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December 14, 2008

Women, the Connective Tissue for a Green Culture.

I know I'm going to get blow-back for this, but I'm going to say it anyway - when the world turns a deep shade of green it will be because of the women-who talk-to-women-who-link-with-other-women's- groups-who-will-grease-the-skids-of-progress.

For the first time, we will have a true co-creation of a new economy based on sound buyer/seller principles and expedited by the soft skills that women bring to the education table. I saw examples of of that replaying over and over at the Green School Summit this past week in Anaheim.

Green schools At the Summit, teachers, administrators, facility managers and procurement all came together to explore how to make their buildings more energy efficient, less toxic and create a culture and mindset of sustainability that will last for generations. At a time when Wall Street is melting, Detroit is smelting and no one trusts anyone, schools are creating atmosphere of innovation and creative action.

The event served primarily the base of LA Unified Schools District with 80,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of K-12 kids, but it also spoke to the emerging facilities being created by LA Community College which covers 226,000 students yearly. Between the two of them, loosely coupled with the Bay area, the California school system has everything this economy wants. i.e. money and approved construction integrated with green education and by extension educating homeowners as well.

Where are the  women in this mix? Everywhere!

  • Green School Education and Action
  • Consultant for Green Initiatives
  • Energy efficiency consultant and loan facilitator
  • Owner Watersaving landscape
  • California School Boards Association
  • LAUSD Procurement
  • Green Media
  • Green Women Bloggers

    I didn't go out of my way to talk only to women, but when you enter a room of strangers and one of them gives you a welcoming smile, you tend to gravitate towards them. That's how I met Joan Edelstein, DrPH, RN with the California School Boards Association. She and I shared a table at an all day session on "Sustainable Operations & Maintenance and Cultivating a Healthy Learning Environment."

    The point of the workshop was how to tune up your existing facilities to lower energy costs, lower toxin exposure, and increase test scores by simply providing more natural lighting, etc.  Deborah Moore, the Executive Director for the Green Schools Initiative lead off, she started her company when she noticed that what kids were being taught wasn't being reflected in their learning environment.

    Alicia Culver, owner of the Green Purchasing Institute followed her, focusing in on toxins and green cleaning options that keep students and custodians healthy. Mark Spencer of StopWaste.org wasn't able to make it, but Alison Gangl of TAC Energy Solutions filled in with information on how to swap the money currently used to purchased outdated and expensive energy to buy new equipment. The money saved on lower bills pays for the equipment. The net cost is a wash until the loan is paid off and then it becomes a permanent cost savings. Katharine Rednyk of Monrovia Growers wrapped up the day with very low water landscaping plants to soften the buildings and create a tranquil space, but not drain your water bill.

    That night I met another women during cocktails who does purchasing for a school system. We met for the same reason, she smiled and was welcoming. Later I chatted again with Alicia from the day's workshop.

    The next day I gave my feet a rest in the exhibitor's lounge and met up with Nancy Miller, the organizer of this event and three other "Summits." She's part of www.green-technology.org. Nancy introduced me to women in the LAUSD administration office who then introduced me to the women in charge of contract management for LAUSD.

    I was at the Summit to represent Green Building Pages, a resource for filtering out sustainable building products and materials which originated through the work of another women, Marilyn Farmer.  My job was to inform exhibitors of LACCD's 50 LEED Certified buildings that need green products and materials.

  • The Summit's expo  was filled with companies that would like to have their products used in public schools and colleges. It also had many educational booths such as Project Learning Tree, with training seminars and materials. While the manufacturing booths were 50/50 men to women, in the educational booths I saw had only women behind the desks.

  • The crossover from business to citizen.

    I'm involved with a very dynamic group of green women bloggers. Our #1 issue is toxins - we want them OUT of toys, homes and classrooms. 

    We take our shade of green very seriously. In September we held our own Back-to-School Green carnival. Since that day, some have written books on green parenting and home toxin management, one managed to get Britta to take back their filter, another had her post on a 12-year-old burger read in 180 other countries and another helped us form our own twitter room.                                        

    Now think what would happen if all these women working on greening their schools joined forces with all the women blogging about the same topics? That's real connective tissue at work. We may not be the majority builders of green machines, but we represent the majority stakeholders who can talk up the best products and services and bring this market around faster. That's a culture we all can live with.

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    This is an issue near and dear to my heart. EPA has been cutting funding for enviro ed for years; and there's been no attention at all paid to the greenness of the physical plant (aka, schools). It's inspiring to hear what's happening with LACCD - keep me in the loop, ok?

    Diane, the bonds seem to be funding most of this action. Some school boards "get it" and others need to be embarrased into going green by first graders fund raising for eco-paper. (true story)

    Great idea on joining forces to build a stronger front on this most serious issue. Congratulations on your involvement in this. It is truly inspiring and impressive.

    If we women join hands together in promoting the adoption of ecofriendly culture, we could make the world a better place to live in.

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