birthday!

    Kelly (and Erik)

  4. Julia is the real deal! I was really happy to see this post and hope others can follow the example Julia sets for living lightly and doing what you love.

  5. Kelly and Erik –

    It’s always nice to hear what your mentors consider mentors. I read your book, and now my husband and I are well on our path of creating an urban homestead of our own.

    We tackled vegetable gardening this year and are happily enjoying our bounty now. String beans, tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins growing – not too bad for a first attempt! We planted a fig and two grape vines this year – hopefully we’ll get some fruit off of them next year.

    My husband has been busy making our own bread and jams. We’re buying local, using less, and reusing and repurposing what we can. Even our friends are getting into the spirit by giving me a make your own ginger ale kit and antique items for my birthday.

    Here’s to living lightly, sustainable and loving it!

    Thanks for your inspiration!


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