Goes Out of Her Way to Live Green
Sherri Brouillette, an English professor at Millersville University; knows a thing or two about going green. It was during her undergraduate years spent at Syracuse University that Sherri developed her passion for protecting the environment, advocating animal rights, and gradually deepening the shade of her green lifestyle along the way. Before her college days, Sherri was born and raised in a small town in Connecticut in which there wasn’t even a recycling program established. “Going to Syracuse was such an eye-opener. I came from a town that didn’t even have recycling and the University had such an amazing recycling program. You could recycle almost anything.” Certain items cannot be recycled in Lancaster, but can be in surrounding areas. This is one issue the professor has with the area’s attempts at living green. “A lot of people don’t know this but #4 and #5 plastics can’t be recycled in this area. To do so we would have to drive to York to drop the items off there. I really wish there was a better recycling program in this area.” Those who do not participate in the recycling program may be unaware of what items actually can and cannot be recycled. The following is a list of recyclable and non-recyclable items:
• All plastics code 1-7
• Ice-cream and takeaway containers
• Juice and cream containers
• Cordial bottles
• All empty steel cans
• Aluminum soft drink cans
• Clean aluminum foil and pie trays
• Empty aerosol cans
• Telephone directories
• Newspapers and magazines
• Cardboard, cereal, and food boxes
• Office paper
• Envelopes and office mail
• All empty glass bottles and jars
• Empty milk and juice cartons
• Food scraps
• Plastic bags
• Construction waste (rocks, sand, dirt, etc.)
• Hazardous waste (paint, gas, oil, pesticides)
• Green waste (tree limbs, branches)
• Packaging and packing material
• Paper products
• #4 and #5 plastics
In addition to developing an interest in recycling at college, Sherri became actively involved with environmental awareness on-campus organizations, some of which she is still a member of today. She took on the title of environmental project leader for NYPIRG, the New York Public Interest Research Group, New York State's largest student-directed consumer, environmental and government reform organization. The Syracuse chapter of NYPIG is primarily focused on: voter registration and education, protecting higher education funding, environmental protection, social justice, consumer rights, preventing hunger and homelessness. One of her primary duties was lobbying to politicians about environmental issues such as: packaging and packaging waste, reducing the amount of waste, and awareness of trash contamination.
Another organization she is still very much involved with is PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA focuses its attention on animals that suffer the most intensely for long periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and entertainment industry. They work through public investigation, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.
PETA volunteers assist the organization in their goal of ethical treatment for all animals by attending outreach activities, including local tabling events at fairs and festivals and leafleting, critiquing medical and scientific research proposals, transporting dogs and cats to and from clinics, providing a loving foster home to a displaced animal for a few days, conducting online and library research, and performing various types of office work, such as data entry, preparation of mailings, faxing, etc. Animal rights has always been an issue close to Sherri’s heart and she does whatever she can to help out: “As human beings we are on the same level as animals; we share the same Earth and resources and we need to stop having the attitude that we are above other creatures and be more concerned with animal rights and other environmental issues.”
Sherri is also still a member of the: ASPCA, “the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.” The ASPCA was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world. The main mission is to “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” They work to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws, and share resources with shelters nation-wide. The organization provides local and national leadership in three key areas: caring for pet parents and pets, providing positive outcomes for at-risk animals and serving victims of animal cruelty. There are numerous ASPCA programs and initiatives: the Animal Poison Control Center, Animal Behavioral Center, Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, etc.
The Humane Society of the United States, another one of Sherri’s college groups, is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization. They work to reduce suffering and to create meaningful social change for animals by advocating for sensible public policies, investigate cruelty and working to enforce existing laws, educate the public about animal issues, join with corporations on behalf of animal-friendly policies, and conduct hands-on programs that make ours a more humane world. Their motto is: “celebrating animals, confronting cruelty”. Sherri enjoyed her years at college and is grateful it was such an eye-opening experience for her. She also maintained most memberships of the organizations she was involved with in college, proving her dedication to the cause.
A Vegetarian for Life
After everything you know about Sherri thus far; it is probably no surprise that during her years in college she also decided to become a vegetarian. Vegetarians do not eat beef, pork, poultry, or any other meats. Some also do not eat fish or dairy products. She joined the Student Group Vegetarian Society in which the primary function was promoting vegetarianism and a variety of other green activities on campus. The SGVS held monthly vegetarian dinners open to everyone and even occasionally had macrobiotic dinners. A macrobiotic diet integrates physical, spiritual, and planetary health and is low in fat, high in fiber, focuses on whole grains and vegetables, and is rich in phytoestrogens from soy products. Sherri enjoyed the experience of attending a macrobiotic dinner but stresses that it isn’t something she could do in her daily life. “It’s a very restrictive diet. You can only have a certain amount of particular foods.” Some nutritionists also think the diet is too restrictive because it lacks vital nutrients such as protein, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Energy deficiency may occur in those who abide by it because of the absence of protein in the diet.
