Interview by Shelkie Tao of Water Effecient Gardens on water and the environment
My opportunity to be Interviewed
I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Shelkie Tao with Water Efficient Garden who worked with her clients to promote having water efficient gardens. We are both members of the Eco Green Group of Silicon Valley whose members share a keen interest in making positive contributions to a more sustainable future through technologies, practices, and industries in the local and global community. Reached out to me to discuss water, the environment and other topics. So on a Friday morning in Cupertino, California we finally had the opportunity to sit down. Below are the questions and answers from our conversation.
The questions and their answers
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A little bit about my background; before I moved to Silicon Valley, I did some time with the Navy for the Nuclear Power Submarine; once I left the Navy, I took a job in Semi-Conductor as a product support engineer; over time I moved into more of the sales and marketing roles; also through time I moved more into an environmental and Clean-Tech positions; a couple years ago I founded Speaking Green Communications to be a voice for sustainability and the adoption of alternative energy technologies. I am a big believer that if people understood these technologies a little better than they did, there will be a lot less resistance to adopt them.
Why did you choose environment to be your focus? What would you hope to accomplish with your work?
The environment is pretty interesting because environment is more part of sustainability, where environment acts as its stage. Environment moves through the people, and the stage; so, environment for me is wrapped into sustainability, while the environment is affecting the lives of people, and people affect the environment by their behaviors and actions. I had a position where I was working on a soil mediation project and I really saw firsthand that the effect that people have on the environment by their behaviors; that kind of baby passion about doing my part contributed to (my) helping people to be better stewards in the environment.
What kind of the mediation project was it?
This was in Los Angeles area, and it was an industrial facility that made medical equipment, and they have stored things like chemicals, the things stored eventually would leak, so what happened was the manufacturing plant was no longer working, and the community wanted to develop homes on the land where the factory used to be; they were contaminated in soil that needed to be removed before this land could be developed for new homes. And so, the project was using the equipment to mediate the soil so that the development could go on afterwards.
You have been in the environment industry for a long time, both as a clean-technology professional and as a speaker.
I would like to be a voice because there are a lot of people who are interested in being more green and sustainable, but are afraid of technology, the steps that they could do easily, that they could do their part; so I tried to make myself as a resources to be able to provide easy steps, and provide knowledge in terms of helping people try to be more green because on a lot of levels it really makes sense that we take care of the environment that we leave to our children and their children.
Overall, how do you feel about its progress and what it has achieved?
It’s definitely a work in progress; one of the important things, in terms of environment, a lot are policy related, people have to participate in process, and to impress upon their lawmakers, people who really govern policies that this is important, we have to change our behavior to maintain and steward our environment; I think people have to make their voices heard; In terms of communicating these objectives – very important – definitely a work in process. There has been progress, but there is a lot to go. It’s kind of mindset first to clean the environment, on the other hand also to make sure that we are being sustainable going forward, in terms of our practices.
Can you introduce one or two areas that you spoke about recently.
Yes, one of the speeches I scheduled to be giving in Portland was, “What is in our water might surprise us”. With all the chemicals and pharmaceuticals and cosmetics that go into our water, these contaminants are showing in our drinking water, because waste water treatment systems weren’t designed to remove all the particles and substances. Cities have found trace levels of cocaine in their water. It is not enough to not have problems; more people should be aware that these things are in their water; now as over time more chemicals get at it, it is kind of unknown how these chemicals will mix each other so something people should be aware what might be in their drinking water that comes out from their tap. Another talk that I have given is, I called it “Sustainability as a path to peace”; basically, talks about the possibility in water stressed regions the countries going to war over access to drinking water. And that talk goes into the history and how that became big, and more importantly, what tools we can use to prevent folks from going to war over access to drinking water which elementary is a human right. This talk I gave at Peace Center at Walnut Creek (California).
What do you think about the drought, and the water challenge that California has been facing since 5 years ago?
