On Tuesday, April 21, Montecito Union School ushered in the sunny season with a bit of “Spring Greening.” Hosted by members of the Community Environmental Council (CEC), Spring Greening Day sought to educate attendees about tidying up their consumption habits and wiping away their ecological footprints.

Brandi Hughes, Merryl Brown, Ginger Salazar, and Kathi King hosted the event, which commenced with a free, organic breakfast followed by speeches from two environmental activists.

Village Modern Foods catered the event, and the table centerpieces were glass bowls that will be re-used as terrariums for the school’s science department.

The committee invited Christine Gardner to speak about the dangerous toxins in household products and cosmetics. Gardner is a prominent environmentalist who is currently collaborating with John Kerry and Teresa Heinz-Kerry to write a book. She also pioneered moregreenmoms.com, a resource for parents interested in going green.

Gardner spoke to a crowd of more than 100 people about the harmful effects of certain household products and identified brands that sell particularly toxic merchandise. She urged members of the audience to restock their medicine cabinets with safer, more eco-friendly products, and she recommended Seventh Generation, Inc. as a resource for green household cleaners.

King, who’s been with the CEC for upward of a year, lectured on environmental hazards such as single-use plastics, grocery bags, and Styrofoam products. She is the founder of Choose to Reuse, a recycling program that’s based out of the SBCC Center for Sustainability.

King lectured on the hugely destructive impact of the plastics-ridden North Pacific Gyre, where a mound of waste-known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch-in the center of the ocean is steadily approaching the size of the African continent. She went on to explain the connections between human health and the plastic waste we generate daily: One million people die a year because of contact with plastic contaminants, and the landfills are getting “very full, very fast,” she said.

King also talked about how the California population throws away an average of 600 bags per second, and revealed that paper bags are actually more threatening to the environment because producing them requires greater energy inputs.

The main premise of her argument, though, was that the individual consumer has the power to make a difference.

“We can’t legislate this stuff away,” she said. “The only way to make a change is to use less. It’s just a matter of remembering and tweaking your habits just a little bit.”

King feels that the audience, which included Mayor Marty Blum, was receptive to her message.

“It’s a starting point, but I think people appreciate a starting point,” she said. “You read all about climate change and these huge issues and you wonder how you, as an individual, can have an effect. But if you start with something easy and small, and build on it, you can really make a difference.”


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