Skype Conference with Shari Wilson and Chris Steineger

At 2:30 in Alsdorf (Germany) and 7:30 in Kansas City (USA) 6 students and 2 Americans from Kansas sat in front of their laptops ready to discuss and exchange ideas for sustainable development via skype.Skype_Konferenz

Participating in the Going Green 2014 project and enrolling on Going Green Moodel e-learning platform made this interview possible. Going Green is a unique cooperation of a diverse team of contributors like the U.S. Embassy. To learn more click here. This a bi-national project was introduced to the curriculum of the “Gymnasium in Alsdorf“ (an academic high school) in August.

Shari has been an ecologist and environmental educator for many years. She is founder of Project Central, a consulting firm that works with schools, neighborhood organizations, government agencies, and others on projects related to education, the environment, and healthy communities.

Chris is a lecturer in American Government and Politics and is a former State Senator of Kansas. While serving the 6th Senate District as State Senator in Wyandotte County, Kansas, for 13 years, Chris Steineger pursued a “green” agenda – not an easy feat in a conservative state. Chris’s public policy focuses included early childhood education, health care, sustainable energy resources, and efficient local government. They both live in Kansas City and are involved in local green projects.

The Going Green Team was excited to ask Shari Wilson and Chris Steineger their prepared questions and discuss ideas. The students hoped to profit from their experience and get some helpful advice.

After introducing each other the students learned what both personally do to act sustainable. They moved into a smaller house to save energy and recycle their garbage.

Shari informed the group about her own business, Project Central, to provide services in the education, environment, healthy communities, and arts fields. She manages a lot of projects including the project Green Schools and helps connect people and organizations. The students were most interested in her work with schools and found out that most projects were in America but she also helps students with projects that make a difference from other countries. Students like the ones in Alsdorf. She found it rather hard to pick a favorite school project and presented a few which she really liked. “Working with a middle school to design and build a nature trail, which is used by the school for study and by the community for recreation, was fun”. Other projects like helping schools complete grant requirements for recycling, composting, and other projects underline her commitment to a sustainable development. Finally she told us that she even works with Kansas State Department of Education to write a new high school curriculum focusing on Teaching in STEM Fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

She was really enthusiastic when she heard that we planned to build a water-fountain and immediately offered to establish a contact to people she knows in Berlin (NGOs). She offered assistance with new challenges we will face in the upcoming term.

Chris Steineger gave us some ideas how to raise money for the project by asking water providers to support us, but also talking to the Green Party and also local environmentalist, companies and organization might consider giving money. He liked the idea of the Going Green Team to organize a sponsored run.

Then the students tried to get more advice on how to handle certain situations. They asked questions and stated “We feel sometimes we are not taken serious because we are still so young. Can you think of what we can do as students to have a greater political influence? Did you (Chris Steineger) go into politics because it is hard to achieve something without political power?” Chris Steineger ensured the group that everybody has the opportunity to influence society without having political power. “Don’t underestimate the influence you can have! Build groups and increase your power!”

Then the students wanted to talk about politics and different attitudes towards market regulations in the US and Germany.You claimed in your video for “going green” that the market will regulate itself and that Germans should trust on the free market. But most of us believe that government regulations help to accelerate the process of sustainability. Do you agree?” Now real discussions arouse. “Balance is the keyword – too much regulation isn’t good” claimed Chris Steineger. He mentioned some examples of local companies and projects in neighborhoods or cities that achieved great sustainable improvements in different areas without being politically forced. He trusts in the people and argues that most green projects come from citizens. Furthermore, new regulations are on the way and will have an impact on e.g. companies. It was really interesting listening to a politician explaining us what is happening in the US and comparing it with German political actions.

In the course of the interview it became clear why both support the Going Green project. “They are no preachers” one of the students said later on “they enacted and embody what they say. “Their commitment motivates us and gives us new ideas.”