conversation with Kathryn Shield June 16, 2005
Kat Gerber also
recommended we talk to Kathryn Shield with Jackson County.
Kathryn is a Kansas City native with a Bachelor and Master of
Arts and Juris Doctor Degree from UMKC, and has been in public
service at many levels since 1983. She has supported municipal
and inter-jurisdictional initiatives including groundbreaking
recycling programs and storm and sewer management efforts. Her
contributions and accolades are simply too extensive to list
here. Kathryn's profile can be viewed online at: http://www.co.jackson.mo.us/gov_eo_ce.shtml
Green Thirteen is a
series of questions intended to explore the journey of
environmental thinking, from inspiration to education to
action--with a dual-focus on both individual and community
perspectives. Interviewer Scott Kevin Jones, AIA, LEED AP is
currently with KKE architects in Minneapolis.
1 What person
influenced you most regarding environmental issues?
Bob Mann. He runs a conference at
Shadow Cliffs, in Grand Lake, Colorado. He was previously
the executive director of Bridging the Gap. I first met
Bob working on the Waste Minimization Commission for the
City of Kansas City in 1984.
2 What event
opened your eyes to environmental issues?
Going to one of the Shadow Cliffs
retreats in Colorado. The lesson that "just because
you can afford something doesn't mean you should buy
it," was a big 'Ah-ha' for me. The conferences are
held several times a year and last 4-5 days. They are a
wonderful way to learn about sustainability and immerse
yourself in a group of other people who care about these
3 Name one habit
or convenience you gave up for environmental reasons.
I do very little single car driving.
My husband and I both work downtown - that has been true
most of my professional life. We really enjoy car
pooling. Jackson County has held "Get Out of the
Car" days and several of my coworkers have continued
riding the metro since then because it is convenient and
4 Name something
you wish more people realized is harmful to the environment.
How harmful and costly uncontained
storm water is, and how easy it is to contain it on your
own property. We are starting a program to train people
how to build rain gardens and all the other methods of
storm water management.
5 What is the
most important thing you do personally to conserve natural
I am just beginning in my home to
create a model for storm water which will demonstrate
what we are talking about to the community.
alternative do you feel more people need to learn?
On a dry day at the treatment plant
for Little Blue Valley Sewer District (Eastern Jackson
County) they might get 35 million gallons of effluent.
When it rains this might be 350 million gallons. There
are simple ways of diverting and containing this water
which reduces the volume going through the system,
requires less treatment, and is cleaner when it is
reintroduced to the river.
contribution are you uniquely able to make toward environmental
Just the position of being County
Executive, I can help formulate and implement regional
solutions to environmental issues. Storm water is one of
those issues that is more regional.
8 What do you
think is the next step for Kansas City as a community at the
Doing more of the interconnectedness
work. Jackson and Johnson Counties have a wealth of
common projects. We just need to share the knowledge and
resources and begin the implementation process.
9 What change to
your lifestyle or behavior was the hardest to adopt or maintain?
I think keeping faithful to that
lesson about consumerism. I just love shoes.
10 What do you
think Kansas City has done well?
I think what we are doing with the
synergy, the Bridging the Gaps, the Sierra program. There
is a program called By-product Synergy. So much of the
waste that used to go to the landfills is now going to
re-use. Jackson County has a lot of cement plants, and
they are now selling their fly-ash to the folks who do
road repairs. This is being used to produce cement which
is stronger, lasts longer, and uses less natural
resources. We received an EPA award on that project.
11 What is your
most successful green building project?
The old courthouse downtown was redone
with new light fixtures, low flow plumbing fixtures,
these are just standard things but they are very
important. The water gardens and wetlands that have been
installed. And in the design stages there is a new
education center at Fort Osage that will be at least Gold
Certified. It will contribute education of history as
well as education about environmental tools.
12 What is a good
example of environmental design in Kansas City?
The Discovery Center on Troost. I just
love the living machine. It takes the affluent of the
building into vats of plants, reuses it in the restrooms,
and the leftover is released into wetlands. There is
nothing discharged into city sewers.
13 What is the
biggest change you hope to see in society within your lifetime?
I hope that as a society we can begin
looking at environmental issues as opportunities and
embrace them rather than looking at them as obstacles.
One philosophy I was reading recently says that every
problem has two "handles" and you can
"grab the handle of hope" or the "handle
of fear." So many things our society is approaching
from the handle of fear right now and it doesn't get the
same results that hope does.