Green Changes You Can Make Around Your Home
By Carol Parenzan Smalley
48 pages – ages 8+
Published by Mitchell Lane Publishers on September 22, 2009
Synopsis- Have you ever thought about helping the environment, but didn’t know what to do? Do you even know what you need to fix? If you are feeling unsure, and are in need of ideas, this book will help you get on your way to being environmentally friendly.
What I Thought- This was a good nonfiction book. Although the book was written in 2009, the environmental message remains the same – we need to start taking care of our resources, and here is how you can help. The book offers positive things we can do to help make changes. There are real-life examples of people doing things to help their environment, and ideas for how you can save water, keep gas levels down (oddly enough, eating beans is actually encouraged!), and recycle. It’s a good book for families to read.
I was given the chance to interview the author, Ms. Parenzan, about the work she did on her book, and her works as a Riverkeeper.
Erik: When did you decide to start your book?
Ms. Parenzan: The publisher of this book – Mitchell Lane Publishers – contacted me in 2009 to determine if I had an interest in being a member of the writing team for the series of books that “Green Changes” is part of. Of course I had to say YES! I had written other books for them prior to this book. The book was released in 2010.
Erik: How do you think your book has impacted the lives of the kids reading it?
Ms. Parenzan: I have actually had the opportunity to talk with some of the book’s readers! They shared with me that what impacted them most was the stories about other young readers who have made and are making a difference. They enjoyed learning about the Green Teen’s salsa and the Food from the ‘Hood’s salad dressing. They laughed with Alyse Lui and her description of her family as the “French Fry Family” because of the smell that was emitted from their biodiesel fuel that powered their car! They started to consider the size of their own carbon footprints and encouraged their own families to make small green changes. Overwhelmingly, they realized that it’s the cumulative effect of all the little changes we each make that has a large impact on the health of our planet.
Erik: Have we gotten better, as a species, with our green acts?
Ms. Parenzan: Overall, I do believe we have gotten better. Back when I was your age, recycling wasn’t even practiced. Today, it’s common practice. That’s the beauty of being a change maker. If practiced long enough, it becomes an integral component of your daily life. It becomes part of your regular routine. But we still have a long way to go. We know more today than we did yesterday, and hopefully, we’ll all know more tomorrow than we know today. We can’t let up or give up. We are the change.
Erik: What is the hardest part, in your opinion, of living green? The easiest?
Ms. Parenzan: I believe the hardest part of living green is staying positive in a world that feeds on negative information. You just need to turn on the evening news to get a daily dose of negative reality – from the degradation of the Chesapeake Bay to rising sea waters due to climate change. Sometimes we are made to feel that the problem is bigger than the person, that our individual acts won’t make a difference, but that’s not true. The easiest part today to living green is having access to information to help you make the best educated decisions. Your answers are but a click or book away. The information is there for you when you’re ready to receive it and act on it. You just need to be ready, and that happens at different times for different people.
Erik: If you could only do one thing to help the Earth, what would it be?
Ms. Parenzan: Simply be the example for others to follow. There’s no need for finger pointing or poster waving — that only gets you attention in the moment. Your actions will have a longer and more positive impact.
I like to share this song and video with others: The song was written and performed by Dan Berggren, a folk musician from New York. The photos and videos were taken by Carl Heilman and primarily feature the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. It brings me hope.
Erik: Could you also tell us about your current work as a Riverkeeper?
Ms. Parenzan: A Riverkeeper is part of the Waterkeeper family of licensed voices for watersheds around the world. Today, there are almost 300 waterkeepers on six continents in 34 countries. The parent organization is Waterkeeper Alliance, which was founded and spearheaded by Bobby Kennedy Jr., an environmental attorney and activist. Each of our work is based on the Clean Water Law that states that every citizen on this Earth is guaranteed the right to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. Here in the United States, we turn on the tap and take good, clean water for granted. That is not the case, however, around the world. Although the Clean Water Act is the foundation for our work, each program can take on its “own flavor” depending on the watershed being protected and the background of the waterkeeper.
This short video will help you understand our mission:
My work as the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper focuses on about 10,000 square miles of the watershed in and around the North and West Branches of the river. Basically, I start at the dam in Sunbury and go north on the North Branch and west on the West Branch and all the drainage area feeding these two parts of the river.
My approach is multi-faceted: I educate. I investigate. I advocate. And, when necessary, I litigate.
My watershed is rich in energy concerns. We have legacy coal mining issues: abandoned mine drainage and abandoned land drainage. This drainage lowers the pH of the water, making it acidic and incapable of supporting aquatic life. The west branch of the river is the most impaired because of it. The good news is we are seeing improvement in parts of the watershed due to acid mine drainage remediation programs! There are hundreds of thousands of abandoned and orphaned natural gas and oil wells out there, many of which are leaking methane. Energy companies drilled them and then walked away. We don’t know where they are. We need to find them and close them. There are thousands of fracked natural gas wells with hundreds of miles of pipelines connecting these wells and transporting gas in and out of the watershed. There’s an old coal-burning electric generation plant (that will be converted to a dual – coal and natural gas – electric plant in the next few years). There’s a proposed small hydroelectric dam planned too. Of course, we also have a nuclear power plant. All traditional energy generation requires water and makes some impact on the earth. But here’s the “kicker”: we don’t need all of this energy. For every megawatt of power we use here in the Susquehanna River Valley, two megawatts are exported. The many miles of proposed natural gas lines are not to bring gas to the residents of Pennsylvania but to transport gas to other states – and other countries. Pennsylvania and her communities are paying the cost to be energy exporters. Isn’t it time we put the people of Pennsylvania ahead of the profit of big companies?
We are also contributing to the nutrient loading of the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna River contributes about 50% of all freshwater entering the Bay and about 40-45% of all pollution. Some of this pollution comes from our farming practices. As Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper, I am exploring ways that my organization can help to lower the amount of pollution reaching the Bay from this part of the Susquehanna River watershed.
I hold an environmental engineering degree with a water focus from Penn State University. For over 30 years, I worked in engineering, technical communications, and business development. To date, I have written over 30 children’s books and a few books for adults too. There are several books planned for the next year. We just received a grant that includes the creation and publication of a children’s book for young river stewards. I am also talking to one of my publishers about a history book about Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River, with a focus on water activities.