Gary Lewin, founder and executive director of Good Dirt Radio, sits at the controls of his home recording studio this week. When Lewin first sat at the controls a decade ago, he was just as passionate about making a difference as he is today./Photo by Steve Eginoire

Down and dirty

Local nonprofit makes a difference one radio spot at a time

by Tracy Chamberlin

Good Dirt Radio found a way to save the world – in just five minutes. For the past 10 years, the nonprofit based in Durango has created about 130 five-minute spots that offer small and simple solutions to big environmental problems.

“We face daunting issues,” said Gary Lewin, founder and executive director for Good Dirt Radio. “Most people don’t know where to start.”

Good Dirt Radio celebrates 10 years of offering its listeners a place to start tackling those daunting issues at the “Who’s Your Mama?” event and fundraiser at 3 p.m. on Sat., April 26, at the Durango Discovery Museum.

The event isn’t just an opportunity to celebrate a decade of making a difference or to enjoy some food, brews and live music. It’s also a chance to keep making a difference.

With booths from the Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College, Growing Spaces, Linda’s Local Prepared Food, the National Young Farmers Coalition, The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado and, of course, Good Dirt Radio, attendees can learn about healthy choices, for themselves and the planet.

Phrases like “save the planet,” “climate change” or “environmental awareness” can either be so commonplace they start blending in with the furniture or attached to facts and figures so overwhelming people feel helpless.

Good Dirt Radio strives to change that.

Over those past 10 years, Lewin’s been putting together radio segments, or eco-spots, in his solar sound recording studio and has produced about 130 stories heard by hundreds of thousands of listeners throughout the West, even getting picked up by Google.


What: “Who’s Your Mama?” Celebrating Mother Earth & Good Dirt Radio’s 10th Birthday
When: Sat., April 26, 3-6:30 p.m.
Where: Durango Discovery Museum, 1333 Camino del Rio
For info:

With the changing media landscape, Good Dirt Radio has expanded from radio to podcasts. They’ve even recently updated their website where anyone in the world can download a five-minute eco-spot for free.

When Lewin first sat down at his sound board a decade ago, ready to record the voices of co-hosts Tom Bartels and Tami Graham, he was just as passionate about making a difference as he is today.

“It’s not about us, it’s about the planet,” he explained.

Their eco-spots are littered with practical, common sense ideas that anyone can use. Lewin also said the goal is to raise environmental awareness by reporting on positive actions. All the solutions Good Dirt offers come from people who are engaged in the work and, hopefully, can serve as examples.

Most recently, Lewin’s been researching the 13-year-old youth director for Earth Guardians, who is already making a difference in his community and can inspire others.

That positive approach is something that’s different than the “if it bleeds, it leads,” manifesto of most large news organizations, Outreach Director Jules Masterjohn said.

Good Dirt Radio takes another approach: “If it seeds, it leads,” said Masterjohn, repeating a phrase coined by Bartels at a recent board meeting.

By reporting positive stories, like the one about the youth director, or offering real solutions anyone can apply in their everyday lives, Good Dirt hopes to raise awareness. 4

“We realized we’d have better luck reporting on this stuff in a positive manner,” Lewin added.

And people are responding to their approach.

As one of the voices of Good Dirt Radio and an original board member, Graham explains it like a single drop of water in a bucket. Eventually, all those drops add up, making a small difference individually and a big difference together.

“I was thrilled to be a part of this amazing project,” she said about those first days.

She saw it as something that was needed in the media landscape, driven primarily by the prevalence of negative news. As the antithesis of popular media, Graham explained, Good Dirt was a way of getting the word out about living more sustainably.

“Every time I’d record a handful of stories, without exception, I’d learn something I didn’t already know,” she added.

Lewin said there is a divide between the natural world and lifestyle choices. Good Dirt attempts to fill that gap.  For example, he discovered in his research that energy wasted by Americans each year equals the amount created by 18 power plants, which adds up to 6 percent of the country’s total residential electrical consumption.

He added that, according to the Department of Energy, it’s estimated 40 percent of the energy manufactured in the United States is used solely on electronic devices like cell phones, computers and music players.

However, some of that energy wasted on devices which are turned off but still plugged in, called “phantom energy,” can be stopped by simply turning off the power strip the device is plugged into.

In another eco-spot, Lewin discovered that the U.S. wastes about 1 billion pounds of food each year. To shrink that number, he suggests several ways someone can tackle food waste, such as composting, buying local, growing a garden or reading labels.

“We encourage people not to be overwhelmed (but) become inspired,” he said.

Other steps can be as simple as turning off the water while brushing citline:  teeth; buying from a local grower versus shipping food from across the continent; or slipping on a sweater, instead of turning up the thermostat.

“(Listeners) learn to apply that concern and inspiration in their day-to-day lifestyle,” Lewin said.

He also has kids, and his friends have kids. They are the ones, he explained, who will pay in the future for the comforts and conveniences of today.

“It’s our job to clean up the mess we made while we can.”

Like everything else Lewin does, there is an eye to sustainability and renewable energy. Whether composting, growing his own food, buying local or producing another story for Good Dirt Radio, Lewin is always looking for a way to make a difference.

And both Graham and Lewin believe they are.

Graham said people often approach her about how they have incorporated the latest eco-spot into their own lives.

“Ten more years … bring it on,” she said.

For Lewin, Graham and everyone involved with Good Dirt Radio, it’s always been a labor of love, full of good energy.

“It was always, ‘let’s work for the planet,’” Lewin said.

The nonprofit relies on volunteers, of which Lewin, Graham and Bartels are included. Along with donations, grants and their passion, the group has kept the radio spots coming and plans to continue for another 10 years. 

Making a difference one listener at a time and saving the world – in just five minutes.


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