With little action on environmental protection happening on Capitol Hill, it’s necessary to start making changes individually and locally, according to Doug Wood, associate director of Grassroots Environmental Education. In a program titled “How Green Is My Town?” at the Greenburgh Nature Center July 10, Wood said the idea is that if one town starts passing laws and holding people accountable for their actions, it will inspire surrounding towns to do the same.
Co-hosted by the nature center and the Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group, the program also was meant to educate people on how to gauge how “green” their town really is.
As founder of GEE, Wood and his wife, Patricia, who serves as the organization’s executive director, aim to educate the public on the links between environmental exposure and human health, while also empowering individuals to make changes in their community.
GEE helped write a law in New York that bans pesticides in all schools, and is currently working to keep glyphosate, a chemical in pesticides that has links to cancer, out of New York City parks. GEE’s main focus is education for consumers and the younger generation because “we know if we protect the youngest ones, we’re protecting everybody,” said Wood.
The event attracted a small crowd of people who are passionate about the environment or want to learn what they can do for the cause. Most of what Wood talked about, however, was more for an entire town rather than a single homeowner.
Rather than focusing on reusable water bottles and metal straws, the GEE dares people to think bigger: what are the town’s water conservation polices? Does your town purchase alternative fuel whenever possible? Does your town have an environmentally friendly lighting code? These are just a few of the 50 questions he presented at the lecture. Wood encouraged the audience to talk to their local leaders to see what they are and aren’t doing.
“If your leaders are not prepared to do these things, then they either need to explain to you why [not], or they need to do it, or somebody else needs to sit in that chair,” said Wood.
Over the past five years, the village of Scarsdale has become a leader in recycling, composting and LED lighting initiatives. More recently, the town of Greenburgh has made strides in those areas as well.
In his presentation, Wood also talked about how issues of the environment are connected to human health, safety and economics.
After the lecture, he gave the audience a tour of howgreenismytown.org, a website hosted by GEE, which presents local environmental issues in nine categories: business community, water management, transportation, waste management, green building, energy, green purchasing, cleaning and maintenance, and land management. Within each category there are questions that can be asked as well as examples of towns that are leading the way in environmental policymaking around the country. Not only that, but there is also a list of resources for anyone who isn’t sure where to start.
“Is it going to change the world? No,” Wood said. “But if every single town in America had these policies? Yes, so let’s get started.”
At the end of the lecture, Wood handed out “Draft Comprehensive Environmental and Sustainability Policy for Villages, Towns & Cities,” which citizens can bring to their local leaders to jumpstart environmental change.