“Sexy” and “recycling” don’t often go in the same sentence, but this is Las Vegas, where sex sells, and recycling … well, not so much. That’s how Heather Abel got the idea for her go-go-boot-wearing, spandex-swathed superhero. Part educator, part temptress, Going Green Girl has a mission: turn the city on to recycling.
Abel, like most people in Las Vegas, is a transplant. She grew up in Germany where her parents worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, and where eco consciousness is ingrained in the culture. She moved here in 1995 to attend UNLV and was puzzled by the lack of environmental friendliness. “Back then there was no recycling,” she says. “This was like the anti-green city.” It took her about 10 years to do something about it. Like most transplants, she didn’t expect to stick around long. She was also busy working in event management and raising a child. “I started paying attention when I realized how everyone was complaining about recycling,” Abel says. “I started asking questions and learning the truth, and I was like, ‘I have to tell people.’”
The truth was that Las Vegas simply didn’t have the infrastructure in place for large-scale recycling, so Abel decided she would have to pare down her enthusiasm. In 2007 she began to focus on a smaller project, one Las Vegas couldn’t ignore: Going Green Girl.
Along the way Abel met many people working toward a greener Las Vegas, including Cindy Clark with Going Green Las Vegas, a website that posts information about the Valley’s green community and events. The two joined forces, helping Abel to hone in on her message and create a template for the character. Going Green Girl appeared at more than 100 events in her first six months of existence.
With her skintight bodysuit, 4-inch silver platform boots, black wig and larger-than-life persona, the character is a departure from the more subdued Abel. “Personally, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m wearing a green spandex bodysuit!’” she says. “But I think that transformation is really key.”
Abel is sure to walk the line between having the character be silly fun and a legitimate vehicle to effect change. Not anybody could pull that off, as she is able to keep people’s attention by providing legitimate answers to their questions about recycling.
Abel has combined her superhero knowledge with her event-planning background to start Green Scene Productions. She leads an army of volunteers in running large-scale events that are eco-friendly. A recent client was the Nevada Silverman Triathlon, for example. Green Scene’s next event is Tour de Art, a bike tour of downtown on May 6.
Abel knows Going Green Girl is a bit of a gimmick, but in a city like Las Vegas, that’s often what it takes, she says. As long as it’s changing people’s minds, she’s happy to put on the suit and play superhero, for now.
“My goal,” she says, “is to be obsolete.”