ELKHART — Advocates of the environment are gathering regularly to talk about ways to effect change on a local level.
“Awareness is key,” said Melissa Kinsey, environmental educator for Wellfield Botanic Gardens. “That’s part of what this is about, showing people are interested in this process. The goal is that if we get a group of people together once a month, it’s going to raise awareness.”
Sound of the Environment meets the first Wednesday of each month at noon for free community conversations about environmental sustainability, wellness and quality of life.
The question posed during this month’s roundtable discussion was “Can we make a difference?”
“There are interested pockets of people all around our community,” Kinsey said. Another similar discussion group, Green Drinks hosted by Environmental Center Supervisor Jamison Czarnecki, meets monthly at various venues throughout the city – normally bars, restaurants or breweries to discuss environmental topics. Previous topics have included worm castings, LimeBikes, the river and landfills.
A topic of discussion at the meeting was mindful consumption, a new concept to many people, Kinsey said, but not new overall. Topics discussed included sharing resources, keep track of what’s already been purchased and decluttering.
“These are basic, simple things,” Kinsey said.
Already an avid recycler, hybrid car owner and solar panel homeowner, Elkhart resident Dale Ostrom told the group, “I’d like to do something, but I don’t know what.”
League of Women Voters and Rotary Club member Jim Rickhoff mentioned during the discussion that schools should be an integral part of the process, stating that students should be taught science and environmental sustainability, “practices that would be long-term beneficial.”
Kinsey said many children coming to Wellfield for field trips sometimes express fear of the woods.
“We’ve got to get kids outside before they can realize that they need to take care of it,” she said.
Czarnecki commented, “The change, I think, is the responsibility of us now. What’s happened since the 70s is, ‘This new generation is going to come and help us.’ We can’t wait for them to come and do this work for us in 20 or 30 years.”
He challenged his fellow advocates to ponder what they could do individually such as adopting a highway or picking up the sidewalk around their home.
“I want to do better, but some of these things, they’re just so minute that it really has to come from the big players and the big manufacturing companies, but we can all do better,” said Mandy Leazenby, president of TRA Certification International.
Kinsey recalled that one manufacturer has begun selling its scrap materials to another local firm. She said the company cuts door frames and then sends the excess to another company, which uses it to create doors.
Czarnecki said Coca-Cola is reformatting its branding to encourage recycling, which is smart marketing.
“A lot of it is a laziness thing, “ Kinsey said. “We get to a point where we think, ‘Everybody does it, so I’ll do it, too.’ It’s to the point that it’s not about anyone telling us to change, it’s a necessity. Our oceans are swimming with plastics.”
Sound of the Environment meets against from noon to 1 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Elkhart Health & Aquatic Center.