Types of vegetarians:
Vegetarians- Do not eat meat, fish, poultry, game, seafood, or any products of animal slaughter.
Vegans: Strict vegetarians who do not eat meat of any kind, eggs, dairy products, or even do not consume processed foods containing any animal-derived ingredients.
Fruitarians: People who only eat fresh fruits.
Lacto-ovo-Vegetarians: Vegetarians, who do not eat pork, beef, poultry, fish, or animal flesh of any kind, but do consume eggs and dairy products.
Lacto Vegetarians: Vegetarians who do not eat any type of animal meat or even poultry and eggs but consume milk.
Ovo-Vegetarians: Vegetarians who do not eat any kind of animal flesh or meat, and do not even consume milk, but eat eggs.
Pescatarian: those who refrain from eating all types of meat with the exception of fish. Usually this type of diet results owing to the demand for nutritional requirements fulfilled by fish.
Flexitarians: Individuals who mostly stick to a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat.
Pollo-Vegetarians: People who eat poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and duck but no other type of animal flesh and meat and the regular vegetarian ingredients.
Sherri practices traditional vegetarianism as another way to advocate animal rights and also enjoys a diet of fresh, organic, foods and produce, doing as much of her grocery shopping as she can at local farmer’s markets. She prefers the fresh, locally grown produce to the alternatives found in grocery stores. “We have such a great resource and asset in Lancaster County with almost anything able to grow in this soil; why not take advantage of it and enjoy fresher foods.” Although most farmers’ market produce contains little to no pesticides compared to their grocery store counterparts, the produce is still not considered organic.This is an obstacle for Sherri who only eats organic produce: “It’s really hard to find organic foods and produce in Lancaster. Sometimes we travel significantly far away to purchase certain foods that I refuse to eat unless they are inorganic.”
An Organic Lifestyle
The word organic doesn't just apply to food anymore, there is actually a whole "organic lifestyle." If you are sitting there with no idea of what organic means, don't feel bad, you aren't the only perso who is familiar with the term, but actually has no idea what it means. In reference to food, organic is used to describe food grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or hormones. The term also doesn’t only apply to produce; there are organic eggs, chicken, seafood, rice and grains, etc. It can even apply to manufactured products ranging from frozen foods to baby foods. Living an organic lifestyle is similar to going green: “a simple, healthful, close to nature way of life.” Below is an extensive list of organic foods including the most recently developed options.
• Baby foods
• Baked goods
• Dairy products
• Frozen foods
• Fruit drinks
• Herbs and spices
• Jams and spreads
• Oils and vinegars
• Rice and grains
• Veggie burgers
Sherri goes out of her away to avoid any products containing pesticides and finds it discouraging that most manufacturers are still using these chemicals in production. One vegetable she absolutely refuses to eat anyway but organic are potatoes claiming its horrible how many pesticides they use in the growing process. She has driven over an hour away to purchase organic potatoes because it's basically impossible to find them in this area. In fact to be considered organic, foods must be free of pesticides for up to 5 years because of trace amounts of chemicals that can still be present. “I cringe when I think about the amount of chemicals present in most of our foods. It’s time for our society to stay we’re sick of it and demand organic alternatives.”
One thing is for certain, vegetarians and carnivores alike can agree that organic foods are more flavorful, safer, and nutritious then non-organic alternatives. This is most likely because organic options are pure food and nothing else. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture proves that mineral levels in fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products have been rapidly decreasing since the 1940s; Pre-ripened picking, longer storage time and increased processing are all factors, so it isn’t hard to see how we quite possibly could be in lacking important nutrients from our foods. Differences between organic and inorganic foods can be seen in observing the lack of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, residual antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides, all additives used in the growing process of organic foods and none of which are permitted in organic foods. Current research also supports the higher nutrient levels. On average, organic crops contain higher levels of trace minerals, vitamin C, and other antioxidants. That’s because organic crops rely on their own defenses rather than chemical pesticides. Therefore the antioxidants involved in the plant’s own defense system will be higher in organic produce.
Top 10 Reasons To Go Organic
1. Reduce The Toxic Load: Keep Chemicals Out of the Air, Water, Soil and our Bodies
2. Reduce if not eliminate off farm pollution
3.Protect future generations
4.Build healthy soil
5.Taste better and truer flavor
6.Assist family farmers
7.Avoid genetically modified foods
8.Eat with a sense of place
9. Promote biodiversity
10.Celebrate the culture of agriculture
The primary issue with in-organic foods is not only the fact that pesticides are used during the growing process, but they are so coated in the pesticides it is next to impossible to wash all of it off. Pesticide residues turn up in not only fruits and vegetables, but also in bread, baby food, and other products. The government claims there are no health risks associated with the small traces of pesticides but many individuals chose organic foods to partake in a healthier, chemical free diet. This environmentalist still practices vegetarianism and oddly enough is the only member of her family and group of friends to do so, "My husband eats meat and my son will eat whatever either one of us are eating; so he eats both vegetarian meals and meat. I’m going to let it be his decision, when he is older if he wants to be a vegetarian or not. He did pick up alot of eco-friendly behaviors from me although he doesn't actively live a green lifestyle, he does recycle and I opened his eyes to alot of things he would have been unaware of otherwise."
