At the heart of Green Living is education. When it comes to environmental issues, energy and climate change, there is a lot of information to decipher, evaluate and absorb. Most of us have extremely full lives and very little time and energy left over to continue to educate ourselves on these important issues, beyond listening to talking points, soundbites and hashtags from our favorite news source. But is this enough to make us really understand the seriousness of the challenges we face, and keep us motivated to make ongoing changes?
Well the good news is that school is in full swing and continued learning is the key. Whether or not you have school-aged children at home, we can all benefit from a continued effort to learn. We all want doctors to be educated on the most recent medical developments. We all expect that computer technicians stay ahead of the technological curve. Isn’t it just as important for us to stay educated on topics that affect us directly such as our food, energy, air and water supply?
The Old paradigm
For many, education has meant graduating from either high school or college by their mid-twenties, and maybe never picking up a book, evaluating data and research, or comparing contrasting ideas ever again. That was the course for my parents’ generation, and for the most part, not much changed within the fields they worked in. Not so now. In order to keep up, a constant learning of new technology, new systems and new information is vital.
Henry Ford said that,
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Well, speaking for myself, that sure is a motivator.
I’m pretty sure when my parents were my age they weren’t talking about urban agriculture, carbon footprints, renewable energy and sustainable living. Much of that terminology had not even been thought of. Nor did they have apps to check their energy use, Twitter or Facebook to get the most recent headlines, or a wealth of information through the internet at their fingertips.
I remember as a child that whenever I needed to write a report, I either went to the library or to my neighbor, Miss Pat’s house. She had a shiny encyclopedia set that she shared with the neighborhood kids, and we could find information on nearly everything. It occurs to me now, that the only information in the set was what could fit in a mere 32 books, and with the most up to date information at the time of publication. We now have access to practically everything, as soon as it’s published. Just thinking about that can be overwhelming.
With information at our finger tips from the internet we are sometimes unknowingly at the mercy of unreliable information. We often forget we have a reliable, valued source of information that is free and open to all- our public libraries. Lisa Phelan, the Head of the Paseo Verde Library Adult Services, assures us that,
“Your local library offers free access to the most current books, journals and digital materials available relevant to climate change and environmental issues.”
Another excellent source is the Desert Research Institute’s Green Power outreach program. Green Power provides materials similar to a library system, where schools can check out Green Boxes that are filled with supplies for hands-on activities on a variety of relevant K-12 topics from soil science to garbology. After skimming the list of topics, it made me want to go join one of the kindergarten classes and work my way up.
Teachers are forever students and are good examples of continued learning. Clark County School District teachers will be learning some new skills and gathering important information next Saturday, October 10th at the 2015 Green School STEM Summit, to be held at West Career and Technical Academy. They will have the opportunity to learn about a wide range of current green topics, from sustainability and STEM education to urban agriculture and nutrition-all areas of importance to our upcoming students and their families, and our communities as a whole.
Many students from all over the valley will also be volunteering at this event and will be able to see demonstrations in robotics, composting, drones, and hydroponics. There will also be classroom demos completely powered by solar energy, tours of greenhouses, juice bars and chef demo’s from Rachel’s Kitchen and Vegenation.
Homes, as well as schools and libraries, are excellent places to learn. Taking advantage of light and air circulation will aide our capacity to read and learn more. How much better we feel in an open, well-lit, airy space then we do in a windowless, dark one! David Philippi, from Northwest Career and Technical Academy, which is a LEED silver certified school, points out that larger windows and abundant air exchange in classrooms have led to increased student learning and higher test scores, as well as a decrease in absenteeism among students and staff.
Putting it into practice
I find that one of the by-products of writing this Green Living column is continued learning which often results in finding more ways to change my own actions. While it’s not always easy to walk the talk, I am encouraged daily by others who are doing just that. One such example are the sponsors and volunteers (too many to mention here) that are organizing the Green School STEM Summit. Their goal for the event, in addition to providing the most current and exciting ideas in Green education, is to achieve a Zero Waste event.
The event sponsors are encouraging a flyer-free zone and asking all vendors and participants to connect with people digitally, cutting down on paper. All participants are also asked to bring their own container (BYOC) for coffee or water. There will be no trash containers, encouraging the hiking motto of “pack it in, pack it out.” There will, however, be composting bins and recycle bin. Lastly, carpooling is recommended.
These types of examples are proactive and encouraging. There are so many things to learn and share, and so many new actions to take. Here’s to bringing this learning home.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Maya Angelou