“What It Means to Be Green,” New Era, July 1992, 21
Some people say the Laurels in Oregon’s Corvallis Third Ward are green.
But not the inexperienced, unsophisticated type of green. And certainly not the jealous type of green. Not even the type of green you turn when you’re seasick. Green is actually meant as a compliment because, in some circles, to be green means to be environmentally conscious—to be doing your part to look after the earth. The Laurels are so environmentally conscious that they decided to put on special ecological firesides for the entire stake and town.
Nobody can say exactly how or when the Laurels turned “green” and decided to put on the fireside.
After all, they live in a state that is exceptionally ecology conscious. High school students are paid quite well for picking up trash, and it shows. Everywhere you look, you see lots of green and very little garbage. And recycling programs are prevalent in almost every city.
Then again, they might have turned green at school. The Laurels attend very ecology-oriented high schools where students have managed to save about 344 trees and 158,000 gallons of water this past year by voluntarily recycling their paper. The halls are filled with recycling bins for aluminum cans, and on certain days, there are student council members outside to greet you when you drive up to school. If you carpool, you get to park in front. If you drive alone, you have to park in the back. Those student council members are often Laurels Lisa Rampton and Jenni Merten. They say it’s worth sitting out in the constant Oregon drizzle to get people thinking about saving gas.
The Laurels might even have grown green at church. They do belong to a church that esteems this earth as a beautiful gift from Heavenly Father.
It seems the Laurels get a message on ecology almost everywhere they go, and they’re doing their best to pass that green message on. “Ecology is somewhat of a trend,” says Lisa, clad in an “Earth Native” T-shirt. “But I think it’s a good trend. It’s not bad to be a fad follower in this case.”
To make their own contribution via the fireside, the Laurels had to start practicing what they were going to preach. The disposal company in Corvallis picks up sorted garbage and ensures that it will be recycled, so those whose families weren’t already sorting their trash into separate bins for paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum, tin cans, and glass, began to do so. Was it hard to start going that extra mile?
“At first I didn’t want to take the time to wash a can, then take the label off, then take both ends off and smash it down,” says Sherri Lewis, who just entered the Laurel class when the ecology program was in full swing. “But when you start hearing about how recycling helps the environment, it makes you want to do it.”
“You get used to it,” says Kim Hale, who has three sisters, all involved in recycling. “Besides, we take turns taking the bottles and cans to the recycling center, and whoever takes them gets the money for them. That’s a little added incentive.”
The object was for each Laurel to bring a week’s worth of recyclables to the fireside to use as visual aids. It’s surprising to see how much can be recycled. The front of the multipurpose room of the meetinghouse, where the fireside was held, was brimming. “We used to put two big garbage cans out for the trash man each time he came,” says Jenni. “Now we only use one a week. It feels good to know we’re not putting such a strain on the landfills.”
Each Laurel had her own part in the fireside. Lisa conducted and talked about the spiritual reasons for keeping the world God gave us clean. Jenni spoke about the state of the world as it is today, complete with acid rain, air pollution, and dwindling resources. Then Tami McDaniel talked about what each person could do to help ease the strain on the environment.
Since this was a presentation for the whole family, children were involved too. For example, Kim had her six-year-old sister show some of the fun art projects she’d made from things that would usually be thrown away.
Over in the nursery, the Beehives tended the children who were too young to sit through the fireside. The children colored pictures of the earth and of things they like to do outside. They were given a lesson on the creation and their responsibility to keep things clean.
And what fireside would be complete without refreshments? The Laurels served nutritious food that came in as little packaging as possible. All the dishes involved were washed and reused, and instead of paper, they used cloth napkins.
Was the fireside a success? Judge for yourself. The Laurels were asked to repeat it a number of times, and each presentation had quite a few non-LDS people in attendance. Everyone was impressed.
While no one has statistics on how many stake members are now recycling, the fireside definitely helped the Laurels on the personal level. Tami, for example, had just recently been baptized when her class started the ecology project. Her family had been recycling for quite some time, and Tami was well versed on how to be green, so she felt she had something to contribute from the start.
It’s true that no one knows exactly where all this started, and now, no one knows where it will end. The Laurels feel good, about turning green, however, and hope it’s catching.
You might not notice the tree shortage in Corvallis, where everything is lush and green, but in other parts of the world trees, which are essential oxygen producers and CO2 eaters, are dying fast. For example:
The average American uses the equivalent of seven trees per year.
Between mid-1980 and now, the earth’s forested surface was reduced more than 25 percent.
Twenty-eight million acres of tropical rain forest are destroyed each year.
You’ll want to watch your use of paper products, of course, but try planting some trees on your own as well. Here’s how:
Begin by calling a local nursery, Boy Scout council, arboretum, botanical garden, the Forest Service, or a library. They can tell you how and where to start.
Your job’s not done once you stick a tree in the ground. It will need care for the first two years of its life, so be prepared to do a little watering, mulching, and supporting.
Be aware of what’s going on in your neighborhood. Are trees being removed that could be relocated? Would your neighbors consider planting trees as well? See what you can find out.
Look at the trees in your own yard. Learn about them and help take care of them. When the plants around us are healthy, we can all breathe a little easier.
To make sure people attending the environmental fireside realize how important it is to grow greener, the Laurels provided a handout, printed on recycled paper of course, which included some of the following information:
Americans generate about 154 million tons of garbage every year, and nearly 50 percent is recyclable.
When you throw away an aluminum can, you’ve wasted as much energy as if you’d filled it half full of gasoline and poured it on the ground.
The Laurels of the Corvallis Third Ward wanted to share some of the environmentally helpful ideas that work best for them:
Carpool with your own family. Try to coordinate your schedules so that you can all drive downtown together, instead of having to make several different trips to stores, lessons, or practices.
Reuse the containers that food comes in. You can take other food to school in yogurt or cottage cheese containers. Also, you can save and reuse plastic sandwich bags and paper lunch bags.
Save organic waste, things like vegetable peelings, eggshells, etc., and put them in the backyard in a compost pile. Then use it to fertilize your family garden.
If your school is not already recycling paper, see what you can do to start a recycling program.
Help your little brothers and sisters make creative crafts projects out of objects that would otherwise be thrown away—things like plastic milk jug caps, egg cartons (they make fun caterpillars), oatmeal containers (you can decorate them and use them for drums), and bleach bottles (decorate them like animals and use them for banks). Use your imagination.
Rinse out plastic two-liter soda bottles and use them to hold water for emergency storage.
When you’re shopping, look for the chasing arrows in the shape of a triangle on the products you buy. That will tell you if the container is recyclable or not. Know what can be recycled in your area and where you’ll have to take it.
Volunteer to help your community make recycling more accessible to the general population.
Put on an ecologically-oriented fireside to help make everyone more aware.