Lynn University recently interviewed me for one of their Earth Day posts on their web magazine, iPulse. They ended up using part of the interview, not the whole thing (apparently, didn’t want it to be too long — understandable). A bit of the interview was actually about Planetsave, and the rest was about environmental issues and green living (a good fit for our site, of course), so I’m sharing the whole thing here with you all. (You can learn a bit more about me as well through this )
The interviewer was Brittany Klontz (BK).
BK: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became involved with Planetsave.
I’ve transitioned through a handful of careers in the past 10 years or so, all focused on helping the environment in one way or another. I got involved with Planetsave sort of serendipitously. Planetsave was initially an email service. A girlfriend in college introduced me to it in 2001 and I set up an account. Many years later (in 2008), I saw an advertisement to join the Planetsave team (or, actually, the Green Options Media team) as a writer — Planetsave had developed into a successful green blog at that point. I had recently discovered that I absolutely loved writing, so I decided to apply, thinking that I’d just do it as a hobby. A year later, I discovered that I could do it as a job and started to transition into the field. In 2010, when Important Media (previously Green Options Media) reacquired Planetsave, I got an opportunity to become its site director. I have been putting all my heart into it since that time.
BK: What sparked your interest and concern for environmental issues?
It’s hard to say. I know it started early on. I remember writing songs about the environment in high school (and I just wrote a few songs, so that’s saying something). I was raised on organic, vegetarian food, so that probably had something to do with it. Though, I think a certain Earth Day, in 3rd grade, is what really sparked my interest and concern. I remember it making an impression on me. I didn’t really start getting into it until the end of high school and beginning of college, though.
BK: Were you always a ‘green’ enthusiast?
Woops, I think I sort of answered that question above. To clarify, though, I would say I was a “green enthusiast” until the end of high school or even the beginning of college. It wasn’t until college that I started to realize the importance of green transportation and started learning about environmental issues in-depth.
BK: With all of the recent environmental disasters that have been occurring all over the world, do you feel like people are becoming more environmentally conscious?
I really think they are. But not nearly as much as I would hope. There is one big issue that is mitigating this… or maybe two. The first one I cover in the next question. The second one, though, is that people think going green is a challenge (something I wouldn’t agree with) and are afraid to accept the environmental crisis because they are afraid to address it.
BK: How do you feel about global warming?
Global warming is a huge topic. In my opinion, it is the most troubling issue facing the world today. Not addressing it will result in wars, water and food insecurity like we’ve never seen before, natural disasters on a scale we’ve never seen before, flooded coastlines, health epidemics, and more.
Unfortunately, fossil fuel interests who would not like to miss out on short-term profits have funded massive disinformation campaigns that have successfully confused large numbers of people. They have also essentially bought the opinions of numerous politicians on this matter. From the funding of bad science that tries to claim the findings of true climate scientists and the world’s leading scientists and overarching scientific institutions who confirm their work as valid are wrong, to the manipulation of the media, to the creation of massive PR campaigns inappropriately and incorrectly telling people that climate change isn’t happening, that it isn’t human-induced, and that solutions to it will cost us money, these huge, powerful industries are essentially sabotaging the future of countless people and generations.
BK: I understand that you’re from the West Coast of Florida – how did the BP oil spill effect you?
It was hard to see. I have been living in Poland for 2.5 years now, so I wasn’t living there at the time, but this is where I’m from and this is where some of my family and friends still live. I grew up on the beach and it was very sad to see what has happened to the beautiful water and beaches there, the marine animals living in the Gulf, and the people who tried to help address the situation and clean up the mess and are suffering or even dying from it now. It is beyond sad….
BK: You’re currently in Poland teaching English – can you compare Poland’s environmental awareness and initiatives to the United States’?
Poland’s environmental awareness is similar to the US’ or perhaps even a little worse. It is a country focusing on economic development that wants to bring itself up to the living standard of the US or Western European countries. Additionally, it relies to a tremendous degree on coal, which keeps it’s government from acting in a more environmentally-friendly way.
But a lot of people live greener lives due to urban design that is more amenable to bicycling and taking transit, to save money, and out of tradition.
BK: How do you make ‘greener’ choices in your day-to-day life?
I was born and raised vegetarian, so that is one big but quite easy thing for me. I also got rid of my car years ago and have only had more enjoyable commutes since then (by bicycle, foot, bus, and streetcar — I’ve moved around a bit). Additionally, I live a pretty simple life and try to buy greener products whenever they are available. Lastly, I speak out about these issues, which I think is critical. People often do something largely because others are doing it. If you let people know what green actions you are taking, that brings them one step closer to joining you.
BK: In your opinion, what is the most common misconception when it comes to sustainable living?
That it’s difficult. To be frank, sustainable living is more fun, cheaper, and makes you feel better about yourself (priceless). There’s no reason not to live more sustainably, in my opinion.
BK: What is your advice for college students who want to do something constructive for the environment?
Bicycling is fun, cheap, healthy, good for the economy, and a viable option for a large percentage of trips. Riding transit and trains can also be a lot of fun, can be more convenient, saves the average U.S. citizen approximately $10,000 a year, and is also good for the economy and job creation.
Eating vegetarian or vegan and eating local foods are some of the greenest things you can do. However, eating vegetarian or vegan are the most significant on this front. Doing so is also better for your health and will probably make you feel better, another great impetus to consider such a diet.
A little more difficult, but really not that difficult these days, is switching to a clean electricity source like solar power. Solar power is cheaper in the long term and is even cheaper in the short and medium term these days in some places. Now is a great time to switch to solar.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on some of your favorite social networks, go to zacharyshahan.com or click on some of the links below.