Human Impacts Institute Community Conversations: On Being Green
In July and August of 2011, the Human Impacts Institute (HII) and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) partnered to facilitate a series of workshops for the Go Green Western Queens! Summer Youth Leadership Program. The program has an emphasis on outreach and community engagement with local environmental issues in the neighborhoods of Woodside, Sunnyside, and Astoria in Queens, NYC.
As the high school-aged participants learned about environmental issues affecting these communities, they also learned how to gauge the communities’ collective awareness and opinions about them. After a presentation exploring the question “what does it mean to go green?”, youth participants brainstormed ideas for interview questions and a survey to poll the neighborhood. The list of questions was finalized at the following workshop session and youth were ready to take action and interview community members! Armed with clipboards and handheld video cameras, the youth split into groups and began collecting their data.
Approaching strangers was challenging at first but after practicing their introductions the youth became more comfortable with their task and got a lot of positive feedback from the people they spoke with. The first question on the survey, “do you recycle?” was answered in the affirmative by everyone who was asked. Although the frequency of their recycling varied, everyone agreed that they thought “recycling helps the environment.” Less consistent were the answers to question #8: “How well do you think the government is doing in keeping your neighborhood clean?” On a scale from one to ten (1=very bad, 10=awesome).” In the wide range of responses only one person gave the government a ‘10,’ (awesome). Several people responded with ‘1,’ justified by passionate descriptions of how they see waste being mismanaged in their neighborhood. Answers to question #10, “Do you shop at a local farmer’s market?” were split. Some claimed to shop at a farmer’s market more than once a week, while others expressed uncertainty about whether or not a local farmer’s market even existed.
The video interview questions were more open-ended and received thoughtful responses from people in the neighborhood. Using video to capture the expression and tone of community members as they spoke about their local environment added a human element the project. The survey questions were useful for obtaining quantifiable data, but the video interviews are important for matching faces to the issues. Watch clips from our interviewshere.
By Peter Tzannes, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Services & Education Intern