“Green Living Guy” Seth Leitman tackles the green questions that “people are afraid to ask.”
August 26, 2011
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored today to have the Green Living Guy, Seth Leitman, with us. Welcome to Green is Good. SETH LEITMAN: What’s going on? JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, Seth. Thanks so much for joining us today, and we’re so excited to have you on. You are the Green Living Guy. Share with us a little bit, Seth, before we get into all the amazing work you do and the books you write and everything else, show us the journey. How did you become that Green Living Guy? SETH LEITMAN: Pretty long time, but the simple long answer is I originally, in my Master’s program, was always interested in the environment and doing something good. I was at a class or seminar before my master’s program, where we had to basically create a country that had perfect health, environment, energy, economy, jobs, then we scored really great, but then they asked how are you going to do it? Since then, it’s really been this journey. I started in the World Bank and the IMF is my master’s program to understand how much they were dealing with energy and the environment. I got blessed to be able to speak to them, gave them a piece of my mind, but was able to speak to them, to people in the bank and the IMF while I was doing my master’s. I was able to tell that Wolfensohn was heading in the right direction, at least starting an environment program, which there was none before then. To start, you’ve got to now integrate the energy into the environment. That’s starting to happen because people realize it’s more cost effective in the long run. It’s really what green is, energy, the economy, and the environment, making it work, all three. That was my master’s thesis. I’m going to be putting the link on it. It’s so funny. During my master’s program, I was able to get both speakers from the World Bank and the IMF, and there’s links of this stuff on the Internet, so I’m going to grab it and post it on my website. Look, I’m not the most perfect dude in the world. I’ve had trials and tribulations like everybody else, but the bottom line is that guy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, we’re lucky to have that guy with us today. SETH LEITMAN: Don’t worry. I’m honored to be on with you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You just mentioned your website. For our listeners out there, Mike and I have our laptop and our iPad open. For our listeners out there in the United States and around the world, open up your laptop, your desktop if you’re in front of it right now, your iPad, and check out Seth’s great site. It’s thegreenlivingguy.com. Seth, you are a prolific author. SETH LEITMAN: Also, can I just say something? JOHN SHEGERIAN: Yeah, sure. SETH LEITMAN: For most people, I have thegreenlivingguy.com, but I also have greenlivingguy.com, which is more real-time. So, everybody should really go to greenlivingguy.com. I use that WordPress account to make sure everything is clean with my main website. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Done. Greenlivingguy.com. SETH LEITMAN: It’s all good. I’m appreciative that you’re even bringing it up. Yeah, it’s greenlivingguy.com. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Greenlivingguy.com. Mike and I are on it right now, and our listeners can grab it right now while you listen to our show. Seth, you’re a prolific, and I mean, I underline the world prolific, author and editor. I’m going to read off some of your books because you’re a humble guy: Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Build Your Own Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle, Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle, Green Lighting, Solar Power for Your Home, Renewable Energies for Your Home, Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits. Seth, talk a little bit about this great series of books that you’ve been involved with over at McGraw Hill and what that journey looks like in terms of penning those books and getting them out to the marketplace, and what you’ve learned along the way. SETH LEITMAN: McGraw Hill simply was that educational company that was really smart enough to catch it. It all started, really, with Build Your Own Electric Vehicle. Their book had a group following. There were constantly, year after year, people buying it, especially with Who Built the Electric Car? I was the East Coast version of the electric car. We didn’t get me on the video. I was working for the state of New York doing this stuff too with the electric cars. I placed 100 of them in the New York metropolitan area after 9/11, as a commuter transit program. It was pretty wild. We got press the New York Times. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Yeah, you did. NYPA Think Clean Commute. Talk a little bit about that. SETH LEITMAN: That’s right, the NYPA Think Clean Commute, which was originally when Think was owned by Ford, and then they tried to crush them, but they stopped that. Now we got Think coming back, and I think they just had another problem, but they never seem to die. Yeah, I did that, and I also placed thousands of these low-speed vehicles across the state of New York to the State University campuses and stuff, so if you’re in the SUNY or you’re at even a CUNY, those gem cars are like low-speed vehicle types. Every traffic light in the five boroughs, I did hybrid electric transit buses, I started the first $100 million of incremental cost, the difference between a gas and a hybrid electric with NYSERDA, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. That was why I first started. Actually, my love for electric cars was through NYSERDA because you get all the data, and you’re the guy who’s the assistant just managing the alt fuels program. So, you get the calculation and you look at it, and you say, “OK, solar, wind, geothermal, all the good stuff you do, and electric cars. OK. Zero emissions.” You think to yourself, “Self, this is the only one that really gets to zero.” So, if we can just get the power plants to be a lot cleaner, then the net emissions go down. But given our mix today, first of all, not all of them are coal, and a lot more of them are getting and going green. One company I work with, Green Mountain Energy, they just got the Empire State Building to go green. