Who inspires you to tackle environmental issues? Last week I wrapped up a series of stories about people who are thinking outside the box, taking risks and trying to make the world around them greener in new and unusual ways.
I’ve nicknamed them “Outside The Box Stars,” and in each story you’ll find a person or a group of people who are crafting an innovative approach to unresolved environmental issues.
Do you want a less toxic world? Super-green community centers in place of abandoned gas stations? How about stronger, healthier runs of salmon and sustainably caught seafood?
The people in these stories have found their own ways to make it happen – ways to keep more trees growing on family-owned forests, and ways to reduce air pollution around schools.
There are undoubtedly a great many more stories like these. Read on to learn more about some of my favorite innovators, and send me some of yours!
Lisa Heigh has spent 10 years building an inventory of the toxic products at her workplace and advocating for less toxic alternatives. As a senior solid waste planner at Metro, she organized household hazardous waste collections for toxic materials and educated the public about toxins in everyday products.
She decided her employer should be walking the talk and made it happen.
She’s hoping her efforts will not only green her agency but that government purchases of non-toxic alternatives will spur a market for green chemistry that will edge toxic products off the shelves.
Scott Russell wants to make sure his forestland stays in his family – with the healthy mix of trees it has on it today. But research shows family forest owners are often forced to clear-cut or sell their forestland to pay for medical bills as they age. So, Russell is trying out a new idea: Selling carbon credits from trees to health care companies in exchange for medical services.
He’s working with a conservation group that has added up the risks to family forestland across the country to an area the size of Idaho. Together, they’re pitching their idea to the health care industry.
Mary Peveto proved you don’t have to wait for new regulations to get cleaner air in your neighborhood.
When reports of bad air quality at her neighborhood school pointed to a local metal foundry, Peveto and her neighbors heaped pressure on the plant to reduce its emissions. They used the company’s pending air permit renewal as leverage in negotiations, and the company responded by voluntarily reducing its emissions beyond what is required by law.
Peveto co-founded Neighbors For Clean Air to help other communities tackle their air quality problems.
The idea of knowing your farmer and supporting sustainable agriculture through a CSA is pretty well established. But a CSF? That’s still pretty new.
Fishermen in Port Orford are inviting customers to sign up for regular deliveries of sustainably caught fish. Just like a CSA, but for seafood. The system delivers more of the profits from seafood sales directly to fishermen. So, ideally, they can make a living catching fewer fish.
The idea could undermine the incentive to overfish. Many fishermen want to catch more fish because they’re selling to processors that pay low prices per pound.
Why are a bunch of sport fishermen collecting used Christmas trees this year? They’re planning to give them to coho salmon by placing them in coastal streams, where the trees provide protection from predators and a food source.
It’s a way for everyday people to help restore salmon habitat, which is still lacking the volume of woody material that it used to have before people cut down old growth trees and developed large tracts of land along rivers.
Within hours of the fishermen placing Christmas trees in the water last year, baby coho salmon were clustered around the submerged branches.
How did a group of retired women raise the money to turn a contaminated gas station into the greenest of green buildings? It took more than a decade, a ton of volunteer work, a mountain of donations and incessant thriftiness. But they’re nearly there.
The sisters of Portland’s Delta Sigma Theta, an alumni chapter of an African-American service sorority, are demonstrating an innovative way of achieving the rigorous Living Building certification: Slowly, in phases, and using the most affordable materials.
The resulting June Key Delta community center shines as an example of building green on a budget.