Waste not, want not

by Patrick Flanagan

Every day green


Monday, June 2, 2014

[Editor's Note: When it came time to find people really living the green life, we turned to Cheryl Perret. Mother of two and married to Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret, Cheryl learned early in life the importance of not being wasteful. Couple that with a passion for the green life and you have a woman doing more than talking about the green life; you have a lady who is living it.]

I would say that we live green. For me personally, it began with a spiritual conversion and the realization that we are each morally responsible not only for our own physical and mental health, but also for the health of the natural environment around us and that the two are reliant upon the other. Living a green life is one thing, but teaching our children to be responsible citizens in that way was another. It is very simple - the best way to teach your kids is by example. If you set the example - make it fun for your children to participate and sometimes offer a reward - there is no way that what you are teaching them about living green will be forgotten.

It starts at birth with the foods you feed your child. I am sorry to say that very little of what I fed my children was local, fresh or organic. Working as a nurse, I just didn't have the energy to prepare foods this way.

When they were in preschool, I wanted my children to understand where their food came from, so I took an LSU Master Gardener class to learn about organic vegetable gardening and entered them in the 4-H Club gardening program, where they competed in gardening and environmental stewardship. The kids were excited about winning awards in these areas, and we have had a home garden since. As teenagers, they automatically go to the garden to water the garden and watch the magic.

Both of my children were scouts. The amount of programming in scouting is overwhelmingly pro-environmental stewardship. My son would collect aluminum cans from the neighborhood, our home and my parents and he would exchange them at the metal recycling business on Cameron Street for money (part of which he kept and part of which he donated to scouts). As a family, we regularly would participate in the annual LCG Trash Bash, and one year we organized a scouting project picking up litter inside the coulee in our back yard. We filled up truck loads of trash and dropped it off with Lafayette Consolidated Government's Environmental Quality Department where giant piles of litter were on display, hot dogs were served and the annual Trash Bash T-shirt was distributed.

I helped to start Earthshare Gardens so that I could educate my children and our entire community about sustainable gardening practices and often took them with me to volunteer and learn in the garden.

Helping to establish TreesAcadiana, I felt we should promote the urban forest not just for its beauty, but for both the human and ecosystem health benefits. Our children helped annually to plant trees - at the Cajundome, near the City Police Station, on Louisiana Avenue, at schools, etc.

In our home and on vacation we recycle all plastic, paper and aluminum, and when we are at a place that does not recycle, we bring recyclables home.

We have not converted to using reusable grocery bags at the store and still on occasion buy bottled water in plastic, but I am constantly encouraging my family to help convert our habits in this area. We use water from a cistern to water our potted plants and to wash our hands when gardening. We throw our food scraps in a compost pile and recycle our yard waste. We have invested in a solar panel system, Energy Star appliances, a source point water heater and a new energy-efficient air conditioning system. We use natural light inside of our house during the day and energy saving light bulbs at night. We built a fence with someone else's old fence wood.

Quite simply, we teach by example.

We ride our bikes to the neighborhood grocery store and my daughter rides her bike to college. My children and I drive small vehicles and hope to purchase more energy-efficient vehicles in the future.

My parents taught me not to be wasteful, and if you ask my siblings or my friends, they will probably tell you that I take this to the extremes. Those extremes, I believe, are the responsible thing to do.