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Going Green: A New Magazine

Valerie Robertson ’75 is quietly walking the sustainability talk.

By Susan Cousins Breen


Valerie Robertson and her dog, Macy, enjoy a day at a park.

Since relocating in 1994 to Wilmington on the lower Cape Fear River in North Carolina, Valerie Robertson has been quietly working—one encounter at a time—to create a green revolution. “It’s a big part of who I am and what I do,” she says. And yet, the Missouri native insists that she did nothing substantial for sustainability until she launched Cape Fear Going Green, a 24-page quarterly magazine, in fall 2007.

“She’s the type of person who is able to create that spark in others,” says Gwenyfar Rohler, a Wilmington bookstore owner who thinks Robertson’s impact on the community began long before she rolled out the first issue of Going Green.

Robertson’s passion for sustainability took root during the first Earth Day, in 1970, when her high school in St. Louis held an all-day symposium. After majoring in sociology and anthropology, she headed to Washington, D.C., where she wrote articles for the Passive Solar Industry Council and was paid to perform solar heat-gain calculations.

But Robertson soon realized that she “could not sustain herself financially while working for sustainability,” so she decided instead to hone her editorial skills with the hope of returning to the industry later on. “Except for recycling and feeling guilty if I printed out too much paper, I put my dream on hold for more than
30 years,” she says.

The persistent editor and writer envisioned Going Green as a forum to recognize the efforts of individuals and groups in her area and as a resource for eco-friendly activities, products, and services in the Lower Cape Fear region. According to Kemp Burdette, resource development coordinator for Cape Fear River Watch, “Valerie has succeeded in providing good, easy-to-follow, and comprehensive advice and education for those in our community who want to go green but need a little guidance in doing so.”

Since moving into her 1922 bungalow in 2000, Robertson has had her own green rules. “I walk the talk,” she says. “When I walk Macy (a border collie/sheltie mix that she and her partner, radio personality George Scheibner, adopted), I take two bags, one for the dog’s needs and one for the litter I pick up along the way.” She uses no pesticides in her yard and generates her own compost for her raised vegetable beds. In summer, she resists ramping up the air conditioning.

Living in a neighborhood where people sit on their porches and visit, conversations often turn to sustainable solutions for home improvement. She says: “Recently, a neighbor mentioned that he’d love to put in a tankless water heater, ‘but no one around here is doing that.’ I asked, ‘Have you talked to Jerry down the street? He has one.’”

For years, Robertson has gathered and shared tidbits of information like this during daily walks with Macy. A member of Cape Fear Green Building Alliance and Cape Fear River Watch and an adviser for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s new Science and Environmental Academy education series, she encourages friends and neighbors to attend local environmental meetings.

Robertson describes Going Green as a family-friendly place to learn about green community projects and eco-friendly resources and lifestyles. “We also offer the first comprehensive directory of the 45 environmentally focused organizations in our geographical area,” she says. The magazine offers a forum for sustainability advocates to share ideas and knowledge.

Members of the community often have questions for Robertson or suggestions for the magazine, she says. One day, Bouty Baldridge—the first in Wilmington to drive an all-electric vehicle—approached Robertson outside the local food store. Already waylaid for 70 minutes by folks eager to chat about sustainability, Robertson parlayed Baldridge’s enthusiasm for his new car batteries into a commitment to write an article for the magazine. Karen Linehan, a teacher at Friends School of Wilmington who wanted to share her students’ back-to-nature efforts, wrote an article for the premier issue. Herein lies the foundation of Going Green—some people want to learn about sustainability, and others want to share what they know, and all of them are turning to the magazine.

Now in its third year, Going Green is flourishing in print and online, and Robertson expects soon to be seeking regional and national advertisers in order to expand the publication.

“Many people my age learned sustainability concepts in the 1970s, but only recently has there been more opportunity to do something about it as more green products and services have become available,” Robertson says. After biding her time for three decades, she says, “It’s been wonderful to be able to pair my years of editorial and publishing experience with something I believe in.”

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