Monday is Earth Day and one woman who works to reduce Central Vermont’s waste says it’s a good time to educate the next generation about being less wasteful.
Cassandra Brush is the zero waste outreach coordinator at the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District. She says global climate change is a moral issue.
“We have generations that are inheriting the Earth in a state that, for even those of us who are young adults or middle-aged adults, the whole planet is completely different than from when I was growing up,” she said.
The solid waste management district works to keep items from ending up unnecessarily in landfills and to contribute to a lessening of methane off-gassing from landfills, which Brush says contributes to climate change more powerfully than carbon dioxide.
“We need every day to be Earth Day, but doing it as a celebration and for children in school’s, it becomes a focal point for people to really pay attention to what’s happening on our planet,” she said.
Brush said her organization works with schools directly by sending staffers into classrooms to work with students as young as kindergarten and as old as high schoolers. The organization works with school staff to create zero waste sites where students can drop off items for recycling and composting. Brush said they also conduct trash audits, where the school’s trash is dumped onto a tarp and students, with gloved hands, pick through it to see what could be recycled or composted, and what is really trash.
Brush said it’s important to educate the children because they are the ones “who are going to be running things pretty soon.”
Even though organizations like hers are working to reduce the amount of waste in our society, Brush says that alone is not enough, and points to those who make the laws in this country as the problem. “We’ve gotten so caught up in fighting about whether human beings have created global climate change or not. Fighting over every single piece of policy and legislation that goes forward to ameliorate the situation in whatever large or small way it can,” she said.
That being said, Brush is still hopeful by what she sees people doing on their own to make their communities less wasteful and more friendly to the environment. She cites the recent winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize as her source of inspiration. (Brush calls the Goldman awards the “Oscars for environmentalists.”)
Some of this year’s winners of the prize include a woman from Columbia who single-handedly started a recycling center and recycling association in the face of corporate interests that wanted nothing to do with recycling; an elementary school teacher in Italy who preached about the dangers of incinerators and whose work has led to a national zero waste movement in that country; and a man who moved from California back to Iraq to restore marshes that were turned to “dust bowls” during the reign of the late Saddam Hussein.
While many people may not accomplish such lofty feats, Brush said there are things everyone can do at home to make a difference. She suggests reducing what people take into their homes, either energy-wise or material things. Brush said people can walk or bike to work and buy products that aren’t over-packaged. They can also think of how to reuse items once they’ve served their initial purpose in order to keep them from ending up in the trash can and, ultimately, the landfill.
For those looking for something to do on Earth Day, Brush suggested that the Hunger Mountain Coop will be holding its third annual book swap. There will also be face painting, kids can plant their own seedlings or make an Earth Day flag, or families can take part in a number of other activities as well.
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