Don’t Just Recycle: Reduce, Reuse Too

Don’t Just Recycle: Reduce, Reuse Too

November 26, 2019

Most all of us are well familiar with the standard mantra that trumpets the protection of the planet: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Terra Missildine, a recent Glenmeadow Learning presenter, points out, though, that many well-intentioned people focus on only one effort in the triad: recycling.

“Many people don’t think about reducing or reusing. Those efforts are oft-overlooked and more effective,” Terra told several dozen people who gathered last week at Agawam Public Library for our third and final Learning program, “Environmental Responsibility: Taking Steps to Protect Our Planet.”

An educated audience took an active role in Terra’s presentation, brainstorming ideas with her on ways to—as Terra says—“live lighter on the planet and lower our impact.” They discussed ways individuals can reduce and reuse, and Terra talked about the importance of watching where legislators stand on the environment. She also reviewed the United Nations global goals, relating to the environment.

“Consumption is the number one environmental problem today,” Terra said, noting, for example, that 35 million plastic flip-flops end up in the ocean each year. “People need to think more carefully about what they buy. There is a lot of waste. Planned obsolescence is built into so many of our products today.”

While recycling is very important, Terra said it’s not an infallible system; many materials that people put in their recycling bins never actually get recycled. Some materials might not be clean and can contaminate an entire truckload of items, and some materials we think are being recycled might not be accepted in our particular community.

Also, Terra said there is an environmental cost to recycling—trucking the materials and processing them, for instance.

Terra outlined additional steps people can take to protect the planet, including “voting with their dollars” by not purchasing low-quality products that have a short shelf life and will end up in landfills.

She also said people can use their actual votes to elect more candidates who have a history of supporting measures that are environmentally sustainable. She suggested researching candidates on line to get a sense of their philosophies and voting records, where the environment is concerned.

In terms of products that are environmentally friendly, Terra recommended those made by Shaklee, such as Basic H2, which is a concentrate that makes thousands of gallons of product. Terra passed out samples.

To take sustainability to another level, Terra suggested that people who believe in “Reduce, reuse, recycle” become community advocates, educating people they meet one-on-one on best sustainability practices. She stressed that advocates should not shame others but educate them instead.

Terra was raised in a family that values the outdoors. She became an advocate for the Earth herself around the turn of the millennium. At that time, Terra was raising sheep on an organic farm and had enrolled in a sustainability program at the University of Massachusetts. She started thinking about how toxins were affecting people’s health; she had also developed allergies and chemical sensitivities to such things as laundry detergent.

Terra was newly married to her husband, David—who was in the audience at our program. They decided to launch a business called Beloved Earth, the first environmentally friendly cleaning company in Western Mass at that time. They made environmentally friendly alternatives to cleaning and other household products by using ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. (Now they use Basic H2 in clients’ homes and businesses.)

Beloved Earth now supports 18 staff members and still operates by cooperative principles. The business will mark its 15th anniversary in 2020.
Indicating its an uphill battle, Terra said she is confident that systemic change—while slow—is in motion to protect the planet and that, if people commit together, we can slow the damage and perhaps get on a track to begin to repair the Earth.

“Protecting the environment has been a conversation since I was my daughter’s age, and she’s 5,” Terra said. “That gives me hope.”

Terra offered these resources:
• To learn how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle: https://biofriendlyplanet.com/
• To see what one nonprofit is doing to support climate legislation in the state, and how people can find a local chapter and get involved: www.massclimateaction.org
• To check out the United Nations global goals: www.globalgoals.org

Glenmeadow Learning is one of many free programs Glenmeadow offers to members of the wider community. It represents only one facet of the life plan community’s mission to serve seniors across the region and to operate as a socially accountable organization.
We are busy planning the events in our spring 2020 series! Stay tuned.

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