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INSTYLE GUIDE | Vol. 10, No. 49, December 11, 2008
(Stopping The Runaway Train)

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Dr. Enid Sisskin

by Jahna Jacobson

INSPIRING ENVIRONMENTALISM AND A HEALTHY COMMUNITY  

Environmental health is more than clean air and water. It is an integral part of our community's success.

That is the message Dr. Enid Sisskin, chair of the Unite Escambia Environment Solutions Team, wants to bring to Escambia County.

"I don't think a lot of people realize the connection between environmental protection and our health and people's economic and other successes," she says. "You can tell this because people will denigrate the efforts of environmentalists without realizing that so much is connected, and you need a clean environment to attract businesses, and you need a healthy environment to have a healthy workforce."

Unite Escambia is a community-wide strategic planning partnership founded in 2006 to improve overall community health. The organization encompasses the efforts of United Way of Escambia County, Escambia County Health Department and Partnership for a Healthy Community. Through information sharing and growth of positive working relationships the groups are able to make concerted efforts toward achieving shared goals.

A healthy environment leads directly to better business, Sisskin says.

"When potential employers come here, they want to be able to raise their families in a clean, healthy area, for example," Sisskin says. "They want to be able to guarantee their employees a good quality of life, and they'll want a healthy, educated workforce."

"We also need to realize that we can't overlook the environmental impacts of an industry just to get the jobs, because as we've found out, when they close, they leave a legacy of pollution and toxic waste," she adds. "Clean businesses attract other clean businesses."

The interconnectedness of physical, mental, economic, environmental and social factors has become increasingly clear, Sisskin says.

"We're seeing an increase in environmentally caused diseases, like asthma, particularly in children, which will have a negative impact on so many other facets of our lives, such as the ability to get a quality education," she says. "You can't learn if you miss school due to illness."

The Environment Solutions Team's short-term goals include reducing trash collected at festivals by 30 percent by separating out recyclables and increasing the number of locations where people can drop off household hazardous waste.

"We're working to get a well-utilized popular public transportation system," Sisskin says. "We'll be trying to get businesses and government agencies to encourage carpooling and use of fuel efficient cars through incentives."

The group also aims to decrease discharges into surface waters and to get more information on green building and landscaping for builders and developers.

Sisskin also works in the School of Allied Health and Life Sciences as an adjunct instructor in the Master of Public Health Program at UWF and is a broadcast specialist with 88.1 WUWF-FM. She also sits on the board of directors of the Gulf Coast Environmental Defense, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Florida Conservation Alliance as well as the Advisory Committee/MPH Working Group and MPH Steering Committee at UWF.

Many years of study and hard work led her to her current role as a proactive leader working to improve our community and the world.

"I started working on grass roots environmentalism after our children were born," she says. "It's amazing how having children makes one concerned about the world we're leaving them."

What You Can Do
Advocate For The Earth
Ask stores to make reusable shopping bags available
Encourage recycling programs
Encourage employers to offer telecommuting/flex work schedules
Ask for traffic light synchronization
Encourage adoption/enforcement of green ordinances

Do-It-Yourself
Plant native trees around your home
Install programmable thermostats, ceiling fans, energy efficient light bulbs and appliances
Reset your thermostat - higher in summer and lower in winter
Car pool with neighbors and co-workers
Recycle
Use and reuse cloth shopping bags
Take hazardous materials to the community recycling round up
Participate in community beach and park clean-up days
Organize a neighborhood clean-up day
 
For more information, visit www.escambiacommunitycollaborative.org.

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