In this edition of Chatting Green, we talk with Diane Bickett & Greg Rotuno of the ECO SPEAKS CLE Podcast, where they offer a multi-generational perspective on the thriving environmental community of Northeast Ohio. They speak with environmental leaders, tell inspiring stories, offer tips, and more. You can hear all episodes of their podcast here, and on many popular streaming services.
Diane and Greg, your ECO SPEAKS CLE podcast explores the environmental community of Northeast Ohio. Your varying backgrounds – Diane, yours from a long career in sustainable solid waste management, and Greg, yours in communications – shows how people with all types of experience are getting involved with environmental and sustainability efforts. How does your background inform the podcast?
Diane: In my career with the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, I saw firsthand, the problem of “waste” (i.e., trash) from a societal and environmental standpoint and I was able to influence how local governments, businesses and individual citizens viewed and managed the waste they produced. I helped them understand that waste is costly for their pockets and the planet and that we should mimic nature’s waste-free systems by taking action to reduce, reuse recycle and compost. Some of our episodes will focus on these topics but we will also cover other “green” topics like solar, transportation, local food, climate resilience, green space and introduce people I have met over the years that are working on behalf of our community and our environment. Our podcast is for anyone who wants to become a part of this community and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Greg: We have such a wealth of amazing environmental and sustainability success stories right here in our own backyard. My background in media and communications allowed us to create another platform for these stories to be shared throughout the community.
So far, you have welcomed an interesting range of guests on ECO SPEAKS CLE, from brewers to composters. Given how environmental and climate issues now effect every walk of life, what do you have planned as the podcast evolves?
Diane: We have a long list of people, organizations and topics we want to interview for our podcast. There is a lot of depth in our sustainability community and we believe there will be something for everyone. Some listeners may be “eco-curious” and hearing about some of these things for the first time, while some of our listeners may be “eco-confident” and familiar with some of things we cover. Regardless, we think that having a wide range of guests and topics, combined with our own style and approach and will be interesting for all our listeners.
Greg: Eventually, I would love to form some sort of organization to bring our guests and listeners together to amplify the conversation, and try to remove any barriers to getting involved in a greater sustainability effort. Continuing to tell the unique and unexpected stories and keep people engaged is what will really help us grow to this point, I think.
In your first episode, you both talked a bit about what inspired you to create this podcast. Why do environmental issues mean so much to you?
Diane: My passion stems from my childhood experiences outdoors. I had the privilege of spending my summers in the woods at Red Raider Day Camp and then enjoying many backpacking and wilderness trips through high school, college and my 20’s. My appreciation and love of the outdoors and wild places gave me a desire to protect what I loved so much. My environmental studies in college and my later work with various environmental organizations taught me about all that threatens our planet and the environment we leave for future generations. The responsibility to protect our environment is on each of us.
Greg: As I continued to learn about all the abhorrent actions of corporations and governments that continue to have a measurable catastrophic impact on humankind, the planet, our food systems, and our communities, I felt compelled to try to counteract this in whatever meaningful way I could, however small.
It’s inspiring to witness a response to the climate crisis that transcends industry, generation, or experience.
In the bigger picture of the climate crisis, there are some encouraging pockets of real environmental progress in places like Cleveland and Cincinnati, while many other communities are getting serious about solar, climate action plans, and other initiatives. But Ohio as a whole, has gone backward politically in that regard. What positive signs have you seen that gives you hope for Ohio’s environmental future?
Diane: Yes, from a legislative, political and policy perspective, Ohio has gone backwards. What gives me hope is knowing that there is a groundswell of people working to improve things here and while it may not be coming from our Statehouse, there are very smart people actively working at the local level, in city and county governments that are in a position to change things and are making real progress to reduce emissions, sequester carbon and implement climate action plans. What will help drive more change in Ohio will be the realization that the biggest cost, both economically and environmentally, is to not do anything.
Greg: Just in the short time that we’ve been at it, I have been introduced to numerous organizations and people that have dedicated their lives to helping combat these issues. It’s inspiring to witness a response to the climate crisis that transcends industry, generation, or experience. Sustainability really is for everyone, and my hope is that we can help spread that message with our podcast.
What do you see as Ohio’s biggest environmental challenge right now?
Greg: Governments are supposed to operate as an extension of the people, not the other way around. I think the only way to truly flip this script is to educate people far and wide about the stark reality of our dire climate situation. Right now, issues are minimized to fit on a bumper sticker, and flat-out lies run rampant in politics. If people really take the time to learn the truth about these issues, then, hopefully in time, the politics will follow.
Diane: I think it has to be reducing the control and the influence of the oil and gas industry over our elected officials as evidenced by H.B 6. Ohio is the third highest greenhouse gas emitter in the United States. Our energy policy needs a major overhaul as if survival mattered.
At Go Green Go, our primary goal is to get people off the sidelines and engaged in climate solutions, while helping these important organizations get found. How can concerned individuals make the most positive impact with regard to the environment?
Diane: Vote, donate and get involved with organizations that are working on issues you care about, then see what changes you can make in your personal life that can reduce your impact on the planet. Our podcast will offer many tips to help along the way. Small changes can add up. Finally, learn and share.
Greg: Acknowledging issues is a great first step, but taking those next steps are really important. We didn’t start our podcast to feel good about ourselves, we started it to learn real tips, apply them in our lives, and to share them others. Just imagine how much of a difference you could make if you had a friend who was constantly reaching out with new tips to make your daily life more sustainable. Through Eco Speaks CLE, we hope to be that friend to anybody out there who might be looking for one.