Unaware is exactly how Sherri describes most of the population regarding the importance of environmental issues: "I think people are making more of an effort to choose environmentally friendly research but they still need to do the research on what is actually chemical and pesticide free and environmentally safe because alot of products can be deceiving." Just the other day she went to the store for a few items and was surprised to see "non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaner" sure enough when she looked on the back the list of other harmful chemicals was extensive. Another example she told of regarded the usage of asphalt in roadwork. "The old asphalt is just dropped off somewhere and the amount of pollution from it is disgusting. But once again people don't know anythign about this."
This environmentalist doesn't seem to mind one bit that she is pretty much the only person she knows who lives green. When talking to her it is apparent how much she simply enjoys raising awareness for causes she believes in and spreading the word to the uninformed about the dangers of pollution on our planet. At the same time she isn't someone who pushes her views on you or thinks badly of you because of lifestyle choices you partake in. If she is able to persuade someone to only buy organic foods or convince them to recycle those are small stps but they lead to the bigger picture of a less-polluted Earth.
A Deeper Shade of Green
She also only uses chemical free and environmentally friendly cleaners at home although she has to admit they don’t always work the best. “The natural cleaners don’t work as well as the common chemical filled household cleaners so I sometimes have to use both for now, but I have hopes they will improve the cleaning products in the near future.” In addition to natural, chemical free cleaners she also only uses special dryer sheets that are biodegradable in 21 days and found a makeup line called: “Kiss My Face” in which all products are chemical free and non-toxic. She only uses this makeup line and has spread the word to her friends. Sherri believes Lancaster residents are more and more choosing a greener lifestyle but feels a lot more could be done, “People are making a lot more of an effort but they still need to research what is actually environmentally safe. For instance they will plant their own vegetables but use pesticides.” She mentioned her concern for the decrease in recycling practices she sees in this generation. “My parent’s generation hardly recycled and still don’t, then with my generation there was such a widespread increase and it seemed like everyone recycled now with this generation hardly anyone recycles. This scares me.”
Currently it does appear Lancaster County is on an onward progression to green, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact an examination of municipal waste generated in Lancaster County almost 20 years ago, indicated that approximately sixty percent of waste was materials that could have been recycled. That is a disheartening revelation, especially if you are an avid environmentalist like Sherri Brouillette.
"This is the only planet we have so we better start taking care of it now.”
This examination also uncovered that it wasn’t until the 90’s that recycling programs were widespread in the area and utilized by a significant amount of people. During this decade, communities and businesses in Lancaster County made great progress in reducing the amount of municipal waste requiring disposal. Thirty-six of the County’s 60 municipalities have implemented curbside recycling collection programs, while other communities have implemented recycling drop-off systems. Likewise, businesses and institutions have developed programs to divert materials from the waste stream. Collectively, the efforts have resulted in the County increasing its recycling rate from 5.3 percent in 1990 to 32.2 percent in 1997, that’s some progress. But the limitations present in the current recycling system, for example the inability to recycle #4 and #5 plastics still makes it somewhat “behind the times.”
The reduction of waste is a huge benefit with the amount being recycled instead of thrown out from 8,100 tons in 1990 to 29,900 in 1997. There are eight privately owned and operated material recovery facilities in the area that work with the various recycling programs present in Lancaster County. Interestingly enough, Lancaster has made an effort to recycle non-typical items such as leaves, grass, bush and tree trimmings, and Christmas trees. The items are used by other communities by land-applying leaves and grass, grinding up brush, tree trimmings, and Christmas trees to produce a mulch material. It’s like the saying: “One communities trash is another’s recycled treasure.” There is a great opportunity for expansion of recyclable vegetation/ brush especially because of the farmland landscape Lancaster is known for.
In addition to living a green lifestyle, Sherri also enjoys teaching a variety of English topics as well as women’s studies. She has been a professor at Millersville University for seven years. She also likes being outside and takes pleasure in working in her garden. You may be thinking what a perfect opportunity for her to grow her own organic foods, but unfortunately the crops planted so far haven’t really taken off. “There have been a few tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini but nothing too substantial. I just enjoy being outside enjoying the weather,” spoken like a true believer of an “organic lifestyle.” Another one of her hobbies is making pottery and she stresses her primary activity as keeping up with her three year old son, Jack. “I just do as much as I can to live green and save the environment, even if it’s on my own. I like to get the word out there to people that this is the only planet we have so we better start taking care of it now.”