Do you remember when “green” was just a color? I don’t.
I was born in 1983, a decade after fuel prices spiked to shocking levels—so I’ve been told by people much older than I—jump starting the environmental movement. Though prices fell, and America got comfy again with cheap energy, the eco-friendly fire had started to spread.
In this post-oil embargo age, I grew up proudly as part of what I call generation green. Ever since I can remember, “green” lived in my environmental vernacular right along with the mantras “save the rainforest,” “no CFCs,” and “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
Yes, the green generation learned and lived environmental responsibility in every part of life.
Science classes taught biology, chemistry and environmental studies. And every year, I joined students across the country as environmental soldiers on Earth Day, picking up trash in nearby parks, creating recycling plans for their homes and schools, and planting trees.
Even popular media got on board. Anyone else remember Captain Planet? He was the cartoon environmental superhero who that told kids “the power is yours,” to save the world from pollution and environmental waste. And who in my generation could forget the heart wrenching “Oil Episode” of Saved by the Bell where Zack Morris and crew weighed the importance of money with the lives and heath of animals when oil was discovered under the Bayside High football field. (Read a recap here, but all you really need to know is that a good lesson was learned by all).
I find it very fulfilling in my adulthood to witness ever-increasing attention to all things green (who would have ever thought Al Gore would become an Oscar winner and Nobel Peace Prize recipient?).
Watching big strides taking place right here in our industry has been even more exciting. Glass companies come up with greener products and greener manufacturing processes every year. And as a result, our buildings are becoming more efficient.
There’s still a lot of work to be done—buildings still use up about 1/3 of the nation’s energy and 2/3 of the nation’s electricity—but, we’re getting there.
I can’t wait to see what changes will happen when the next generation—perhaps generation extreme-green?—comes of age.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Do you remember when “green” was just a color? I don’t.
I went down to the National Mall yesterday to check out the Solar Decathlon that runs until the end of the week. It was only about eight blocks from my apartment, but I decided to take the Hummer. Lucky for me, I found a parking spot after only an hour of circling the monuments.
The first thing that struck me upon entering the festival was the lack of bell-bottomed, flower-haired, patchouli-soaked hippies. Now I just felt silly, having dressed that morning to fit in with such a crowd. As it turns out, the so-called “green movement” is catching on; there were more people at that festival yesterday than voted in the last presidential election.*
There may or may not have been more people here than voted in the previous presidential election.
I met up with James Bogdan, manager of green building initiatives for PPG. Like an episode of “Reading Rainbow,” he let me tag along while touring a couple houses and chatting with the people who built them. The experience blew my mind. I learned so much, and James’ enthusiasm was contagious.
As excited as I normally am about glass, I was jumping up for joy when I saw some of this energy efficient stuff. You know how in spring or fall you can put your hand against your window to see how cold it is to decide whether to bring that extra sweater? Well, with this glass, that doesn’t work! It was hot yesterday--witness my sunburn-- but when I put my hand on that glass it was cool as a cucumber, even with direct sunlight pouring in. This is great news for those of us who live like vampires in summer to save on cooling costs. And yes, it’s great for the environment, too.
While these solar houses were impressive, I asked James how I was supposed to get anything out of this since I don’t see myself attaching solar panels to my basement apartment any time soon. He said it was all about efficiency and conservation: “the least expensive energy is the energy that’s not used.” He recommended I start small, with those energy-efficient light bulbs that everyone’s heard of. I actually am ahead of the game on that one, out of pure laziness. Do you know, if you screw one of those things in today, you won’t be changing it for at least five years? To those of us that change light bulbs with a two-and-a-half-legged stool propped up by phone books, this could literally be a life-saver.
The afternoon sparked an initiative for change inside me. My first step of turning that new, energy-efficient leaf was to abandon my Hummer, which I think may have been towed anyway. Instead, I stole a bike and peddled home. Though saving the environment is an uphill battle, much like my bike ride home, I’m confident that the American public will soon come to grips with the changes that they individually have to make to stop killing our planet. And if you don’t make those changes? Well, you might just die trying to change a light bulb. That’s something to think about.
*This is probably not accurate.
Monday, October 8, 2007
I took the 7 a.m. flight out of Milan this morning and was dozing uncomfortably in my cramped seat. As the attendant’s slightly annoying voice on the PA system woke me up, I looked outside the window and saw the Eiffel Tower standing proud, bathed in the morning light. Beautiful Paris.
