The Roanoker - September/October 2020 - 46

C

eleste Delgado-Librero, founder of the environmental movement
Sustainable Roanoke, has seen environmental consciousness grow
almost exponentially in the past year or so despite the COVID-19
pandemic. And she is encouraged:
"When social restrictions are lifted, we need to resume our
recycling collections; we need to organize cleanups and other events to raise
awareness; we need to figure out how to reach more people through our personal
reach or educational programs; we need to put pressure on our local leaders,
businesses, and organizations to adopt and promote sustainable practices. When
social restrictions are lifted, we will need everyone's help."
Though not an expert, she says emphatically, "What I bring is activism: I'm
tired of being worried about the environment and of waiting for others who may
know better to do something about it. So, I decided to jump in and err on the side
of activism. Things have gotten much better in terms of pollution - I hear stories
about noxious air stuck in the valley for days... That doesn't happen anymore, so,
some things are improving."

The raw
statistics are
stark, if not
depressing.
Three quarters of the U.S. waste stream is
recyclable but less than a third of it actually gets
recycled. Americans toss 24 trillion foam coffee
cups a year and those cups aren't recyclable or
biodegradable.
The average American produces 4.4 pounds
of solid waste a day and we casually waste 21.5
million tons (43 billion pounds) of food annually.
We use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
Americans throw out 28 million bottles and jars
annually, even though 87% of us have access to
curbside or drop-off recycling programs.
Each of us, at the most basic level, has an
environmental footprint that expands as we add
other people to the equation. There are massive
efforts underway to diminish that impact in both
simple and complex ways, often at the level of the
city, county or town we live in.
Nell Boyle, Roanoke's sustainability and
outreach coordinator, says the Roanoke Valley
has "seen a reduction in greenhouse gases over
the last 10 years just under 15%."
Electricity producers still use a lot of coal, "so
our electricity is high in carbon dioxide."
Response to efficiency "is working," says
Boyle. "We see a reduction in emissions in the
building sector. The general awareness in the
community is improving. People are embracing
energy efficiency with easy changes such as LED
lighting, better HVAC equipment and better
conservation behavior.
"In transportation, we have seen an increase
in biking and passenger rail, as well as cleaner
burning hybrids and electric vehicles." Roanoke's
Ride Solutions encourages carpooling.
The pandemic has intensified some solutions,
even if inadvertently. For example, there are far
fewer cars on the road than normal and fewer
toxic emissions from tailpipes.
AT LEFT:
Environmental activists Celeste Delgado-Librer0 (left) and Sunni
Perviance are helping keep the Roanoke Valley liveable.

46

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

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The Roanoker - September/October 2020

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