People Making a Difference: Bob Hetherington of Earthtoys.com

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Today I’m very pleased to present an interview with the founder of Earthtoys.com, Bob Hetherington.

Earthtoys.com is a website devoted to the alternative energy industry. It features an e-magazine and web library, and also includes a news service updated hourly and an events calendar.

Bob founded the website in 2002. Since that time, it has served as a very popular resource for all those interested in alternative energy technologies. They have over 60,000 visits each month.

Bob says about the website,

“We provide an open and unbiased platform where new ideas, systems and solutions can be expressed, shared and cataloged for use by our readers.”

Enjoy the interview and make sure to visit Earthtoys.com! Thanks again to Bob Hetherington for taking the time out of his busy week to do this interview.

Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in the world of alternative energy.

I’m a mechanical engineer by profession and was in university in the early 70’s when the first gas crisis hit hard. Our faculty entered the Urban Car Competition at that time and we built the winning entry (beating out the likes of MIT and the US Army). It was a LNG (liquid natural gas) powered small sedan with many innovative features that made it not only energy efficient but safer, not polluting and very economical to operate.

I guess that’s when I got interested in alternative energy and I went on to do other projects at school such as studying the feasibility of using a flywheel to store energy in a car etc.

Unfortunately, I got busy paying mortgages and having kids after that. Reality sets in and some of our dreams must be delayed for a while. Unfortunately the alternative energy industry seemed to go into limbo too. The world went from economical small cars and practical living spaces to Hummers, SUV’s and monster homes while politicians and professors kept talking about how nice it would be to save energy and stop polluting the environment.

Too much talk and posturing … no practical products built and marketed.

How was the idea for the EarthToys website born?

An Interview with Tabitha Tucker and Shirlee Bucknall of Earthy Family

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Today our series about “People Making a Difference” continues with Shirlee Bucknall and her daughter Tabitha Tucker, two of the founders of Earthy Family. Earthy Family is a website with articles and information for families who want to raise their children in a more environmentally friendly manner. The website is based out of Victoria, BC, Canada.

Their mission statement says,

Earthy Family is a family owned and operated business dedicated to fostering family wellness and natural interactions within our physical, social, emotional and spiritual environments. We want to expand the frontiers of the parenting community and enhance meaningful relationships within families, communities and the world.

While environmental awareness is a core part of their philosophy, Earthy Family is now working to increase consciousness of world cultures. Their world travels section is very popular with visitors.

I myself found their website after my wife and I had our son a couple years ago. I was looking for information on using cloth diapers, and found that the website had tons of great information to make informed decisions as parents.

I also noticed they were looking for writers for a new series of family oriented world culture ebooks, and so my wife and I contributed an ebook about Mexico to their site. My wife is from Mexico City and I have spent over 3 years living and working in different parts of Mexico.

Thanks again to Shirlee and Tabitha for taking the time out to do this great interview!

If you’d like to submit an article about natural parenting or an ebook about your favorite country, you can contact Earthy Family here.

You mention on the website that Earthy Family is a project started by families who wanted to create a resource for other families interested in living more harmoniously with the Earth. Can you tell us a little about how the project came to be and who was involved in the beginning?

An interview with Ron Mader of Planeta.com

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Photo courtesy of Planeta.com’s Flickr collection

Today we are featuring an interview with professional journalist and activist Ron Mader.

Mr. Mader is a journalist, photographer and founder of the award-winning website Planeta.com, which for over thirteen years has served to explore ecotourism and sustainable tourism around the world.

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Based in Oaxaca, Mexico, Ron organizes grassroots tourism fairs and co-founded a local rugby club. Ron received his Masters Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas in 1990 and his Bachelors Degree from Indiana University. His work has garnered numerous awards and Ron is profiled in the book American Environmental Leaders (Abc-Clio, 2000).

This interview is part of a new feature on the Practical Environmentalist called “People Making a Difference.” If you know of someone working in the environmental community who would like to share their story, please leave a comment!

Now to the interview….

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in sustainable tourism.

Let’s see. I’m a US expat who lives in Mexico. I conduct workshops and give presentations in Latin America, the United States and Australia.

Some background. In the late 1980s I embarked on a radical change — exploring and explaining Latin America to a Gringo audience. Something was pulling me South, so I decided to pursue my interest in Latin America at the Institute of Latin American Studies in Austin, Texas.

The focus of my studies was the then new buzzword ‘ecotourism.’ This was a great window into the culture of a region that otherwise does not receive much coverage in U.S. media.

Austin was a great place to study and later on I developed a long-standing friendship with Bill Christensen who developed the Greenbuilder website.

I have written for numerous publications, including Transition Abroad and have written nature guidebooks to Mexico and Honduras.

What was your role during the International Year of Ecotourism?

A Profile of “Green” Architect Ed Mazria

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We’re starting a new series of posts here at the Practical Environmentalist about people in our local and global communities that are doing their part to help the environment. If you’d like to recommend someone who’s making a difference, please leave a comment!

Our first profile is of “Green” Architect Ed Mazria. Mr. Mazria was recently featured in an interview by the Weekly Alibi, a free weekly publication distributed throughout central New Mexico.

Here is some information about Mr. Mazria’s work and some excerpts from the interview.

Ed Mazria is an architect based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is also the founder of a green architecture project called “Architecture 2030.” Architecture 2030 is a nonprofit organization and their goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are related to building design. Their website states the motivations for their work:

“Unknowingly, the architecture and building community is responsible for almost half of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions annually. Globally the percentage is even greater.”

Mazria says that this is due to many buildings’ gas-fired furnaces and hot water heaters (about 10 to 12 percent of the total carbon emissions), lights, heating, air conditioning, computers, copy machines, etc.

So, how does Architecture 2030 propose to deal with this issue? Mazria and other architects have created the 2030 Challenge. And how does the challenge work?

Participants in the challenge are then expected to further reduce the emissions of the buildings they design and construct by 10 percent every five years so that by 2030, all buildings designed, redesigned or built in that year by participating members will be completely free of carbon emissions.

….their plan is to make buildings increasingly more efficient, thereby reducing demand. At the same time, they plan to encourage the creation of more alternative (meaning carbon-free) energy sources like wind and solar.

And the response has been pretty amazing, according to Mazria. Organizations that have accepted the Challenge include: The American Institute of Architects; the American Association of Heating, Cooling and Refrigeration Engineers; the United States Green Building Council; and the United States Conference of Mayors.

According to Mazria, the only major players missing from the sector are home builders’ associations and building trades unions, but Mazria believes they’ll be along.

Want to learn more about the 2030 Challenge? You can check out their website here. You can also read the complete interview with Ed Mazria here. (Assuming that the Alibi.com doesn’t drop the interview from their website!)