According to Julie Nolan, science teacher and ecology club director at Harrison High School in Harrison, what being environmentally friendly does mean is making a conscious effort to understand how the Earth is affected by consumer choices and how tweaking a few of those detrimental habits can have a huge impact on the environment.
Everyone thinks that you have to do everything right to be an environmentally friendly person, Nolan says. I disagree, because even one small step to help the environment matters. You do not have to be a vegetarian, drive a [Toyota] Prius and join PETA to be environmentally friendly.
Nolan says she tries to communicate to her students the importance of understanding their actions and how even one small green change can affect the environment, but its hard to get her environmental message through to them for one simple reason: state-mandated testing.
Teachers are forced to focus on the material that is on the State Proficiency and Ohio Graduation Tests, and as a result the practical, useful information is getting left by the wayside, Nolan says. Ohio has put so much emphasis on these tests that they are creating a generation of students who are disconnected from nature and the environment.
Connie Brockman, education and visitor services director of the Cincinnati Nature Center agrees that communicating about the environment is harder in todays society.
A few years ago, a Roper study indicated that while people seem to be increasingly concerned about the environment, they are not well informed about environmental issues, Brockman says. One of the reasons might be that environmental education is not mandatory in most schools and people are getting their information from informal sources that might not be accurate.
Brockman says that even though it is increasingly difficult to communicate to the community about the environment, people need to be aware of the environment for their own benefit.
People must learn about the environment for their own survival, Brockman says. We cant trust that that someone else is looking out for our wellbeing. Each of us must take personal responsibility to learn about and make the right choices to move us toward a greener, healthier society.
After the choice is made to begin living a more eco-friendly life, switching, according to Nolan and Brockman, can begin with a few easy steps:
The Organics Have It
Purchasing organic food, produce grown three years without the application of synthetic pesticides or chemicals or livestock raised on organic feedstuffs for at least a year, is a step in the right direction.
I buy almost all organic food, with the exception of some favorite junk food items, Nolan says. It (organic food) is better for you the soil and water and with regards to agriculture, the person working in the fields.
Nolan recommends taking the time to look at the local grocery store to see what organic foods are available.
The Green House Effect
Maintaining an environmentally friendly environment around the house can start with avoiding pesticides in the home and yard, making the house as energy efficient as possible and recycling.
And according to Brockman bringing the green feeling into the home, can also leave a person with a sense of pride in her efforts.
I am fortunate to have almost four acres of land, and Ive worked hard to create (in her yard) a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation, Brockman says. I feel a great deal of responsibility and compassion for the plants and animals with whom I share the land. Stewardship is a deeply moving experience, and Im grateful for a little piece of land to protect and cherish.
Become an Advocate
Working to spread the word about the environment can fall under a broad spectrum of actions from voting for candidates with environmental platforms, purchasing from companies that are making environmental choices, supporting environmentally friendly non-profits and communicating environmental issues with children.
Nolan, who has two nieces, understands the importance of providing a message to children outside of school. Kids will live what theyre taught. If they are taught to respect the environment, it will simply become a part of who they are and they wont consider doing things any other way, she says.
All Talk Leads to All Play
Brockman encourages people who are trying to become more environmentally friendly to get out and experience the fruits of their labor.
All people, especially children, benefit physically, emotionally and intellectually from frequent contact with nature, Brockman says. She added that at the Cincinnati Nature Center guests can benefit, all year round, from the 20 miles of trails on 1,600 acres for hiking and viewing wildlife.
While Nolan understands that changing to an environmentally friendly lifestyle can be intimidating, she continues to encourage people to at least try. Give yourself credit for the changes you make, she says. You dont have to try to do everything overnight.
And as Kermit the Frog says, Being green isnt easy. But, according to Nolan and Brockman, it doesnt have to be difficult.