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THE LAZY ENVIRONMENTALIST : Lazy Mayor

THE LAZY ENVIRONMENTALIST, hosted by Josh Dorfman, screens Tuesdays at 9PM on Sundance Channel.

Working with John Tran, the mayor of Rosemead, CA, was particularly fascinating. To be sure, The Lazy Environmentalist typically focuses on helping individuals conveniently make environmentally conscious choices that fit their lifestyles. However, this same philosophy can also be applied to a town or city. In fact, sometimes the best way to help people easily and enjoyably reduce their environmental impact is to focus on making changes at the municipal level. For example, Rosemead’s recycling rates are very low; only about 25% of recyclable trash is diverted from the landfill and actually recycled. So in “Lazy Mayor” I present Mayor Tran with a municipal recycling solution that can lower the town’s costs while also making it easy, convenient, and financially rewarding for Rosemead residents to sort the recycling in their homes. It’s the kind of win-win-win solution that saves taxpayer money, financially incentives people to participate in environmental action, and benefits the planet in two major ways: 1) it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and 2) it reduces our demand for virgin natural resources from which to make new products.

Throughout this segment I’m focused on finding cost-effective ways to reduce Rosemead’s greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to get Mayor Tran excited enough about these possibilities to endorse the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement which commits towns and cities across the country to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by over current levels 2012. It’s a stretch goal that compels communities and their leaders to embrace change immediately and not just come up with plans to reduce emissions by some distant date when those leaders will no longer be accountable because they’ll no longer be in office. To date, 944 mayors out of approximately 6,000 have signed the agreement. Such politicians represent the vanguard of real change.

You’ll have to watch the episode to see what Mayor Tran thinks about all this. At one point, we also get to hear the opinions of town residents. And this for me was the truly inspiring moment of the segment because we had succeed in creating a political opening for an environmental dialogue to occur in a town where that is far from the norm. One woman in attendance took the opportunity to push for more bike trails and designated bike lanes on roads. One man proposed revisiting the town’s building codes to make sure buildings were adhering to green principles. Another person wanted to know what could be done to educate the children of Rosemead about environmental issues. And on it went with citizens voicing substantial environmental concerns and also offering really good green ideas.

Ultimately, for me this episode was eye-opening in terms of what it really takes to move positive environmental change through the political process. And I appreciate the opportunity to experience these kinds of moments because it serves as a reminder that there are millions of people across this country in all types of communities who are passionate about the environmental cause and want leaders who will be responsive.


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