Community Voices - Marleen Watling

Posted by Jake Holtzman
Jake Holtzman
I am a second year Oberlin College student majoring in environmental studies and
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on June 6, 2014 in Community Voices

Optimized-IMG 20140606 140956173Marleen Watling is a librarian at the Oberlin Public Library. When the weather allows, she bikes all the way to and from her home in North Ridgeville 3 days a week. Biking has become a real positive force in her life, as a way of not only reducing her energy use, but also of feeling healthier and more connected to the environment.

Q: What are some words or images you would use to describe Oberlin?

A: Green is one of the things that comes to my mind. The library seems to be a very busy place, so I???m going to say there???s a community consciousness about the library that???s really right up my alley. The Bridge has the technology areas covered. So, I think that it???s a joint community of students and people who live here, people who work here, people who own businesses here. I see that as a pretty good union.

Q: How would you define ???sustainability??? for yourself?

A: Sustainability to me is about how you can use fewer resources. My thoughts go to recycling, mine go to alternative modes of transportation. You know, rain barrels, planting gardens.

Q: What kind of actions are you taking in your life that you think are contributing to your view of sustainability, and could benefit the community?

A: Well, I???ve been biking to work back and forth, and I live in North Ridgeville, so it???s a good hike - about an hour ride. And I get to use the bike path. I have to go through downtown Elyria too. I took up a challenge that Oberlin had, and from there on I thought, ???I really just feel better.??? I was trying to average at least 3 days a week, riding my bike to and from work. And I felt really good about that.

Q: Was that hard to start?

A: No, I love to bike so that wasn???t a big problem. My problem is more just checking my days to make sure I could afford to bike to and from work and I didn???t have anything else going on. When I had my mom living with me, I couldn???t do that, because I had to get home in time to make sure she got the bus from her daycare, you know, so that was impossible. It was pretty simple this year. I did 4 and a half days one week. And giving an incentive to bike was really fun. It started me on the road. I never would have tried so hard if I hadn???t thought, ???this is a challenge, an internal challenge for me.??? It was kind of fun. You know, we had to log on and put in our miles every day. So I kind of liked the little competition part of it.

Q: It might be harder to convince some people that these sorts of life choices are important. Do you have any ideas about some approaches you might take to try and convince people?

A: I tried the one-on-one approach with a few people I know. And they think I???m crazy [laughs]. And I???ve told some people, ???You know if you just left your house ten minutes early you could walk to work and walk back.??? I had internal drive to meet some goals I had set. I kept telling myself 3 days a week at least. It was something I had set as a goal for myself. And then I talk to people here when they come and they???re looking for things, and if they talk about growing a garden, I???m very quick to show them we have a great collection on gardening. And people might want to know dietary things and workouts and stuff. So I just kind of blend in the thing about how I bike and how if you could walk more places and give yourself just a little extra time...So I???m just kind of showing them the resources and talking about what I???m doing. You know, if I can ride my bike from North Ridgeville, and I???m old, certainly you could walk half a mile to work and not take a car.


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I am a second year Oberlin College student majoring in environmental studies and piano. I come from San Rafael, California, and have been involved with sustainability at home as well as in Oberlin, especially through local foods and community gardens. I have also had the pleasure of interning with Zion Community Development Corporation for the past few months; I have been helping organize their community forums, editing their newsletters, and working in their community garden, and I am glad to have gotten to know the local community better in the process. I look forward to making more community connections, and hearing about all different kinds of creative ways people are engaged with sustainability locally.


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