Panel is critical of South Shore’s environmental smarts |

Panel is critical of South Shore’s environmental smarts

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Lake Tahoe is internationally recognized for its unique alpine environment.

But how well do the region’s people take care of that remarkable environment?

Eh, they could do better, according to a panel of speakers convened by the Sierra Green Building Association on Wednesday night at Lake Community College.

“It would take a very broad and liberal definition of ‘green’ to call the South Shore green,” said panelist Steve Yonker, a representative of the South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.

The definition of sustainability is vague and most people don’t understand who or what is being sustained when the word is used, Yonker said. He said defining what is being talked about when the terms “green” or “sustainable” are used is a critical part of getting people to become more environmentally friendly.

One of the major issues South Lake Tahoe faces is various groups furthering their own agendas under the guise of environmentally friendliness, said panelist Nikki Florio, a consultant with Big George Green Consulting.

“The problem we have in South Lake Tahoe is we have a lot of greenwashing going on,” Florio said.

But grassroots level activities have shown promise, Florio said.

“The local community keeps pressing forward and doing what they think is right and that’s what counts,” Florio said.

Activities like South Tahoe Refuse Company’s blue bag recycling program and recent conservation measures at Embassy Suites Hotel Lake Tahoe Resort should be lauded, but the South Shore is still not where it should be as far as green measures go, said panelist Tom Wendell, a commissioner on the City’s Sustainability Commission.

The uniqueness of the local environment means residents should be held to a higher standard, Wendell said.

“We are way behind the curve,” Wendell said.

About 50 people attended Wednesday’s panel, many of whom are tied to groups or businesses in the sustainability field.

It was likely that the panelists were preaching to the choir on Wednesday night, Yonker said.

Although the contractor said he felt the community was on the right track, he also said he hoped the talk about environmental friendliness wasn’t just another ill-conceived trend, using building trends that went in and out of style during the gas rationing of the 1970’s as examples.

“Is this going to be another fad because of the energy crisis? I don’t know,” Yonker said.

One man in the audience said it was critical to give people financial incentives to be more environmentally friendly, while Rod Walton, the coordinator for the South Lake Tahoe Green Party Club, said taking greater measures to improve Lake Tahoe’s environment may require a change in leadership.

The terms of Mayor Kathay Lovell, Councilman Jerry Birdwell and Councilman Bill Crawford are each up in Nov. 2010 and Walton said the environmental community needs to start cultivating candidates for those seats now if they want to see greater measures to improve the South Shore environment.

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