Area businesses, individuals put more focus on going green

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Volunteers clean in and around Cape LaCroix Creek at Shawnee Park Saturday morning, April 18, 2009, for the third annual Bashin' Trash event sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department. Two hundred volunteers helped clean from Route W to Rust Avenue. (Kit Doyle)

For a long time, the motto of the environmental movement has been "Think Globally, Act Locally." In the past two years, a combination of high fuel prices, recession and growing concern about a warming planet have spurred businesses and individuals to take a harder look at how they use resources and how to avoid waste.

Today is the 40th celebration of Earth Day, originally designed as a widespread demonstration of the need for taking better care of the planet. Numerous groups in the area have either participated in or are planning events tied to the event and incorporating the ethos of that original demonstration in practical action.

Other actions, with a more enduring character, also show how "going green" is becoming a part of how businesses and public institutions make decisions.

* The Cape Girardeau City Council on Monday night voted to create a Girardeau Goes Green Advisory Board. The seven-member board will advise the council and city officials on steps that can cut energy use, save taxpayers money and cut down on pollution.

* Businesses are advertising environmentally conscious services, such as Bank of Missouri offering a "green" checking account and Verizon Wireless seeks to lure customers by accepting old cell phones for recycling.

* The Southeast Missouri Climate Protection Initiative, or SEMO CPI, working with the League of Women Voters, is recognizing businesses that pledge to reduce energy use and increase recycling in the "Local Businesses Go Green" program that includes mentions on the SEMO CPI website.

"I would say there is a great deal more awareness now than 30 years ago," said Alan Journet, one of the founding members of the SEMO CPI. "The very fact that the Cape City Council passed 5-2 the Cape Girardeau Goes Green Advisory Board is testimony to the fact that people's consciousness is raising."

For many businesses, taking steps to recycle and cut energy use just make good sense, said Jean Graham, director of sales for Mississippi River Radio.

"Even if you don't believe in global warming, recycling and cutting your waste is not only economically smart but it is better for the planet regardless of global warming," Graham said.

As she has studied how to reduce waste, Graham said she has been amazed by the small steps that can have a big effect. "One of the ones that really got me is that if everybody said no at the ATM to a receipt, it would save a roll of paper that could circle the equator 15 times."

Both Cape Girardeau and Jackson run recycling programs.

Cape Girardeau has curbside pickup from homes and apartment houses with three or fewer units that collected 1,677 tons of material in the year ending June 30. There is no program for picking up recyclable materials from businesses or larger apartment houses. The city recently changed the company hauling away city recyclables after falling prices for scrap goods cut into the original hauler's profits.

Jackson doesn't have curbside recycling. Instead, residents are asked to bring their recyclables to a central location. Jackson collected 426.2 tons of material in 2008.

Both cities cite costs as the reason their programs don't do more. "It is just so costly and currently we do not have the facilities or the equipment," said Pam Sander of the Cape Girardeau Public Works Department.

Jackson has a staff of five in the sanitation department, Rodney Bollinger said. Starting a curbside pickup service for residential customers would require new trucks, more personnel and other increased spending, he said.

"We are just not there yet, but the recycling center, with its self-sorting, is really pretty popular and we continue to make improvements there," he said.

On the Southeast Missouri State University campus, a group formed last fall called the Southeast Green Coalition is seeking to engage students in making the campus a cleaner place to work and learn, said Heather Themm, president of the group.

The student activism, she said, can enhance the school's reputation. Students from St. Louis as well as others from outside the region will spread the word that Southeast has an environmental consciousness, Themm said.

"When they see this university from a pretty small town that is very much environmentally friendly, it does a lot for our status and does a lot for the Cape Girardeau community as well," she said.


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