Web site provides a home for locals in the environmental movement
Nani Teves always knew there were other like-minded people in the Chico community—folks who were doing their best to help change the course of the world for the better but could still use a helping hand.
She also knew it would be a challenge bringing them together, but she didn’t let that stop her.
“At some point, you just have to dive in,” she said.
For Teves, the jumping off point meant walking through the doors of the Butte Environmental Council’s office with an idea for a Web site that would help place a spotlight on local environmental happenings, and movers and shakers, by putting them in one place—sort of an eco-information center.
Without a lot of Web savvy, she thought partnering with the region’s leading environmental organization would make the difficult task doable.
Her visit paid off.
Barbara Vlamis, BEC’s director, had met Teves only once before hearing about the concept, but was thrilled by it and agreed to collaborate on the project.
“Sometimes the best people walk in out of the blue,” Vlamis said.
With the help of BEC webmaster Chuck Lundgren, a volunteer who agreed to design the Web site, ChicoEco.org has been up and running for several months, slowly gaining content generated by Teves. The site is free to access and includes many features, including a calendar of events.
Last month, one of the events listed was a workshop on a water-conservation device known as a rainwater catchment. The event took place at Teves’ home, which recently had been fitted with gutters. With the help of a handful of folks who participated, she successfully installed what turned out to be a simple system that carries rainwater from the roof of the house to a large plastic barrel (once used to store olives).
The drum filled quickly during recent rains, so Teves is looking to expand the scope of the project by connecting additional barrels. She’s planning to use the water to irrigate her fruit trees during the summer, when the region’s water sources are most depleted.
Teves said the project was easier to complete than she had anticipated, but the bigger success was sharing it with others. One of her main goals has been making the Web site usable to everyday community members interested in taking action to help the Earth.
“Enough of the talk,” she said. “If we’re going to talk about capturing water, let’s do it and talk about it.”
With one look at her cute home in the Avenues, it’s easy to see Teves is doing a lot more than chatting about sustainable development and fighting global warming. Her back yard is filled with creative projects in various states of completion, such as a finished alleyway fence constructed from recycled materials, including tractor discs, bed springs and a table top.
She even has built a coop to house the four chickens that supply fresh, organic eggs to her husband and young children (Teves is a vegan).
The efforts may sound easy enough, but not every undertaking has been a do-it-yourself project. Last fall, she and her husband purchased a 3-kilowatt solar array for the home and invited the public to witness its professional installation. The process turned out a lot less daunting than she had expected.
Watching is one thing, but Teves’ goal is to provide a resource that will help people do something. She’s convinced that, for some people, it just takes seeing things happen to fuel change. Anyone can take action and everyone who does is encouraged to share her or his experiences, good or bad, on the Web site.
“You don’t have to be an expert; that’s the point,” she said.
But knowing where to find experts also gives folks a leg up, which is why the Web site includes a directory of local green businesses and services, from alternative energy and clothing to food and transportation.
Scott Wolf, a Chico-based real estate agent specializing in green housing in Butte County, is listed in the directory within the home-and garden category. Wolf’s Web site notes that he’s a certified eco-broker, but he says homebuyers and sellers interested in the green market don’t have a reliable source to locate him or others in the green business world.
“I think it’s important for people to know where to go when they’re looking to go green,” he said. “Without that education or information, where do you start?”
Wolf said he thought the ChicoEco concept was an outstanding idea when he initially heard from Teves nearly a year ago, and he’s pleased to see the site up and running.
Teves works part time as the watershed coordinator for Little Chico Creek and has always considered herself an environmentalist. She received her undergraduate degree from Chico State University in environmental studies before heading to Colorado State University for a master’s in watershed science.
Her biggest push in the environmental realm in recent years came about a year ago in the form of Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, at Chico’s Pageant Theatre. Weighed down by the devastating predictions depicted in the film, Teves cried during the bike ride back to her home. The film, she said, taught her she wasn’t nearly the environmentalist she had thought.
More important, it inspired her to do more.
Visitors to ChicoEco.org won’t find any of the same gloom-and-doom research. Teves doesn’t downplay the serious state of the world’s environmental affairs, and she notes that a huge segment is still in desperate need of education on the subject. She’s just not interested in wading around in those waters. The challenge she’s taken on is to do her best and to help empower others to make a difference, too.
“I think the community, in the end, will be what saves us from global warming,” she said.