By Molly Enkema
With hybrid cars, low-energy homes, and new forms of recycling, Americans are taking conservation to a level it has never been before.
This recent trend has left companies and employers scrambling to create more eco-friendly products and environment-focused jobs. So for all the recent Whitworth graduates out there, going green just might be the answer to a secure future. One alumnus who has already headed down the green path is Bob Livingston, '81.
Livingston is trying to do his part for the future as a residential home builder. He began by starting FineHome Development, a residential construction company, in Seattle. In 1999 he felt called to do more for the environment, he says, so he became part of the Green Building Program, which encourages builders to produce environmentally friendly homes.
"Green Building" encompasses reducing the ecological footprint or mess left behind at a construction site by conserving water and energy, as well as reducing the impacts of building materials production and transportation, according to Greenbuilthome.org.
The Green Building Program is primarily self-evaluating and self-policing, says Livingston. After years seeing the program at work he concluded it was falling short of truly making a difference, and he chose to back away from the program. He was especially struck by what he felt was the lack of integrity he thought needed to be there.
Livingston "began to feel there was 'window dressing' going on," and soon became disillusioned. He learned that waste from construction sites was not being recycled as advertised but sometimes burned, which does not comply with "green standards." For these kinds of homes and building projects, lumber is supposed to come from certified sustainable forests. However, he explained that "lumber is a commodity. It is almost impossible for us to determine if it is coming from a forest that is sustainable," which again fogged his rose-colored glasses.
Then came September of 2007, a slow time for the housing market. Concerned about his financial future and feeling unsettled about his decision to back away from the green program, Livingston turned to prayer for guidance.
"Being disillusioned should not be the end of the story," he said. "As Christians we are to be stewards of God's creation, taking care of God's gift. We can't continue using God's creation to our own ends without being aware."
After a break from the Green Building Program, Livingston felt God calling him back in that direction. He knew he could help by bringing integrity to this program, a goal he has been working on since he re-enrolled with Green Building in the fall 2007.
"Be wary and be questioning," is Livingston's advice to consumers looking to buy more environmentally friendly products. He believes that although many programs, such as the Green Building Program, are not yet benefiting the environment as they should, they are all still steps in the right direction.
Livingston is not alone it seeking to apply his Whitworth education and concern for the environment to his career. Cliff Feigenbaum,'86, is founder and editor of GreenMoney Journal, a publication focused on socially responsible investing.
The Journal believes in the idea that "Green should make Green," Feigenbaum says, meaning that a more eco-conscious lifestyle will save people money. He explained that "environmentally responsible companies are the future, so that is where we feel people should invest."
"We want people to use their money to create the kind of world in which
they want to live," Feigenbaum said.
He, along with Livingston and thousands of other Americans are joining the effort to educate people about the choices they have now that will greatly benefit them and the environment in future, all by setting an example themselves.
"Seven to 10 years ago this [potential to impact the environment] wasn't in the realm of possibilities," explained Livingston.
Feigenbaum and Livingston believe this movement toward becoming a more green society is here to stay. The abundance of programs and organizations available in the "green market" allow people and consumers to help at their own pace and in just about any way they like.
Whitworth has taken steps to be more environmentally conscious on its campus. The recent building of Weyerhaeuser Hall and Duvall Hall incorporated more efficient heating systems, as well as meticulously placed windows to cut down on electricity use. Also, according to the Art Department website, the new art building currently being built was designed to allow for strategic use of natural light.
"There is a lot of buzz about being green," said Livingston. It seems that everywhere we look there is another article in the paper about the importance of eating organic food. We see the word "green" thrown in to just about any organization or label, and the idea of "sustainability" is on the agenda of most politicians, talk-show hosts, parents, and yes, college students.
One area of the environment on which everyone has an impact is the generation of trash. With individuals in the United States each generating about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year – about 4.5 pounds per person per day – that projects to U.S. residents on average each creating 90,000 pounds of trash in our lifetimes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the United States only makes up 5 percent of the earth, Americans cause 72 percent of all waste.
Alumni such as Livingston and Feigenbaum are but two individuals combining their Whitworth educations and care for the environment. With environmental concerns increasingly on the national agenda, more Whitworth alumni are likely to follow their example. A recent article published in Forbes Magazine brings good news for those looking toward a green future. With a "green sector" growth rate of approximately 5 percent annually, there will be room for plenty more green jobs in the future.