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Isn’t the ROI something amazing on that install? I mean, do you know how much it costs to do that, and what the ROI is? Because I was with some folks about a week or so ago, and it was compelling numbers. SETH LEITMAN: I know that I wrote a story about it on my website, but I know that the metrics, of course, were tremendous in benefit, and not just, mind you, with cost. Green Mountain Energy is in the business of giving you back, making you save, because they’re part of a grander — I mean, Green Mountain Energy has been around for a long time. They made it through it, and they’re getting a lot more customers signing up. It just shows that Green Mountain Energy is one example. There’s hundreds of other companies, if not thousands. There should be more out there. It will only make a better free market, but I think that we’re heading in that direction, which is really slow. We could be saving a lot more. We’re talking about the debt, right? We spend well over $500 billion, I think, a year — I could be wrong — on just electricity bills for the U.S. government. Mind you, we’ve gotten a lot better because the military is starting to do the simplest thing. The U.S. Air Force has changed all their computers to Energy Star. They saved close to 80% on the electricity for that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Let’s talk a little bit about that, Seth, because you know so much, and you have tremendous visibility on so many topics. Let’s talk about saving energy. There was a guest, and I’m forgetting who, Mike and I had on a couple of weeks back, who was talking about the smartest money now is not actually doing more solar, more wind; they’re taking a step back and saying, “Wait a second, as the world goes, we waste somewhere north of 50% of all the energy that’s produced.” SETH LEITMAN: Right. That’s the second half. It’s crazy. I mean, that includes light, mind you. When you look at a building and its energy efficiency, I know it’s so blind because it’s in front of your face, people, but come on. If your window is bad and you feel the heat, you really need some way to pay the $1,000 to figure out the heat or replace your windows or something like that, or you need to put some basic — which I’ve done a million times — plastic on the windows, and hopefully one day they’ll make the plastic a lot more recyclable or whatever. But I can tell you right now, Westchester County, which gives me happiness, where I live, we do now one through seven plastics, and recycle all of them. I think, though, it will inevitably have to nine because there’s no way not to prove it. It’s in the numbers. That’s why I can get — which I was blessed to do — Fox Business News to take my interview somewhat seriously because it was all from the numbers. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Right. But that’s true, though. There’s a lot of people listening to this show, not only around the United States, but literally around the world, because after it airs on Clear Channel it gets uploaded to the iTunes network. SETH LEITMAN: That’s great. Thank you for calling me up, or tweeting me up, whatever you did, or Facebooked me this weekend. I was like, what’s the next move for this week? Well, here we go. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, that’s important because getting the world out of the great thought leaders and doers like you, just not people who are just — This is important stuff. SETH LEITMAN: That’s why I get the Green Guru Guy, kidding aside. I want everybody to be green gurus. It’s not just about me; I’m just one guy. So, what I try to do — and, mind you, I can announce officially we have an eighth book. We’ve birthed our eighth book, Wind Power For Your Home. It’s live. Go on Amazon right now. We have eight books. Wind Power for Your Home is about to be added to the About Us page, but I wanted to announce it there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Awesome. Listeners, if you just tuned in now, we’re so excited and honored to have the Green Living Guy. Seth Leitman’s on with us from New York, New York. Seth’s great website is greenlivingguy.com. You got to check out all of Seth’s body of work. He just announced his eighth book now. You’ve got to buy his books and get into it and become, like Seth, a green living guy or green living lady. Seth, talk a little bit about you’ve done great work, and we want to cover a lot here, because you touch so many, and in New York, you’ve done a lot for the jobs in the state of New York and you also have bridged the White House into a lot of what you’ve done. Can you share a little bit about the behind the scenes of what you’ve done in New York and with the White House? SETH LEITMAN: The White House, I have done really nothing except that when I got my World Bank interviews and master’s thesis, I then was staying with my friend worked for the White House. I stayed in the lobby while he worked. Look, here’s another way of putting it. The NYPA Think Clean Commute program, when I did that, the State of New York and 9/11 and all that stuff, it’s right by Chappaqua. It was one of the stations, in fact, and they paid to get in. They actually used their money to pay to get into the program where everybody else got federal dollars. There were certain costs we covered, like the charging stations, I think. I don’t remember. It was so long ago. Regardless, it happens. If you go to the Chappaqua train station, in fact, they now allow those hybrid cars to park there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We know you’re also a green living eco-consultant, and you’re with ETS Energy. We talked about energy a little while ago. Talk a little bit about what’s your day job. Obviously, you’re a great ambassador for everything green, and we’re so appreciative. That’s why we had to have you on the show. But then what do you do with ETS Energy, and what does your consultancy look like? Share a little bit about how this works. SETH LEITMAN: It originally was a store, ETS Energy store, but it was a website. I’m not good at that e-commerce thing. I’m terrible at it, so I shut that down and made it a consultancy because ETS Energy, what it really stood for in its entirety, was Energy Efficiency, Transportation, and Sustainability. Everything in those three realms basically cover what I can do for you because I’ve done it. So, you want charging stations and figure out how to get these types of programs successfully funded, I’ve done it before. I can help you in the right direction, getting through those types of programs. I did the consultancy through