Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interview with Kim Kennedy White, Editor of America Goes Green

What prompted you to write America Goes Green?  What "message" do you want to communicate?

I’ve been interested in environmental issues for years and was heavily influenced by my hometown and my family. I’m from Boulder, Colorado, where opportunities for green living are easily accessible (unlike some other parts of the country).  My grandparents lived through the Great Depression and were frugal, leaving very little to waste.  And like many of my ancestors, we typically use and reuse items to death before buying new or gently used things.  I’m also inspired by my husband, who has an incredible eye for seeing the possibilities in seemingly useless items.

Another major influence was the time I spent living in Eugene, Oregon during graduate school. In volunteering at a local community center, I came to know so many amazing people who lived “off the grid,” dumpster-dived for usable materials, survived on the streets, and spent their lives treading lightly on the earth that went beyond recycling – from clothes, food, and various earth-loving spiritual traditions, to the companies they support (or don’t support).  It opened my eyes to different ways of thinking and living that minimizes our negative impact on the environment.

The overall message of America Goes Green is that environmental concerns and efforts, no matter how big or small, are critical to our survival and are underway across the country.  This work provides detailed information and resources on all things “green,” and will hopefully inspire readers.  Every American can do simple things that improve their personal life, their community, and our country, and that serve as a model for the international community.  Small changes make a difference.

What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

In my initial research for the project, I was surprised by just how pervasive eco-conscious activity is throughout American culture that goes well beyond recycling. Green concerns and eco-friendly efforts have impacted nearly every industry in some way.  The incredible wealth of knowledge and commitment demonstrated by the 150+ contributors who participated in this project attests to the tremendous impact of green culture in the United States, particularly over the past 40+ years.

How did your research change your outlook on eco-friendly culture?

We’ve become an even greener family, and I realize that eco-friendly living is really a way of thinking.  It’s a mindset about your lifestyle and your choices in addition to your actions.  We’re not perfect, and we can always continue to make green improvements. Americans, compared with the rest of the world, still bear a heavy carbon footprint.

How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

People have been very supportive and believe that it’s important and timely information that needs to get out there to readers.  Lots of books are available on a wide range of environmental topics, but this one comes from a cultural point of view.  Our culture is constantly shifting, and “green” and “eco-friendly” concepts are now part of our language.

What's next for you?

I’m not sure what my next project will be yet.  I’m particularly interested in the environmental issues that impact those already struggling with poverty and other hardships, especially native peoples in the United States.

Kim Kennedy White, PhD, is an acquisitions editor for ABC-CLIO's The American Mosaic database and coeditor of ABC-CLIO's Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art

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