August 8, 2008


Actor shines spotlight on environmentalism

Cortland native speaks to teens Thursday at the Cortland Works and Career Center


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
Boise Thomas speaks to a group of summer youth employees Thursday afternoon at Cortland Works and Career Center. Thomas, an actor on the Planet Green Discovery Channel show “Alter Eco,” urged the teens to do little things to support the environment. 

Staff Reporter

For Boise Thomas, the best kind of job is one that doesn’t feel like work. A Cortland-raised actor, Thomas is a cast member of “Alter Eco,” a 13-episode TV series that airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on the Planet Green Discovery Channel.
Thomas spoke Thursday at the Cortland Works and Career Center to local teens about how they can become passionate about the environment.
The teenagers in attendance were part of the Cortland County Youth Employment Program.
“I love talking to Cortland teens, because I was one,” Thomas said. “My hometown is green and I’m proud of it.”
As part of the employment program, each teenager works a summer job and attempts to integrate some form of environmental efficiency, such as recycling more paper and cutting back on driving.
Thomas said that carrying environmental conservation practices, even simple ones, into people’s everyday lives is the best way to effect changes.
Among his many suggestions were trying to use energy-efficient light bulbs, starting a home compost heap and garden, and limiting time in the shower to the length of one song.
“You’re never done, you have to look and see what’s the next thing,” he said.
Thomas said he hopes “Alter Eco” will be renewed for another season so he can cultivate broader understanding of conservation.  “Alter Eco” is an eco-lifestyle and makeover series. Each week, the show deals with various ways that people can help their environment, striving for new tactics beyond basic recycling and conservation.
“We’re all trying to go out and make a difference,” he said of the show.
A second season would begin shooting in January, and he wants to branch out to other locations, including Cortland. He also wants to shoot in Tijuana, Mexico, where he said a 15-year-old girl invented a machine that sorts trash into what is reusable.
“There are people there who live in a garbage dump and are able to get everything they need,” Thomas said. He added that a prototype of the machine had been developed and he would like to explore how recycling can provide economic benefits.
One of his major ideas for this is targeting consumerism and putting responsibility on manufacturers for disposal of their products packing. For example, the consumer would return a packing box for a product so the manufacturer can handle proper disposal.
“They would make things of better quality if they had to dispose of the wrappers,” Thomas said.
Thomas said that even paying people to plant trees would help create some employment and improve the environment. He also recommended using bicycles more frequently, something that certain cities are taking into account.
“There’s a bike path plan in Los Angeles to create paths because there aren’t any right now,” he said.
The idea Thomas emphasized most was how anything can be recycled or reinterpreted, especially from everyday tasks.
“There are many things you can bring from your job such as work ethic, and apply it to your studies,” he said.
Before traveling to California, Thomas studied broadcasting at Onondaga Community College, and transferred to Syracuse University. There, he interned at radio station WSYR. Thomas told his audience that this is a difficult time where there are so many questions about where the future will go, and suggested the best way to handle it is to learn as much as possible and use it in something you enjoy doing.
“Sometimes you have to grow up too fast,” he said. “To me, the greatest thing is spending the last 20 years collecting all this knowledge and now learning how to apply it.”
Thomas said that no one should be afraid of failure, that it can easily be turned to success.
“If you don’t know what to do, keep failing, then you’ll find out what you’re really good at and be able to check it off the list,” he said. “Maybe if you’re not a people person, try and look for something where you get the chance to interact with people more.”
Throughout his time becoming an actor Thomas said he learned just as much about being a bad interviewee as being a good interviewee, and it’s important to remember that interviewing takes time.
To demonstrate this, Thomas said that it took 11 interviews before landing his job on “Alter Eco.” He has been on 700 auditions throughout his career, 72 of which lead to a job.
“They can’t say no forever, that’s how I got my wife to marry me,” he said as everyone laughed. “You just have to be really annoying and charming.”


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