Born on EarthDay: Desiree DiFranco
In approaching the question, "How did you become interested in environmental issues?" most peoples' answers involve a specific event or time in their lives. But, my easy answer is that I was born an environmentalist. That's not to say that my parents were particularly interested in environmental issues, but rather that my birthday just so happens to be Earth Day.
I can't remember ever not caring about the planet. If I had to pinpoint an exact time, then my environmental awareness and dedication truly took hold around the age of eight.
In third grade, I was Mother Earth for Halloween. I don't know how I came up with this idea, but my mom supported me by adapting a pumpkin pattern in order to make me a planet costume. My parents also gave me a book titled, "101 Things a Kid Can Do to Save the Planet." I studied it and implemented what I could do.
One tip that stood out to me was to recycle so I badgered my parents until they did, and if they forgot I would take the item from the trash, bring it to them and hold it up saying, "This belongs in the recycling bin!" They may have gotten a little exasperated but were pretty good natured about it. It wasn't long before recycling became a part of the household. I have since learned that although recycling is important, it is actually low on the 4Rs hierarchy. My mom was particularly sad to learn the plastics are actually downcycled – in particular that the water bottles she buys will never become new bottles. This is why "reduce" is number one R. Unfortunately it is a much it is a more difficult behavioral change, but I am optimistic.
Working at the Ed Center and teaching students who are around the same age I was when I started my environmental career has been a wonderful experience. I can only hope that their parents are as supportive and willing to learn as mine are. And, perhaps one day when they are asked as adults how they became environmentally aware, they may answer, "Well, when I was in fourth grade, I went on this really cool field trip ..."
Desiree DiFranco is an Environmental Education Associate in the iRecycle@School program.