PEPPERELL — “Help yourself, help the planet.”
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Popping up more and more frequently, phrases like these have been heralding the latest phase in an environmental movement that first began to pick up steam in the hothouse atmosphere of the late 1960s, when so many of today’s social movements had their start.
In the beginning, environmentalism seemed to be concentrated on the big picture, with action being taken mostly at the national and state level with the establishment of Departments of Environmental Protection and the passage of laws intended to cleanse the atmosphere or purify lakes and rivers.
But as those efforts have largely succeeded over the decades since, the environmental movement began to move from the macro to the micro, concentrating on what individuals could do personally to change their lifestyles and so collectively have a further impact on preserving nature.
The first of the more personal approaches again began in the 1960s when an anti-littering campaign went into full swing. Everyone remembers the TV commercial of the American Indian, trash thrown at his feet, who sheds a single tear for a once pristine world spoiled by rampant consumerism.
That campaign soon died out, but environmental activism moved into new areas and by the turn of the century a whole new “green” mentality had replaced it, led off by a “global warming” movement that postulated rising temperatures due to atmospheric pollution generated by the burning of fossil fuels.
To reduce modern civilization’s “carbon footprint,” the world would have to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and reduce consumption. Changes in lifestyle were promoted, with solutions that sometimes gave rise to other problems, and a “sustainability” movement begun in which local communities would rely on locally produced merchandise such as food in order to cut down on transportation that burned fossil fuels in order to bring in those same products from other states or even other countries.
Enter Tina McEvoy, assistant librarian at the Lawrence Public Library, who invited Kimberley Doherty of Sustainable Life Solutions to speak to the public about ways ordinary people could cut energy use and reduce the amount of trash they generate, and thus contribute on an individual basis to helping to clean up the environment.
“Here at the library, we’re concerned about going green and conserving energy,” explained McEvoy. “We were interested in offering a program for people that would show them how they could reduce their own energy use at home like we do here at the library. We found that Kim was an interesting speaker and knowledgeable about the subject and invited her to speak.”
“I do this because I want to save a place for my kids where the environment isn’t already exhausted and the water has gone bad and there isn’t any more good food to eat,” said Doherty of her reasons for promoting a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. “The way things are going, the air quality is still poor and consumption is still too high. These are things that we need to be fixing now. But to do it, people need to feel that it’s doable and not just some big, overwhelming, giant thing that they can’t break down on a personal level. They need to see that it’s something they can take a useful part in, that it’s something they can tackle in small steps. If people are asked to take on too much, the problem will seem overwhelming to them.”
In that spirit, Doherty walked those attending her Nov. 6 lecture through the home, pointing out simple but effective action that could be taken to save on both energy use and consumption.
In the home, for instance, energy could be saved by turning off unused lights, unplugging unused appliances, or employing such tools as power strips and power control monitors.
To help prevent heat loss in the home, places where heat can escape can be detected with a “thermography test,” the use of blowers, and infrared detection. To prevent “sick home” syndrome, liberal use of plants indoors can improve atmospherics and keep air clean.
In the kitchen, elimination of disposable items such as plastic-foam cups, napkins, and plastic dinnerware will reduce the amount of garbage a home generates as will composting for disposal of vegetable matter.
Energy savings in the kitchen can be improved by getting rid of such appliances as electric knives and can openers and the immediate environment as well as landfills can be protected by eliminating use of any cleaning compounds that include toxic chemicals and other ingredients.
In the laundry room, elimination of the electric dryer in favor of “solar drying” (i.e. hanging the laundry on a clothesline) or placing wet clothes on a rack in front of a fireplace or heating outlet will save lots of energy as would front-loading washing machines.
“I think it was pretty thorough,” said resident Christine Dudek following Doherty’s presentation. “I felt that there was a lot of little things I can do to help the environment while cutting down on household costs.”
“I was interested in the whole fact of going green and how ordinary people could conserve energy,” added fellow resident Sharon King. “I was particularly impressed with how much could be done in the kitchen alone.”
To learn more about how to reduce energy use in the home and to live more simply with less waste, those interested can visit Doherty and Sustainable Life Solutions at sustainablelifesolutions.com.