my McGraw Hill, and they offered me the opportunity to do this consulting series editor. So, boom. That’s my consulting gig. I also do social media, so I also have sponsors. That’s really how I try to get my bread and butter. To get this going, I need to have companies and organizations that will just support me, and in return, if they’ll green — and I’ll only take fully green companies — I get to then help them getting the word out about them because usually in this economy, you need to get the word out. There’s this transition and shift away, also, as we can tell, from television, solely just television, and print. It’s changed, so that the percentage of people that are actually buying the paper decreases dramatically. How do we counter that? So, now these certain things are surviving, and other ones are merging, consolidating, and doing whatever. It’s going with the green of it. People do it because you save energy and you save on the cost of paper. If you’re going to do it like I did, make sure you broker, by the way. I don’t know who else has done it. Anybody else who’s done it, good for you too. I got McGraw Hill to go FSC-certified paper for my series, every single one of them. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is huge. Share with our listeners a little bit, because Mike and I are again on your great website. Again, for our listeners out there, greenlivingguy.com. Go to that site. Learn. Buy some of Seth’s great books. What’s Green Living Guy Productions? Explain what that is. SETH LEITMAN: Yeah, that’s the whole other realm of my company. I’m trying to get the message out about this to many different modes and medium. The productions component includes my radio show. I got my own radio show on Blog Talk Radio. I’m one of their premier environmental guys. I’m getting a lot more followers and I’ve got some really cool interviews and they’re funny as heck. I really turn it up. Really, guys. If you want to have a laugh, go to blogtalkradio.com, or you can even go on my greenlivingguy.com website and type in radio show and you’ll see it there. I do that. I’m also trying to get into video. I’m working on this small movie I did when I was at Sundance with interviews from a couple of people around the movie Climate Refugees, Michael Nash. People need to really listen to it because it’s important stuff. I mean, the climate refugees that we’re seeing today in our country, the ones that, through natural disasters, lost their homes. It’s happening. We need to take care of this planet. The Green Guru Guides and there’s many other authors. I had the vision enough to try and create this series to get it out there to people, so that everybody can become a green guru. I love when people try to tell me they’ve got me. If they’ve done something, it’s like good. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Talk a little bit about that, Seth. Mike and I, all we love is having amazing people like you on, who have a great message and want to share it. So many people are still caught up in the legacy fallacy of being green is expensive, being green is hard. Share a little bit about how easy it is to be green. SETH LEITMAN: OK. Maybe this will help. It’s like a Montblanc pen. You buy a Montblanc pen, but as long as you change the ink, the pen lasts forever. It’s the same analogy — let me think. Companies are using copier systems and scanning systems because they’re not having to do the cost of papers as much. They might sometimes have to more; I don’t know, but as long as they use more recycled content. I guess to get back to your question, I think that technology is starting to get there, or is there, or has always been there. You have to understand there’s going to be a little bit more of a cost. Look at Tesla or look at a cell phone. People are always concerned about a battery. Take a cell phone. I remember back in the nineties, during my Master’s, I was the cool guy who got a Motorola StarTAC and gave it back the next month because that bill was so atrocious. I mean, I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me, right? I’m like, no, this ain’t happening. Thank you. Goodbye. But the battery pack was huge and was lead acid, and you’re paying off the leg. There are early adopters. That’s fine, but we have to let the marketplace go through that early adopters phase. We just started announcing these green projects. We have yet to get it. Once we start saving crazy amounts of money on our building envelopes, our lighting, insulation. I always joke that people should stand up right now, put their hands like they’re about to swear to testimony, and say, “Hi, my name is, and I am under-insulated in my attic.” And if you don’t believe me, take a ruler and you measure it. I know on my website, there’s a spot where you can click onto it, and it will take you to the DOE website where you type in your zip code, and it will tell you what the R-value should be. Mine was a 56 or a 57 because I’m in Briarcliff Manor, New York, which is like Westchester County. I was at like 170 because the house we bought was from a family that bought a 1950s house that was here forever, and we just have been building it up; not out, just up, putting lighting in the ceiling that’s more efficient than the wiring they had there, that kind of stuff, being smart about growth and how much you can afford, and energy costs. I love the GDP. If you notice the measurement of it, it never includes cost of energy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Good point. Seth, we’re down to the last 30 seconds or so, unfortunately. Do you have any parting thoughts for our listeners, as we have to sign off? SETH LEITMAN: Greenlivingguy.com. Check out my books, the Green Guru Guides. They’re not mine; they’re your guides, and the Build Your Own Electric Vehicle is really, really, really what’s up. You’ve got to get into them for one reason and one reason only. They’ll save you money in the long run, and you’ll make your money back and then some, and then you’ll be taking it one step closer. Even Ed Begley did, one step at a time. I’m not telling you to go all in, but once you get the idea of it, you’ll want more. It’s a lot better thing to do than deal with oil, right? I’ll leave on that note. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Seth, listen. You are always welcome to come back here. Mike and I just loved having you today. Seth Leitman, you are both the Green Living Guy and a sustainability leader, and truly living proof that green is good.