In the summer of 2008, I felt the itch to be proactive both creatively and environmentally, and hit the city streets with my bike, a flip camera and a question: "How would you make New York a Greener Apple?" Thirty short films later, I've created this grassroots campaign where New Yorkers themselves tell how they would make their city of New York a "greener" place to live.
Somewhere around six months into my "A Greener Apple" initiative, I thought it was time to talk to the City about what I was doing, and how I could take the worthwhile (doable) answers (i.e. curbside recycling, more bike lanes, less cars, turn of your lights, reusable bags, etc.) I had documented from my man-on-the-street responses, and actually implement them on the streets of New York. This meeting with the City wasn't as well received as I had hoped it would be. I found that in contrast to what I had expected, and secretly hoped, I instead was the one being questioned as to, "what was I doing in my own home and my children's school, that was making New York greener?"
Interesting! What was I doing? How was I contributing to this campaign that I was so passionate and excited about? Was I practicing what my campaign was hoping to preach? This led me to look at my own world and my lifestyle choices. How could I reduce my family's carbon footprint? What could my contribution be to making the city I so adored greener and more environmentally friendly?
This idea of individuality -- everybody doing his or her part, a baby steps approach towards greening the apple -- now became my vision. What I discovered six months in, is still what I'm finding, twenty-months later. In order for me to really make a difference (yes, my "A Greener Apple" campaign was generating awareness and a healthy following), I'd have to start small -- plant the seed and hope that it would grow into something bigger. And the best way I found to do this was through my children, and in the environment in which they grow: city schools.
This doubly made sense to me when I looked back over the answers to my initial question, "How would you make New York A Greener Apple?" I realized it was the children who had the most profound, real and doable answers. So why not start with the children in New York?
I remembered a quote by Angela Schwindt: "While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about."
If we focused on greening our city schools, and educating the kids both in their daily school practices and down the line in their curriculum, it would become second nature to them. Whether and how to recycle wouldn't even be a question, it would be a way of life. The kids would learn it, and then educate their parents and caregivers if they weren't already up to speed.
This made so much sense, and was even later proven to me when my six-year-old daughter, after watching one of my "A Greener Apple" pieces (Recycle and Reuse), corrected her science teacher as to the proper way to recycle a Poland Spring water bottle: "No Mr. X, the cap goes into the garbage, before you throw the bottle out (recycle it)." The teacher even thanked me (well kind of) for educating him on the city's proper recycling protocol, via my little girl. By the way, this teacher is now the recycling coordinator at my children's public school.
Hence, the "bigger" focus to my "A Greener Apple" project began: greening the city's schools.
This is not to say that I don't continue my quest everyday to generate awareness and gain knowledge asking the man-on-the-street or on the bike. I recently filmed an A Greener Apple (NYC) while riding the TD Bank 5-Borough Bike Tour, how they would make the city of New York a greener place to be.