Enviro Bro takes to the radio to push green agenda
Leonard Robinson has an alter ego.
“During the day, I’m a mild-mannered bureaucrat,” Robinson said. “Then when there’s an environmental crisis, I go into a phone booth and come out as Enviro Bro.”
From 9 to 5, this witty, boisterous man works for the state of California, specifically as chief deputy director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Once a week, though, he does something slightly outside the ordinary and gabs all about environmental issues on the radio.
Robinson hosts a weekly one-hour radio program called Going Green With Leonard Robinson, which airs on KDEE 97.7 FM, a volunteer-powered, listener-supported station owned and operated by the California Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The goal of the program is to educate, inform and entertain the community.
He discusses hot-button topics, such as green-collar jobs, pollution prevention, greening businesses, environmental justice, green chemistry and electronic recycling. Although based in Sacramento, the show takes a state-focused approach.
“What California does, the rest of the world wants to pick up,” Robinson explained.
He infuses his show with humor and lightheartedness; after all, the program functions not only to supply facts and information, but to do so in a way that resonates. The environmental state of the world may be dire, but Robinson thinks there’s already too much depressing news on television and the radio. He’d rather give people hope. So he tells jokes and laughs and offers listeners a pleasant experience.
“I take issues and life serious, but I don’t take myself very serious,” he said.
A while back, Robinson suggested the California Black Chamber of Commerce put environmental issues on its agenda. Eventually, the group agreed, and the first show aired in January.
“From my point of view, the show’s been really good,” he said. “I got nervous [at first], but then my green mojo kicked in and took off from there.”
This isn’t his first time on the radio, though. Before he began his state service, he ran a program named The Leonard Robinson Show.
“I called it that so I wouldn’t forget the name,” he said, from his office in Cypress, Calif., located in Orange County.
He travels often for his job. In fact, his day job comes in handy for securing guests for the radio show. Upcoming guests include Linda Adams, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, and a venture capitalist who’ll speak about environmental entrepreneurship. He wants to get Mayor Kevin Johnson, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and, ultimately, President Barack Obama onboard.
Robinson has worked in the environmental field for 35 years, starting out as an environmental safety manager for a steel mill in Southern California. Much later, when Schwarzenegger became governor, Robinson saw an administration that wanted to do things differently and decided he wanted to be part of that change. He experienced some culture shock after moving to Sacramento, but he loves living a walkable one block from his downtown office.
“It’s added years to my life not having to drive in Southern California,” he quipped.
The Going Green radio program is more than a hobby for Enviro Bro. It’s the culmination of a life’s passion and work. Robinson wants to give people the tools for making more eco-friendly decisions, like paying bills online or taking canvas bags to the grocery store—little tipping points that add up to a big difference.
On air, he promotes green programs, such as the Take-It-Back Partnership that offers free, local ways for Californians to recycle end-of-life products, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, electronic waste and batteries. Anyone, he said, should feel free to call in with questions. For instance, a nail-shop owner recently called in seeking advice about greener alternatives to the toxic chemicals used in her salon.
“It’s not just for the business community,” Robinson said. “There’s all this stuff California residents can do to help us protect the environment, and all we have to do is get the information out.”