Sustainability in the home: Residents dish on environmentally happy tips

Making the move to a more sustainable lifestyle sure can seem tough on the surface.

Really, it is just the altering of a mindset and actions over time and a constant journey, according to several Sustainable Cherry Hill task force members.

Often times, “do it yourself” turns into “do everything yourself,” Lacey Swartz of the Green Health task force said.

But why is that?

In the olden days, villages had a butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

“You weren’t doing it all yourself,” she said. “You had community.”

Local companies and farmers are key in the journey.

“If I can find a company that does it the way I’d like them to do it, I’m happy to pay them to do that so I can be freed up,” she said.

Start small, with easy doable tasks is Swartz’s advice.

The mother of four with baby number five on its way started with personal care product changes, triggered by the births of her children, before moving into more time consuming upgrades to her home and life.

A friend pointed out the questionable ingredients in the baby shampoo she was using and she soon realized how many toxic synthetic chemicals are used each day.

“That was the first step for me,” she said. “I’m passionate about it being a simple starting point for people.”

The goal is to find products that are safer and to swap out the toxins.

Other habits can be harder to break, she said.

“It’s part of that journey,” she said. “It’s not a linear thing. It’s systematic thinking. Everything’s inter-connected with everything else.”

One of Swartz’s favorite ways of helping the environment is also extremely relaxing on a nice day.

“It’s so nice to go out and hang your clothes,” she said. “At the same time, you’re saving a ton of energy and emissions from the drier.”

Caren Kaufman, another Green Health task force member, met Swartz at an Earth Day festival.

“I’m a cancer survivor and that was my motivation for getting involved in Sustainable Cherry Hill,” she said.

Kaufman was diagnosed with breast cancer in both 2005 and 2008.

Genetic testing came back negative, and she soon learned that only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer has a genetic mutation that can be found.

She became entranced by the concept of cancer prevention by removing cancer-causing toxins, including BPA.

BPA is an endocrine disrupter that gets in the way of puberty, can affect cells in breast as development occurs, is a culprit in infertility in men and women and can cause disorders in children.

It has been taken out of baby products, but “it’s still really prevalent in all kinds of items,” she said.

More attention is being paid to BPA now, but it can be found in the lining of food cans and even plastics, like water bottles.

“The fresher the food, the better,” Swartz said.

Kaufman does what she can in her time limits to eat fresher and remove toxins while helping the environment through re-usable products. Plus, she gardens in a rented plot at Barclay Farms’ community garden and keeps a compost pile in her backyard.

“It’s hard work, but it’s fun,” she said.

Sustainability affects everyone, said Lori Braunstein, executive director of Sustainable Cherry Hill.

“I think the secret is that we’re not really coming to it from an environmental standpoint,” she said.

Instead, the all volunteer, non-profit group, which formed five years ago, focuses on passion topics that can be connected from every day life, such as health, or energy, or future needs.

The group works closely with Cherry Hill Township, Camden County, local schools and neighbors, in hopes to make a direction for sustainability, she said.

Programs take place throughout the year for awareness, often times at the library.

The hope is to inspire residents through the events while gathering people from the region to learn from one another, she said.

“We have tremendous audiences at our events,” Braunstein said. “We’ve really engaged volunteers.”

One noteworthy upcoming event is the Earth Festival, slated for April 27. Look for more information on that in an upcoming edition of The Sun.

Since the group’s conception, members have reached about 10,000 people, she said.

Member Brenda Jorett of the Green Buildings task force, who is also communications director and a planner of the Earth Festival, brings a unique perspective to the table.

“I’m up to my ears in sustainability,” she said.

Both Jorett and her husband work from home.

While working away in their offices, the heat is turned down low.

She puts on a sweater, brings in a space heater, and all in all, conserves a significant amount of energy in the house.

The Joretts also cut back on water use, making sure to not run the tap while brushing their teeth.

“We’re very cognizant of when we run the washing machine,” she said.

The dishwasher isn’t turned on until it is filled.

“You really do have to make a concerted effort to do these things,” she said.

Most recently, she has started to change out light bulbs while installing LED lighting in the kitchen, a more efficient light form.

“We’ve seen our power bill drop significantly,” she said.

At the same time, she patronized a local business for the installation, which is yet another piece to the sustainability puzzle, she said.

“It’s so nice to be able to help sustain a local business,” she said.

With more thought to environmental changes, soon it “becomes a way of life.”

Sustainability resources online

There are plenty of online resources specific to the area to learn more about sustainability. In particular, be sure to visit these websites.

• Visit www.sustainablecherryhill.org to learn about local initiatives or to donate.

• On the county level, visit www.camdencounty.com to learn about going green, area parks and upcoming events.

• Sustainable Jersey gives a wider perspective on the topic. Visit www.sustainablejersey.comfor more details.

Caren Kaufman of Sustainable Cherry Hill suggests a trip to these more specific online resources.

• For help in figuring out what foods to buy organic, visitwww.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/.

• For checking on personal care products, visit www.ewg.org/skindeep/.

• To evaluate the health of an array of products, check out www.goodguide.com.

• Visit http://breastcancerfund.org/ to learn how to prevent breast cancer.

• The “Think Pink, Live Green Campaign” information can be found onhttp://community.breastcancer.org/livegreen/.

• A trip right outside of Cherry Hill, to Mt. Laurel’s Cheyenne’s Road Market, is fun, she and Lacey Swartz suggest. Learn more at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheyennes-Road-Market/102308267576.