Taking steps towards sustainability

FACILITY: Recycle of Mecosta County Coordinator Chris Luchies surveys the area where volunteers sort the materials to be recycled. (Pioneer photo/Dan Meloy)

FACILITY: Recycle of Mecosta County Coordinator Chris Luchies surveys the area where volunteers sort the materials to be recycled. (Pioneer photo/Dan Meloy)

Earth Day can be used as a launching pad for year-round conservation 

BIG RAPIDS — If visitor brochures and the Pure Michigan advertisement are any indication, Mecosta County’s natural environment is the area’s greatest resource and one well worth preserving.

Big Rapids residents can do their part by breaking from daily routines and spending a few hours cleaning up the community and making small modifications to daily habits in an effort to preserve the area’s natural backdrop.

April 22 is Earth Day, a day West Michigan Environmental Action Council Director of Communications Josh Leffingwell says can be a great start for promoting a more sustainable lifestyle.

Earth Day was formed in 1969, when peace activist John McConnell proposed the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization establish a day for people to break from their normal routines and do something positive for the environment.

In West Michigan, Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to create a positive impact in your community, Leffingwell said.

“A lot of times, we don’t take environmental needs into consideration until the environment is in dire straits,” Leffingwell said. “Earth Day is a great chance to take step back, slow down and look at the all the opportunities to save water, energy and reduce waste.”

While conserving energy and cleaning the neighborhood are admirable things to do on April 22, Leffingwell said Earth Day can be a catalyst for year-round sustainability.

“There are a lot of small things we can do to limit waste,” said Leffingwell. “During the daylight, you can open up the blinds to heat and light your home. At night, close your blinds to keep out drafts. When we talk about reducing energy use, we talk about reducing energy costs.”

Recycling is another day-to-day activity people can practice to reduce their carbon footprint. Recycle of Mecosta County, located at 424 N. 4th Avenue, Big Rapids, accepts everything from newspapers and scrap paper to metal and used motor oil.

Recycle of Mecosta has been operating for 26 years, with volunteers who donate their time to make Big Rapids a cleaner place to live. For $5 a visit, Mecosta County residents can arrange a Recycle of Mecosta truck to pick up recyclables from the curb. The group also invites people to drop off their recyclables for free, but accept donations to cover operating costs.

“We have about 15 volunteers and four employees who keep this place running,” said Chris Luchies, Recycle of Mecosta County coordinator. “We have fun here and do this because we love it. On Saturdays, we have around 200 cars bring in recyclable, and last year we recycled more than 37,000 pounds of material.”

Recycle of Mecosta County is open on Mondays from 9 to 11 a.m., Thursdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Luchies said the volume of recyclables the facility has processed has dropped since the City of Big Rapids started to pick up recyclables on a week-by-week basis in the city. Still, he said people still order pickup service and stop by on Saturday to drop off recyclables.

“We do everything we can to get people to recycle as much as possible,” Luchies said. “We have a paper shredder that destroys 75 pages at a time; we take in car batteries, pieces of metal, plastics, newspapers. We only operate eight hours a week, but we go through a lot of material. People support recycling in this community.”

For those wanting to get out in the sun and clean up the streets in celebration of Earth Day, the City of Big Rapids is hosting Earth Day Clean Up at 9 a.m. on April 25 at City Hall, located at 226 N. Michigan Ave.

For two hours, participants spread out throughout town with garbage bags in hand, collecting trash accumulated over the winter months.

“Anybody can sign up for the event,” said Cindy Plautz, event coordinator. “This is our 25th year of the program. We divide groups into teams and see how many bags of trash people can collect. We are always amazed with the amount of trash there is to pick up.”

Prizes are awarded to teams who pick up the most trash throughout the city. Plautz said around 100 people show up every year at City Hall for the cleanup, including city council and staff members.

“Every bit of volunteer work helps our community,” Plautz said. “It doesn’t matter how many people we have, there is a lot of trash that needs to be picked up. The idea of the event is to show people we are the ones responsible for cleaning our city. We have a regular crowd who comes back every year, and people are really enthusiastic about making Big Rapids a cleaner place to live.”

For more information and to sign up for the Earth Day Clean Up, contact Plautz at (231) 592-4036 or email cplautz@ci.big-rapids.mi.us.

“We need to remember our actions will have an impact on the environment the next generation will live in,” Leffingwell said. “It’s not a conservative or a liberal issue, it’s a way to save our planet and save our money. Taking the time to save on energy and reduce waste not only saves the polar bears at the North Pole, it saves your wallet at home.”


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