The biggest challenge, especially in California, is conservation should be a way of life; I saw the news yesterday that show the daily drought monitor numbers that looked as good as you have seen, there were some places in the northern part that were quoted “out of drought”. However, in my mind we should always be thinking about water conservation. If you look at climate change, the changes in water, also with the growth of the state of California 10, 20 years from now conservation should always be a way of life. The challenge is to get people into that kind of mindset. When people are saying “oh, the drought is over” they go back to their bad water practices, which is what really got us into this situation. The concern is, the drought isn’t over, you should always think conservation, forever. So, it makes me nervous from people’s thought – thinking about rolling back, because what you are going to see happening is you are going to undo the progress you have made, in 5 years we will be saying the same things that we said couple years ago, when we were in the unhappiest point of the drought. In California, there have been droughts very routinely, but typically rain always come back. While with climate change, the water might not be coming back. A big part of that is the state gets a lot of its rain from Sierra snow melt, one of the things is a lot of the snow now becomes rains, so the reservoirs aren’t going get its impact from snow going forward. That means there will be less water available in the reservoir, that is really the biggest challenge.
What are some of the effective ways to conserve water?
People should be conscious of their water usage, but I am big on reusing the water. This month I was gave this talk this idea about using recycled water for drinking. There has been a lot of resistance, they call it yuk factor, people are afraid of using because they are thinking it is the water out of their toilet they are drinking, but water is going to be purified before they drink it. Nature has recycled all the water for millions of years, so.
What can we do in our daily life to protect the environment?
I think we can take steps. In another talk in terms of 10 ways to save water, some of relatively easy ways, you can monitor your shower times, you cannot wait until your shower is so warm before jumping in, you can reuse that water, you can use your shower water as toilet water, you can think about your water footprint, for instance, you can compost, instead of using a garbage disposal. There are certain things you can do to reduce your water, but also your energy footprint. You can get a tankless water heater, which will help you save water and energy. There are a lot of things that can be done, it is just a matter of, making it easy for people to take steps, because of the things I learned was, you must make it easy, because if it is hard people will resist, “I don’t want to change”. So, the whole idea is try to make it as easy and painless as possible.
What is a tankless water heater?
Water heater is a bowl, it stores water at the bottom. When it heats, the water at the bowl gets heated. When you take shower, you are using extra energy to keep that extra water warm so you have the hot water ready. A tankless heater is really a heater exchanger, it takes the water and heats it when you need it. So, you are only heating the water when you need it, you are not holding a lot of it in the tank, and in the pipe.
Any words of wisdom, observation, information etc. that you would want the audience to know.
Sustainability and being green is something a lot of people naturally take hold of. The key is to get everyone onboard. One of the themes in terms of part of the play is global – everyone’s local choice has an impact globally. Always stay positive, because you always hear a lot of bloom and groom for climate change. For instance, the decision was made to reduce the refrigerants, and now behold the hole in artic was closed because we limited the amount of refrigerant, that is something positive we can have an impact on. Same thing with climate change, we can start by having a positive impact by reducing fossil fuels and using renewable as energy sources.
The biggest concern must be the mindset. Typically, I talked to high school students, it is kind of important to get the message out so that they learned, because it is easier for people be green than to have them to be ungreen when they get old. Because people don’t want to change once they get old.
What you see as the biggest concerns people should have with their drinking water?
One of the things about drinking water is that a lot of people use bottled water, which is not very good in terms of the plastic, when there is the perfectly healthy drinking water that comes from your tap. If you don’t like the taste of it, a water filter works well in filtering out and making it taste well. I use it and it works. The bottled water folks did a very job of marketing saying “you don’t want to drink your tap water, you want to pay us money so we bottle for you.” Many times, the bottled water is still water coming out from your tap, just fileted and packaged, kind of a brilliant marketing deployment. Also, some water companies are using pristine water sources, taking the water from communities and bottle them up and charge you extra money for it, it is kind of an ethical concern. The water goes into Aquafina of Pepsi is tap water going through Reverse Osmosis. The whole idea is they appear to be coming from mountains, but many times they are just normal tap water with some processing. If you look at the price, the bottle and label account for 90% of the price, not the water itself. And if you look at the water bottles, a lot of them go unrecycled. A lot of them end up in landfill, and as an example of local and global, they end up in in gyres in the ocean. It takes 400 years for plastic to decompost, it never really breaks down, it just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces that sea lions and other animals ingest, so it really is not a good situation. I agree in some situations bottled water is needed but normally the tap water is perfectly fine.
If you would like to hear more
Please feel to reach out to me at www.speakinggreencommunications.com