It can be easy being green.
Thats the philosophy of Regina Leffers, director of IPFWs Center for the Built Environment, which promotes sustainable, or green, construction practices.
She believes every choice we make comes out of a world view, she says.
So the first step to making different choices is changing your philosophy, and then trying to change the world.
Leffers, along with IPFW professors Pat Ashton and Matt Kubik, will discuss those ideas during the next Science Cafe event, Enter the Green Age: Transforming Life Choices for the 21st Century.
The free event will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Firefly Coffee House.
Theyll talk about how its really our values, such as our need for speed – from our cars to our Internet connections – that drive our lives. (The three are also working on a book, which will be published next year.)
The key is getting everyone, from people to institutions, to change behavior, Leffers says. For example, our collective need for speed should incorporate efficiency, too, because there are ways to get things done quickly while using as little energy possible.
If we continue along the same path, she warns, our consumer culture could be in danger of destroying the planet.
We have made decisions that can change an entire ecological system, she says. We value things more than people. We own lots of stuff.
But theres still time to turn it all around.
For Leffers, that means focusing on green building practices. Her textbook, Sustainable Construction and Design, was one of the first of its kind to be published in the U.S. And she founded the Northeast Indiana Green Build Coalition; she still sits on the board.
As coordinator of IPFWs Construction Engineering Technology program, she helps students find better, more efficient ways to build. Last years class created a green public restroom in Columbia City with low-flow toilets, sensor-activated sinks and energy-saving lights.
All of the materials are low-embodied energy but will last, like a cathedral, she says.
The program, like the construction industry in general, tends to be male-dominated.
Leffers was working on her doctorate in philosophy at Purdue University years ago when her brother persuaded her to join him in the construction industry. To her surprise, she found she liked the job.
But one challenge was convincing men that she knew what she was doing, a problem her brother obviously didnt have.
His knowledge would be assumed, and I would have to prove myself, she says.
At the time, Leffers didnt think too much of the dissimilar treatment; she was used to it, and she took it as the norm. Its only been over the past five or six years that she has seen a difference in the way she is treated.
Now, men second-guessing her is a rarity, but it still happens. She speaks of a disrespectful e-mail she received from a male student. She didnt divulge details but said if she had been a man, the student never would have sent it.
Its really been only recently that I understand whats happening, and I stop it, Leffers says. I just dont allow it anymore.
That student now works with a male professor.
I think his experience is going to be much better but also I dont want to put up with that anymore, in my life, she says.
My energy and enthusiasm for what Im doing overrides these things, she says, and 95 percent of her experience with the local construction industry has been positive.
Leffers even formed her own commercial construction company about 12 years ago.
I began to recognize some of the problems with the way we build things, she says, adding there often was an extreme waste of materials and energy resources.
Eventually, IPFW lured her to academia, where her current role represents the perfect melding of two of her passions.
Construction and philosophy meet in the center, she says, with sustainability.
Jaclyn Youhana of The Journal Gazette contributed to this article.