It’s easy being green

Laura Howells
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We all know the mantra — reduce, reuse, recycle — but do we really know how to put ‘green living’ in action?

(From left) Tamara Segura, David Maher, Jeff Smyth and Chris Ball, members of, a team in St. John’s who is attempting to make eco-friendly living more accessible. — Submitted photo

Such is the question of, a Green Team project that aims to show Newfoundland and Labrador just how easy it actually is to be more environmentally conscious.

The team, which consists of four young people based in St. John’s, aims to break down the abstract buzzwords we often hear around sustainability and climate change.

All summer, the group is producing online videos that show easy and practical ways people can be more green in their everyday life.

“A lot of people don’t know how to be greener. You always hear the buzz phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ but what does that mean? You put your bottle in a bin and never see it again?” said team lead Jeff Smyth.

“You don’t have to go live in a tree,” said team member David Maher.

“We’re saying that, hey, there’s little things you can do. All of our videos are meant to show how accessible green living is.”

Their first video discusses “green kits” — small things such as soft, collapsible grocery bags and filtered water bottles that can make being on-the-go more eco-friendly. One video will focus on how to dispose of hazardous waste, such as batteries and light bulbs, and another will show how easy it is to start composting.

“Very few people actually know how to compost, or are hesitant about setting one up. My family’s been trying to set one up for five years now, and just haven’t really known what to do,” said Smyth.

“Some people think you need to be some gardening guru to compost. But it’s really just dump some stuff out and wait. And you just composted,” said Chris Ball, an incoming music student at Memorial University.

The videos will also showcase several local initiatives and organizations that are committed to environmental sustainability, such as MUN Bike Share and the Common Ground co-working space.

As part of their mission, the team is also making presentations to groups of children at local summer camps and community centres. They discuss environmental issues with fun stories and demonstrations, and suggest small, but effective ways to make a difference.

The team says the children’s response has been extremely enthusiastic, with many asking insightful questions and becoming excited about their own capacity to make change.

“Even if it’s just a message that they’ll enjoy for a moment and then forget about it, I think in their subconscious it stays,” said team member Tamara Segura.

“It’s never a waste of time, talking to kids about these things, never.”

Segura, a filmmaker from Cuba, brings a unique perspective to the team. She grew up in Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union, when energy supplies were scarce and citizens were forced to conserve out of necessity. At one point, residents had power for only four hours a day.

“Charging you batteries, cooking, everything you had to do, and then — it was cut. That forced society to find alternatives,” she said.

As a child, neighbourhoods organized “click patrols” in which children would knock on their neighbours door each evening and find lights or appliances in their house that did not need to be turned on.

“It was mostly for kids to learn how to create awareness, but also for adults who might be too busy and didn’t realize how much waste could be happening inside a house.”

Out of this crisis, Cuba also became a pioneer in solar energy.

“It’s funny because here, those things are considered so open minded,” said Segura.

“But in Cuba there’s still some people who think, oh no, we are poor. So for me it’s a nice contrast. Sometimes you just put your own culture and place down. I can’t wait to come back and say hey, we are actually super in terms of sustainability.

“I found myself in Wal-Mart just turning off lamps. I know I’m not supposed to, but it’s just so shocking. In Cuba you do that, and you’re done,” she said.

“It’s just hard when your life is normal just to think of these things.”

Although the videos will not be released until the fall, is using social media sites like Twitter and Vine to share their message throughout the summer.

Organizations: Wal-Mart

Geographic location: Cuba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Soviet Union

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