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Archive for Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fourth annual Breaking the Silence conference held in Kansas City to raise environmental literacy

March 13, 2011

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From supporting local businesses to cleaning up the Kansas River, an environmental sustainability conference in Kansas City, Kan., featured the voices of Lawrence residents.

This weekend, downtown Kansas City, Kan., was host to the fourth annual Breaking the Silence conference, an event intended to raise environmental literacy.

Kicking off Saturday’s conference was the Lawrence Give Back program, which encourages residents to shop locally by using a card that gives a percentage of proceeds to nonprofit organizations and lets customers earn points toward discounts at participating merchants.

Sara Wolfe, with the Lawrence Give Back program, said the card helps build customer loyalty and allows customers to feel good when making purchases.

It’s a concept conference founder Richard Mabion called genius and one he would like to incorporate into KCK’s downtown.

Laura Calwell, river keeper of the Kansas River, talked about the need to educate people about water quality. Calwell said she was concerned about the number of places along the Kaw where raw sewage is dumped into the river during times when wastewater treatment plants overflow.

Calwell and others talked about ways to test water to make sure they are safe to fish and getting that information to fishermen.

Simran Sethi, an environmental journalist who teaches at Kansas University, also talked about the importance of clean water, air and soil.

On Saturday, Sethi focused on the need for environmental justice. Despite the decades that have passed since the country first recognized that toxic industries and materials were more likely to be located in low-income communities of color, the pattern continues, she said.

Environmental issues should be important to everyone, she said.

“The environment doesn’t belong to Prius-driving, latte-drinking liberals only,” Sethi said. “We all need clean water, we all need clean soil so we have healthy food and we all need clean air.”

In ending her speech, Sethi gave advice on how to live more sustainably. Take shorter showers, walk instead of drive, figure out where the clothes that you wear come from and invest in cleaner and greener energy, she said.

“We can’t save the planet in 10 easy steps. This is messy. This is hard work,” Sethi said. “Everything that you do matters and everything that you do will help.”

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