Friday, January 14, 2011

Why'd you do that?

With 2010 in the rear view mirror we're starting a new chapter in the book for 2011.  I always feel the need to start every year with a slogan or saying to start the year.  It seems natural that it rhyme and I sometimes struggle with the right words.  This year it really struck me that I liked "heaven" to go along with eleven.   So... let's try... May 2011 be just like heaven!  Or... 2011 is the stair way to heaven for all you classic rockers out there. 

This past year I was driven, some might say compelled to do something new and exciting.  You can say it was kind of a perfect storm of events that defined the reason for what I felt needed to be done.  The more I pushed on the idea... the more supporting evidence came to the surface and pushed me ever further into the determination to see it through.  What happened?  What did I feel the internal drive and inspiration to do?  If you've ever had an idea about a product you thought society needed or a better way to do something you will appreciate what I'm about to share with you.  After all... how did silly bands make it to the market with such an overwhelming response?  Who came up with that idea.... and better said... how does it contribute to a better world?  I guess it is because it is one of those phenoms that no one sees coming and like a giant wave it takes the world by storm. 

Many of you know that in my earlier life I was a public school science teacher.  I enjoyed the enthusiasm and optimism of working with middle school youth.  My feeling was that we still had an opportunity to make an impact on them and move in a positive direction going into high school.  In other words... they still had not sealed their fate as a student and we could make changes for the better.  One of my favorite subjects in the sciences was and still is the study of the earth and its complex processes.   I guess you can say this came naturally to me and I enjoyed teaching this subject matter to my students.   I taught at what could be considered a school system that had seen better days and was struggling to keep up with the decline in enrollment due to the aging population.   In fact I remember the first week on my first full time teaching job my mother called to ask if I had heard the news?  News?  What news?  It was reported in the news that my school was closing and I had not yet been made aware of the plan.  We needed less buildings and to consolidate resources.  It made sense and at the end of that year I was charged with shutting down our science department.

I can tell you that once teachers get comfortable in their position with tenure funny things can happen.  Now that 22 years have gone by since I was a full time teacher I can tell you that they are generally under paid for what they are charged to do.  People don't have any idea of what is required to truly be an effective teacher.  It takes condensed spurts of energy and like running a race you need to pace yourself everyday.  Imagine being an actor or singer and perhaps having a problem with your voice before the show.  Cancel the show!  As a teacher... the show must go on... and believe it or not if there is a weakness... the students can sense it... and in some cases the predator instinct can come out!  They sense the weakness and attack!  Ok.. well... don't expect a free pass or a break at least.

What does this have to do with the original point here?  Things change.  What was once considered an acceptable practice in now unthinkable in many cases.  Do you remember as a student experimenting with liquid mercury on science class?  I can remember clear as day rolling the semi solid/semi liquid ball of mercury across the table top with my pencil... cool!  Right?  Wrong...  mercury is now on the baned substance list and proven to cause birth defects and neurological disorder.  I always though my science teachers were a little out there!  Must have been the exposure to mercury. 

Seriously... shutting down the science department opened my eyes back then to the cause and effect of chemicals and the exposure to them through the environment.   The high school chemistry teacher and I went through the chemicals in the old storage locker and were amazed at the boxes of materials that were piling up because they were on the "banned substance" list.   Over time these chemical which were once considered safe to have on hand and for use in the classroom were now showing up on the list of hazardous materials. 

Stop and think about how things have changed over the years in the way materials are handled in manufacturing and tooling.  The standard practice to get ride of unwanted liquids was to simply take them to the back of the parking lot and dump them in the ground. In larger operations it was storage in a metal drum and taken to an off site storage location.  This was usually in what would have been considered a remote area and simply placed in a stack on the ground.  Metal drums of hazardous materials exposed to the elements?  How long does it take for the metal drum to corrode and seep its contents into the ground?  10 years, 20 years?   Well... it happened... and it happened in a lot of places I guarantee you'd be absolutely surprised to hear about.  I'm not going to elaborate on specific locations but you can do some research and discover what is known as "Superfund cleanup sites" not to far from our own back yards.

Fast forward to 2009 and my involvement with the Oxford DDA.  I chose to attend the OakGreen Summit over at the Oakland County ISD in early 2010.  I have to admit it was fascinating to see so many people all committed to green industry all under one roof.  Perhaps it was the huge advancements that had been made in area's like solar, wind, energy efficient lighting,  and HVAC that caught my attention.  Perhaps it was my recent revisit to working with young people again in Science Olympiad.  This time it was with my own children and in a much different environment.  More parent support, more resources, and most important of all... in an area that I now call home that is loaded with environmentally sensitive surroundings.   Nothing like wanting to protect your own home... right? 

So... the perfect storm happened in April and I began writing a business plan for a green business.  It took all of my experiences into account from teaching, the sciences, economic decline in educational resources, and a desire to make a positive impact on people through small changes in the course of our actions in daily living.  There it is... for those of you who have been asking... " Why'd you do that? "