O’Brien & Company, Inc. has long been concerned with the lack of diversity in green building service providers, so when one of our staff members saw you promoting the bi-lingual Eco-Logica Magazine at a local solar festival she brought your project to my attention. I’m impressed. Can you share with the readers what you are trying to do with this publication? STUART: Eco-Logica Magazine is part of an educational effort I am making that is primarily aimed at the Latino community, but the magazine should also be a bridge between Latino and Anglos. Hence the articles are in both Spanish and English. The focus is on living and doing business in a more sustainable manner. The magazine is available for free to the community, in both print and electronic versions.
So is Eco-Logica a non-profit venture? I’m convinced that I can make a paying job out of this. Perhaps we’ll go that route in the future. Right now, the advertisements appearing in the magazine don’t yet support the time I invest, so I’m hoping that will change. This is not about being a saint like “Mother Teresa” but it definitely is a passion for me. I’ve had a lot of encouragement to expand the educational effort beyond the publication itself. We are taking invitations to organizations, such as churches, schools and businesses in the Latino community to talk about the project, and sustainability in general.
What’s been the response to your project? We’ve had positive feedback from both the Latino and Anglo community. However, most of the invitations to speak have been from the Anglo community. We’re hoping to change that. We want businesses and groups in the Latino community to see how this applies to them, and can help provide a more sustainable quality of life. Notably, once we get their attention, they will often say, this is how we did it back home! Conserving was a part of life.
I understand you make your living as a musician. How does environmental education fit into the picture? Well my degree was actually in biology with courses in chemistry, environmental issues, and waste management. When I was a college intern I worked for the Department of Ecology for a city in the State of Veracruz, Mexico, and then they hired me as Director of Solid Waste Department. We worked on developing a recycling program, conducting community education, and building the first legal landfill in that area. Unfortunately when the municipal administration changed, that job went away. They wouldn’t even let us work for free, so the landfill was not completed. Just prior to moving to the States, I ran a company doing business consulting. Since moving here, I’ve been performing and teaching drums, and writing the magazine on the side.
You mentioned advertising income earlier; do you have any criteria for accepting an advertisement? We are trying to avoid products that are part of an unsustainable system. On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to educate the businesses who want to advertise to the Latino community. It’s important to point out that there are diverse income levels in our community, and not to assume that Latino families can’t afford or wouldn’t want green services if they knew about them.
O’Brien & Company focuses on sustainability of the built environment. For the people you are targeting with your publication, what kinds of green building information would be most useful? For the most part, they need basic, simple ways to maintain their homes sustainably, such as changing the light bulbs, replacing leaky fixtures. Also, they need to know how to take advantage of weatherization programs now available. My understanding is that the Latino community here in Washington is not participating; they probably don’t even know about it, or truly understand the benefit. In some cases, it’s an issue of renting vs. owning, but not always. We need the Latino media to take this green building movement seriously and cover the topic in a meaningful way.
Kathleen O’Brien is the Editor of Building Capacity Blog and President of O’Brien & Company. O’Brien & Company is a woman-owned business founded in 1991 to promote sustainability of the built environment. The firm would love to see more diversity in the “feeder fields” – those that naturally feed into green building services consulting, such as design and planning, construction trades, and engineering.
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