It's Earth Day: Do we really care?

Sonny Long

April 21, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Updated April 21, 2013 at 11:22 p.m.

As the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day rolls around, efforts continue to make people aware of the need to take care of their environment.

But is that message being received?

"A lot of people are recycling more now. I see a lot of the cans out in my neighborhood," said Christi Hobizal, a mother of four who works two part-time jobs. "I've been doing it more and more since the city put out the new containers."

Data from the city of Victoria Environmental Services Department back up Hobizal's observation.

During the last quarter of 2012, 72 percent of Victoria residents participated in the city's curbside recycling program, averaging 280 tons of material a month.

"When first looking into the curbside recycling program, we compared rates of cities around the country that were both required and not required to recycle," said Darryl Lesak, director of Environmental Services.

The department found that cities that were required to recycle had a participation rate in the 70 percent range, he said. Cities not required to recycle were in the 20-30 percent range, so the department anticipated about 40 percent participation from Victoria residents at the beginning of the program.

"Much to our delighted surprise, we have found Victoria as a city that is not required to recycle maintains an average participation rate comparable to those cities required to recycle," Lesak said.

Others, too, think Victorians care about the environment.

"We do hope that people care about the environment and not only care, but take a step to make a difference," said Dian Denker Patterson, executive director of Keep Victoria Beautiful.

"It is one thing to say it, then another to act upon it. It only takes one step - lend one hand, plant one plant, pick up one piece of litter - just one step will make a difference to our environment."

It's that action, or lack of action, that is apparent to others.

"People really don't care," said store manager Jennifer Bryant. "If they did, you wouldn't see so many people driving big pickups, spewing out smoke.

"In my neighborhood in the country, I see trash bags of garbage thrown on the side of the road all the time."

Cody Shelton does not feel people care enough about the environment, and the evidence is all around, he said.

"Just go to the dump site," he said. "I can tell you for sure not many are doing it."

Shelton's friend, Chase DeLaGarza, feels the same way. The methods to prevent pollution are there, but people aren't taking advantage of it, he said.

"It's got to be easier," he said. "The bins help, but only if you use them."

DeLaGarza said he tries to recycle, but sometimes it's hard to make it a habit, even with curbside recycling.

Shelton believes people will never be compelled to recycle and be more environmentally conscious unless some sort of gain is offered.

In Cuero, the unsightly problem of residents discarding plastic bags from area stores spurred the City Council to form a committee to study the issue of possibly banning the use of plastic bags.

The committee has not yet reported back to the City Council, said Cuero City Manager Raymie Zella.

Patterson thinks there is hope for continued environmental awareness and actions.

"We all have a social responsibility to take care of our planet. There are numerous ways that your can be involved," Patterson said.

"The future of our planet will depend upon the actions of each and every one of us. By starting a change and becoming involved, you will make a difference."


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