Instructor declares war on waste

Instructor declares war on waste

by Richard Freeland

Elizabeth Perez-Halperin is both a veteran environmentalist and an environmentalist veteran. In November, Perez-Halperin was one of 12 veteran “Champions of Change” recognized at The White House by U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. Perez-Halperin, awarded the title of “Veteran Advancing Clean Energy,” was lauded for serving America beyond her tours of duty. The current San Diego State instructor set down her rifle and charged into a new battle: the campaign for clean energy.

“She’s extremely proactive,” Executive Director of New Initiatives and Outreach for the SDSU College of Extended Studies Wendy Evers said. “This, combined with her passion for working with veterans and promoting clean energy, has really set her apart.”

Perez-Halperin has taken up the fight for energy efficiency on multiple fronts, including education with SDSU’s certificate program in water management and landscape sustainability. The program, of which Perez-Halperin is an assistant instructor, maneuvers its students into the workforce.

“ ‘Education to career’ is the informal motto,” Evers said.

Perez-Halperin is similarly intent on developing skilled workers. She and her husband are the co-owners of a San Diego-based company called GC Green. The company readies its employees for the frontlines of the green industry, asking them what skills and positions they desire and locating jobs. The company, however, does not simply train needy workers; GC Green employs veterans.

“Veterans want to find a way to give back even after setting down their uniforms,” Perez-Halperin said.

She joined the military in honor of her veteran father. Her service enlightened her.

[quote]“The military is the biggest user, and the biggest abuser, of energy,” Perez-Halperin said.[/quote]

She toured in both the second Gulf War and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Perez-Halperin noted the energy wasted on inefficient generators, the value placed on fuel chips, and the joke she heard again and again from marine friends: “If you want to find a marine squad, follow their battery packs.”

“Everything is connected” is Perez-Halperin’s informal motto. To her, a connection between the military and green energy is in no way paradoxical.

“I think veterans of our generation are more aware and educated about green energy,” said Perez-Halperin.

Despite her experiences with inefficiency overseas, Perez-Halperin believes the military is abandoning the anti-green energy camp. She speaks throughout the country about the relationship between the green movement and America’s safety as part of the Truman National Security Project.

“The military sees the writing on the wall,” Perez-Halperin said. “They see they need to change and the consequences if they don’t. When the military changes, the nation follows.”

Perez-Halperin’s cross-country travels highlighted San Diego as a paradigm for environmental responsibility and energy efficiency.

“A large portion of the country is far behind,” she said.

Mundane practices in San Diegan’s lives, like recycling and turning off lights, do not pervade the rest of the nation in Perez-Halperin’s experience. She advocates San Diegans to put their green practices in place wherever they go.

So how can a single SDSU student make a difference? Perez-Halperin fervently decries the myth that a single person can’t affect change, regardless of income or background.

[quote]“I’m the average American,” she said. “I just felt that I had to make a difference, and that I could make a difference. I felt that there’s got to be more out there.”[/quote]

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Perez-Halperin.