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Eco-friendly Judith: You can become a green game changer

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Greenrock president Judith Landsberg calls herself an enthusiastic trier of green technology, even if it doesn’t always go so well in its infancy.

Her electric pedal bike is her pride and joy, but the light-emitting diodes her family once installed in the den didn’t actually produce enough light to read by, and the solar-powered shower produced cold water on a grey day. Such is the life of an environmental activist discovering by trial and error what works and what doesn’t.

Dr Landsberg joined environmental charity Greenrock, about three-and-a-half years ago. In her first role she advised schools and businesses on how to become more environmentally friendly; she took over as president of the organisation last autumn.

“This is what I do as a career now,” she said. “I am very lucky because my husband is very supportive that this is my passion. I am a physicist originally. I have a PhD in nuclear physics. It is not directly applicable here, but the science of it is useful. Whenever Greenrock has questions about energy or gets involved in energy discussions with Belco, I am involved.”

Early on in her career she worked with a “small” particle accelerator think of something about the size of the Par-la-Ville Road building that’s home to

The Royal Gazette. She used the equipment to research whether aluminium was involved in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

“Nuclear physics is really good at detecting individual particles,” she said. “I never found any evidence that aluminium was involved.”

Later, she joined the business world in New York City. She found problem-solving fun, but was hampered by a distinct lack of interest in whether a business made more money or not.

“Which is why I keep gravitating back towards things that are more oriented towards people,” she said. “My husband is Bermudian, David Cash. He runs one of the insurance companies. We married in New York and then moved down here. I didn’t want to go back into business. I taught physics and math for several years.”

Dr Landsberg then decided she wanted to try something different and found that her variety of experiences suited Greenrock very well. Environmental issues had always been something she was passionate about. Her father was an environmental scientist.

“I grew up in a house that was very aware of environmental issues,” she said. “He was in forestry and plant physiology in Australia, which is where I mostly grew up. I wanted to get more involved in environmental issues. I approached Greenrock and said I wanted to offer my services. I wanted to see what I could do.”

Since joining Greenrock she has found working in an organisation staffed by volunteers to be challenging, because most people involved also have a day job, but also rewarding because most people only get involved if they are very committed.

“I have tried to work more on our strategic planning,” she said. “I have tightened relationships with other environmental charities. I have established the Greenrock Education Council. That is something we have been talking about for a long time. My goal is to look at what is needed in the community and also look at fundraising, in particular. Donors are asking for measurable results. With my background that is something we are focusing on. If we say we are changing the mindset, what does that mean? We are looking at questions like ‘how do you measure changing the mindset?’ and ‘how can we demonstrate to supporters, that we are making a difference?’”

She said over the last seven years, Greenrock’s mission has evolved from raising awareness of environmental issues to working to change people’s behaviour.

“We want people to look at how they take the environment into account when they make decisions,” she said. “These can be decisions about anything from how you get to work, to what you eat for breakfast. It is about how you behave. The thing I truly understand about environmental behaviour is that it has got to be doable. People have to want to do it.

“I live on top of a big hill. I know that if I am coming to a meeting in town, I don’t want to show up all sweaty, and a hard cycle up hill on the way home will put me off. That is why I have an electric pedal bike. I love cycling around town on my electric bicycle. I walk as much as possible.”

She said often people don’t do things in an environmentally friendly way, not because they don’t believe in doing so, but because they believe it would be too difficult to do so.

“We have to find ways to make it easy and fun and celebrate successes,” she said. “We want people to understand that every individual can make a difference. This is not something like eating your vegetables. It is not necessarily something hard or unpleasant, it is about taking charge of your life, your decisions and your planet. It is doable. It can make you more powerful. All of our projects and programmes are really a way of empowering people.”

Greenrock has several programmes, projects and special events coming up. On March 31 at 8.30pm the organisation will celebrate Earth Hour, an event where over a billion people around the world turn their lights off for an hour. They have also partnered with the Bermuda National Trust to organise a video competition for young people to share their ideas about improving the environment. They will also soon be launching an award scheme to recognise eco-friendly businesses.

Dr Landsberg said with the current economy, environmental issues are often overlooked or reduced to the bottom of the priority pile.

“In a survey in 2010, 86 percent of Bermudians thought that man had a contribution to climate change,” she said. “So people are aware of it. The challenge that we have is that people say ‘let’s solve these other problems such as community violence and poverty and we will deal with the environment when we have extra money and time’. Really, the challenge for Greenrock is saying that they are not separate.

“Our biggest challenge is showing that the environment is not a “nice to have” and it is not something outside that you deal with when you have time. It is important to your pocketbook. It is important to your self-esteem. It is important to your children. If we pay attention to it today, it will have an impact tomorrow and an impact in ten years, and 50 years.”

Useful website: www.greenrock.org.

President of Greenrock Dr Judith Landsberg on her electric pedal bike.

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Published March 06, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 06, 2012 at 8:11 am)

Eco-friendly Judith: You can become a green game changer

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