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Small changes kick start green, sustainable living

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Living green doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing lifestyle, and one local organization says everybody can do his or her part, however small, to be more sustainable.

Jamie Lynn Durant, program coordinator for West Virginia Sustainable Communities, said having a sustainable lifestyle is for anyone "who wants to learn how to save money and make their communities better and use their resources more efficiently."

Durant, who has been with the program for just under a year, said the first step someone should take if they want to cut down on costs is to make small changes at home and in their personal lives.

"Change light bulbs, check the insulation in your house and check the windows for drafts. All these things don't cost a lot and can help you get started," she said.

"You can see significant economic changes in your bills just by switching to high efficiency light bulbs, having a programmable thermostat and using natural light and heat when possible," Durant said.

The first thing to keep in mind when going green is the four "R's" -- reduce, reuse, recycle and redesign.

"It's not what people typically think of as environmental practices. What we really want people to think is 'do I need that paper plate or can I wash a real one?'" she said.

Walking and getting outside more is a great way to be more sustainable and can also encourage children to see a sustainable lifestyle as a health lifestyle. "Eat local foods that are in season. They taste better," Durant added.

The program is not new. It started about six years ago as a state Department of Environmental Protection program, which was later transferred to the WV Community Development Hub. From there, it was taken on by the Sustainability Institute at Bridgemont Community and Technical College in Montgomery.

Educating West Virginian's how to maintain a social, economic and environmental balance with Earth's resources to reduce carbon footprints and support the local community is the program's goal.

"It's not difficult to get started. We teach the basics of sustainability, why it's important, why people should do it," Durant said.

Durant said good sustainable practices work in full-circle. "By conserving energy, you save money on power bills and have more money to spend locally and support local business.

"When you support local, you get out and walk to those places and that helps with the social aspect of sustainability. People need to get out and meet their neighbors. Our communities in West Virginia have really genuinely good people. It's shame that people spend so much time in their cars," she said.

One of the biggest challenges facing West Virginians, though, is adequate recycling.

"If the facilities aren't there, they can't do it," she said.

Durant knows several people who hold on to their recyclable items and take them with them when they know they are going to a place that has a facility, but that isn't an option for everyone.

"We're really just trying to make West Virginia what it's meant to be," Durant said.

For information about sustainability classes, call 304-734-6710 or visit facebook.com/sustainwv.

Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathryng@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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