I haven’t traveled much in Europe, but from my limited experience, seems like some of the big cities in France and Italy have similar characteristics: the past and the present make up the rich fabric of their being.
I got a chance to go to the Milan city center on the last day of the Vitrum show. Our booth hostess had brought me a copy of the “underground network and urban railway system,” or the subway, and Denise, my colleague, and I decided to take the subway in. Manuela, our hostess and a sweetheart, offered to come along to make sure we got off at the right station.
We caught the red line at Rho Pero and got off at Lima. The street we surfaced on, Corso Buenos Aires, was lined with stores of every possible kind of merchandize under the sun: clothes, shoes, jewelry, household items, you name it, along with charming little cafes with outside seating. The little umbrellas, the cane chairs and the people sitting and drinking wine reminded me of Champs Elysees, Paris. It was a little overcast all day, and as we started walking, a cool wind began to blow.
The street was teeming with people: beautiful women with long flowing dark hair, brief skirts and colorful scarves; men in jeans or suits and slicked back hair. Ever so cosmopolitan.
As I happened to look to the side, I saw a quiet street right off of the main drag of Buenos Aires, lined with old style architectural buildings, huge ornate doors, looming up against the rain-filled clouds. What a contradiction. Two worlds of historic old Italy and the urban fashion capital of the world residing in harmony next to each other. What could be more beautiful?
If I had time I’d keep walking on Buenos Aires to the Duomo di Milano, sit there and watch people walk by. But the rain started pattering down and we had to hail a cab to go back to the hotel.
Now, as I sit in the plane and the flight attendant announces touchdown in 30 minutes, I feel a different kind of beauty rise inside of me: I can’t wait to get home to hold my son and smell his sweet head.
Friday, October 5, 2007
- The city was inhabited by Celtic groups as early as 400 B.C. until the Romans took over in 222 B.C.
- Mozart composed three operas in Milan.
- In 1922, Mussolini started his March on Rome from Milan.
- The Duomo is the second largest church in Italy and the third largest church in the world.
- The Italian stock exchange is based in Milan.
- Fiera Milano, where Vitrum is taking place, is the largest exhibition complex in the world.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Is Vitrum more international than Italian? Really depends on who you ask.
On the second day of the show, people from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Turkey, Lithuania and from different European countries walked the floor and shopped for machines. Communication consisted of broken English, elaborate hand gestures and vigorous nodding.
I happened to man our NGA booth for a bit while our pretty Italian hostess, Manuela, went to eat lunch. At least three people came by in a span of 15 minutes and asked me questions in Italian. My request for English was reciprocated by apologetic nods and amused looks. I speak four languages; only if Italian was one of those four, I fretted.
A few more instances when I regretted not speaking Italian: every time when asking for directions inside the humongous Fiera Milano; when trying to explain my suddenly dead Internet connection at the hotel; and even worse, when trying to book a ticket for the “Last Supper.”
The worst moment of my vernacular vulnerability was this afternoon at the Vacuum Tech & Coating Conference. Mariano Anderle, scientific director, International Union of Vacuum Societies based in the United Kingdom, and president of Italian Science and Technology Association, chose to give his presentation in Italian. His PowerPoint presentation was in English but he decided Italian would be the way to go. Can’t fathom his decision given that he’s a part of an international association and was speaking at an international show, but it sure made me stop and think.
How do you define “international”?
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Milano, the fashion capital of the world; home of the "Last Supper" and beautiful people who don’t speak much English; a city of charming old buildings and cobble-stone roads; and a metropolis with few taxis.
What’s with the cabs in Milan?
I had to wait about 20 minutes to find a cabbie at the airport; my colleague, Denise Sheehan, reported that she had to wait for two hours yesterday in front of Fiera Milano to find a taxi, and finally shared one with two perfect strangers. This afternoon, Denise and I had to fight off someone who was trying to steal our cab without standing in the line!
Rho Pero, the site of the new Fiera Milano pictured to the right, is outside of the city and some say that’s why the dearth of cabs there. The driver of our taxi, however, had a different story to tell. Apparently, the government of Milan doesn’t allow the cabbies to work for more than 10 hours a day, except for a few special days. Those special days come without any apparent rhyme or reason, and cabbies are permitted to work more to make a few extra euros, but only between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. “There is a demand, there are customers waiting at street corners, and not just between 5 and 8, but … ” With Vitrum opening today, the cabbies will be allowed to work more than 10 hours until the end of the show.
I’m hoping to find a ride tomorrow without scrapping with anyone.