Sandy Bauers: Q & A with Philadelphia Inquirer Environment Reporter
This week Green Philly Blog is interviewing some of Philadelphia’s female sustainability leaders in honor of closing out March as International Women’s History Month. We’re wrapping up the week with Sandy Bauers of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sandy is the Inquirer’s Environment Reporter; She covers the city’s environmental news on her blog and column GreenSpace. She’s worked as an editor and reporter at the Inquirer for more than 20 years.
Sandy lives the green life in northern Chester County with her husband, cats and pet chickens.
I’ve been reading Sandy’s work for years, and was delighted for the opportunity to pick her brain a bit.
Green Philly Blog: Where did your initial interest in environmental issues stem from?
Sandy Bauers: I was an outdoors person growing up — a Girl Scout, sailor, loved camping. But probably things crystallized much later. Twice, my husband and I took a year off to sail south along the coast and through the Bahamas. We gravitated to the remote, uninhabited areas, which meant we really had to be resourceful and self-sufficient. We managed to get our fresh water usage – for cooking, drinking and bathing – down to six gallons a day! Also, I guess this experience just made me appreciate the natural world all the more. And it made me realize that a lot of today’s “necessities” are really just luxuries. When I started writing the green living column and researching the issues more fully, I had to walk the walk. Now I can’t imagine NOT recycling. And forget about lingering overlong in a hot shower or leaving all the lights on. I sometimes tell people that covering the environment has ruined my life!
GPB: We certainly understand green guilt! When it comes to sustainability what do you see as the biggest accomplishment the city of Philadelphia has made in the past few years?
Sandy Bauers: Maybe the innovative stormwater plan, “Green City, Clean Waters.” While most other cities in the country were planning gigantic underground tunnels to hold stormwater until it could be pumped back out and treated, Philadelphia turned to myriad “green infrastructure” devices, such as porous pavement and rain gardens that would allow stormwater to soak back into the ground. Environmental officials and groups have praised the plan and held it up as a national model.
GPB: What’s the most challenging aspect of your job as an environmental reporter (and blogger)?
Sandy Bauers: Covering it all! Every day, I’m confronted with how many wonderful/interesting/important stories there are, and how few of them I can actually get to. I could clone myself three times and still feel inadequate.
GPB: How do you practice sustainability in your personal life?
Sandy Bauers: I recycle everything. There’s a great nonprofit near me that even takes aluminum foil and wine corks and fishing line and candle nubs – all kinds of odd things – so I collect everything they’ll take, sorting it into bins in the basement. That’s kind of pain, but I can’t NOT do it. I have a huge vegetable garden. I don’t think there’s an incandescent bulb left in the house. I use a clothesline instead of a dryer (okay, not all the time, but a lot of the time). I drive a Prius, although – true confession – I have a monster commute of 40 miles. I do try to telecommute, however, and living where we do allows my husband to work in a studio at home. He commutes about 100 feet! For about the past year, I’ve been big into getting rid of things and not buying stuff. Or, not as much stuff as I might otherwise. I have vigorous debates with myself over clothing – will the clothes I already have suffice, or am I starting to look shabby? I have way more shoes than I need.
GPB: If you weren’t a reporter what would you do for a living?
Sandy Bauers: Easy! I’d love to be a biologist doing field research. It could be wildlife, insects, birds, fish … anything along those lines.
GPB: If you had one “green superpower” what would it be and why?
Sandy Bauers: I would wave my green wand and, presto!, public transportation would pop up everywhere. It would be really clean and really easy to use, with bathrooms even. This is partly selfish: I would so love to begin work every morning on a Wi-Fi connected train – or even just loll in the seat gazing at the scenery – instead of breathing the fumes and gripping the steering wheel as I navigate the Schuylkill Expressway. But more broadly, studies have shown there would be huge environmental benefits if more of us got out of our cars and either walked or cycled or took public transportation.
Photo: Sandy with her eldest chicken, Patti.