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Reduce, reuse, recycle: Constant environment awareness is noble objective for Keesler

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, MISS. -- I remember the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. I was in Sister Lauren-Mary's third grade class and all of us youngsters were excited about the prospect of a country-wide campaign to save the environment. At that time there were compelling reasons to act as our country's environment was in bad shape. The Cuyahoga river in Cleveland caught fire due to chemicals dumped in the river. Cars still ran on leaded gasoline and belched dark black smoke in the atmosphere. Heavy industry pumped smoke into the air and sludge into rivers with no fear of consequences. Recycling was still a dream. Raw sewage was dumped into our waterways, poisoning our wetlands and aquatic life. A great debate ensued where some argued that the economic engine of the country would be limited by environmentally-friendly processes; pollution was the cost of prosperity. Others argued that pollution would ultimately choke and poison our citizens and our economy. Somebody had to step forward to do something.

On that very first Earth Day 28 years ago, over 20 million people across America stepped forward and gave a clear signal that they supported a cleaner and healthier environment. It was a noble objective then and remains a noble objective today.

We are truly blessed to live in a country that has such a high standard of living, but it comes with a cost. Americans consume more resources and create more waste than any other people in the world. A simple statistic says it all: the average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75. Multiply that by the current United States population of nearly 300 million people and you get the picture. We are fortunate that we have recycling programs in place, or we'd be up to our elbows in garbage.

By now I know that everyone knows our mission at Keesler (Rebuilding the Base, Renewing the Air Force, and Reloading the Air Force, in case you've forgotten) but protecting the environment also has its 3 R's--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

First, we can reduce the amount of waste that we produce. This requires a little forethought. Buy and use only what you need, so there is less waste to throw away. In the office, don't print something unless you absolutely need to. At home, you can also keep an eye out for products with less packaging or packaging that is environmentally friendly (like paper products that decompose easily.) Avoid products that contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful if introduced into the environment. There are other ways you can reduce. For example, I've switched to purchasing longer-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs rather than incandescent bulbs to lower my energy consumption. I think you'll find that reducing your waste can help return some cash to your pockets!

Reusing what you purchase is also a great way to reduce waste, and once again this requires a certain amount of forethought and effort. For example, try repairing a broken item rather than throwing it away; you can save money while at the same time save the environment. Farmers and gardeners practice composting to take organic refuse and reuse it as fertilizers. Using cloth napkins and towels rather than paper ones helps as well. Something as small as reusing grocery bags as trash bags can make a big dent in our waste production. Reuse is a powerful method to reduce your waste!

Probably the easiest thing you can do to protect the environment here at Keesler is to recycle. Recycling is the right thing to do, and the glass, papers, cans and plastic that you recycle create the benefit of generating revenue for our MWR activities. We have a great recycling center located near the post office off of Chappie James Drive. They have 24 hour drop-off bins for recyclable materials and are doing great things for our base and community. If you haven't been recycling, now's the time to start!

While we celebrated Earth Day on the 22nd, showing respect for our planet is something we should do every day. Let's leave the world better than we found it. Remember: green isn't just a color for St. Patrick's Day. Here at Keesler we can be green every day as we "Renew Our Community."