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Earth’s 911: Hotline will include Tahoe environment

Patrick McCartney

Residents who want to pitch in to preserve Lake Tahoe’s environment can now learn how to help with a simple phone call.

The brainstorm of a group that preaches the value of high-tech information resources, the Tahoe Environmental Hotline makes environmental information available through the low-tech telephone.

“You don’t have to be high-tech; you don’t need to have a computer,” says Scott Ross, executive director of the Tahoe Center for a Sustainable Future.

The national hotline – 1-800-CLEANUP – can provide residents of any area in the country with information on recycling and other topics. Callers enter an area’s zip code to obtain local information.

Ross, who founded the nonprofit center in 1992, said the national hotline simplifies the search for information.

“Instead of going into your phone book to figure out how to recycle pine needles, whether you need to call the city, county or state, you dial one number, follow the touch-tone menu, and it will tell you what you need,” Ross said. “Instead of having 50,000 environmental hotline numbers, you have one.”

With private and public sponsors, the national hotline provides Lake Tahoe and other areas more services and visibility than other information services, Ross added. With information supplied by local nonprofit groups, the national service provides the phone network, technical support, scripts and a narrator.

Attracting the interest of Hollywood entertainers, the national hotline has featured celebrity voices pitching local environmental services.

The national program also has the resources to promote the hotline in various media. Deals are being considered to “place” the hotline number in the movies of interested filmmakers, much as soft drinks and cigarettes are already peddled.

While most information in the short run will put Tahoe residents in touch with recycling resources, Ross said the Tahoe Center for a Sustainable Future intends to keep the public informed about the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum. In the wake of last summer’s environmental summit, the federal and local governments have launched a coordinated program to restore Lake Tahoe’s damaged environment.

A spin-off of the Tahoe-Truckee Regional Economic Coalition, the center mostly works behind the scenes to make environmental information available to the public. The group has trained 400 basin residents in the use of computers to access information, and has created 20 websites for agencies and other nonprofit groups.

During the presidential forum, the center created a website (http://ceres.ca.gov/tcsf/PresidentialEvent/) that chronicled the announcements and press coverage.

Ross believes modern information technology can help individuals learn how they can make a difference.

“We want to create the capacity for people to help create a sustainable future,” Ross said.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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