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They're easy on the Earth
In honor of Earth Day, here's how four Fredericksburg-area residents are helping protect the planet

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photos by CHRISTOPHER WEHLING/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 4/22/2008

By KIM BAER

Today is the 38th annual Earth Day.

It began as a grassroots effort to raise awareness of the need to improve the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In honor of the day's grassroots beginnings, we're sharing stories of some Fredericksburg-area residents who are helping the planet.

Kim Baer: 540/368-5028
Email: kbaer@freelancestar.com


Janice Phillips recently made pies for a social function at Heartfields Assisted Living, and she used aluminum pans.

After the event, Phillips' friend Marie Jones began gathering the pans and washing them so they could be recycled.

"We didn't get away with a thing," Phillips said with a laugh.

Not that Phillips was surprised. She knows that Jones, 84, is a dedicated recycler.

Janice and her husband, Randy Phillips, befriended Jones about two years ago, when they started Bible study classes at Heartfields.

They aren't the only ones who are aware of Jones' dedication to recycling.

Many residents of the southern Stafford County center know to leave their newspapers outside Jones' doorstep.

Jones also collects newspapers from the center's common areas at night and will often pick up glass bottles, cans and other recyclable items after events.

In Jones' room recently were two piles of newspapers separated into plastic bags and neatly stacked about three feet high.

Her daughter, Sharon Stamps of Stafford, takes them to be recycled.

Stamps recalled her mom gathering newspapers, cans and other recyclable items in the 1960s, when doing so was more unusual.

The recycling spirit has rubbed off. Stamps said she recycles, too. Her son takes reusable cloth bags to the grocery store.

"So it's going to another generation," she said.

Jones doesn't make too much of her efforts.

"It just comes naturally, I guess," she said.

But Randy Phillips couldn't help bragging about her a bit.

"She's a wonderful lady."

Michelle Magrino has found her passion in combating litter. She likes to call it her "trassion."

Here's how she found it:

Magrino, her husband, Chris, and their three children moved to Stafford County's Leeland Station subdivision in 2006.

She and her husband were shocked to see the amount of trash that lined Leeland Road, which leads to a regional landfill on Eskimo Hill Road.

Magrino complained about it to friends and family and called the Virginia Department of Transportation to complain about it to officials there, too. Then she realized she needed to stop complaining. She needed to do something.

At a meeting of the Leeland Station Book Club, she asked fellow members if they would be willing to adopt a stretch of the road through VDOT's Adopt-A-Highway program. Almost everyone's hands went up.

Members of the book club go out every three months to pick up trash. They don orange vests provided by VDOT, pick up the trash with gloves and put it into large orange bags.

The group has had five cleanups since January 2007. They picked up 980 pounds of trash during their last cleanup weekend.

Magrino is glad to know she's making a difference.

She knows it when she looks along the stretch of road the club has adopted and and sees less trash.

She knows it when she sees her 9-year-old daughter get excited about picking up litter, too.

"We're planting the seed that it's cool to do this."

Juli and James Rasure have taken several steps over the years to become more environmentally friendly.

The Rasures installed french drains, which direct water from their downspouts to water the yard of their Spotsylvania County home.

They also collect "warm-up" shower water in a 5-gallon bucket, which they use to water their plants.

Here are some other ways they help protect the planet: They use newspapers to suppress weeds in their garden beds; reuse yogurt cups as pudding cups; use cloth bags at the grocery store; and reuse gift wrap and plastic bags.

These efforts helps their pocketbook, too.

Juli Rasure said she saves $30 to $40 by using newspapers under the mulch in her garden beds instead of buying a plastic weed barrier.

The Rasures don't let their food scraps go to waste, either.

They built a compost bin this winter. Their children, Jordan, 10, and Josh, 6, are responsible for taking the food scraps out to the bin.

The children also help grow vegetables in the family's 16-foot-long garden patch.

Juli Rasure would like to do even more, she wrote in an e-mail.

"We are looking forward to building our 'green' house."

Jon and Karen Blakemore's new home will have an earth-friendly seal of approval. Jon Blakemore, who owns a home construction and remodeling business, was recently certified in EarthCraft construction techniques.

EarthCraft is a certification program that emphasizes proper insulation, solid airsealing, and the use of Energy Star appliances, according to EarthCraft Virginia's Web site at ecvirginia.org.

Blakemore is building the family's southern Stafford County home using what he learned. But building earth-friendly homes isn't the only step this family takes.

Karen Blakemore has a vegetable garden, composts and buys compact fluorescent bulbs. She's shopped at garage sales and participates in a Freecycle group.

"Our overall mindset is to reduce, reuse, and recycle," she wrote in an e-mail.

About five years ago, Sam Overman was picking up a meal from a fast-food restaurant when he noticed a 5-gallon bucket filled with pickle slices.

He realized that most fast-food restaurants likely got their pickles in the buckets.

Months later, he thought about that pickle bucket again. It hit him that these buckets were most likely being thrown into landfills.

This bothered him.

The next time he was at the King George County restaurant, Overman asked the manager to set aside the empty pickle buckets. He's been collecting them from that restaurant ever since.

He takes the buckets to the Opp Shop about once a week--but only when he happens to be near the King George charity thrift store. Employees there use the buckets to store and tote donated items.

Overman estimates he's saved 150 to 200 buckets from landfills.

He's gotten others on the pickle-bucket-rescue bandwagon as well.

He calls his effort The International Pickle Bucket Rescue League and he has a Web site, geocities.com/sm_vermn/bucket, where others can learn more.

He's also posted information about rescuing pickle buckets on freecycle.org Web sites across the country.

Overman finds motivation to help protect the planet in his own backyard.

Machodoc Creek runs behind his home. Years ago, he wrote, he would often steam and eat blue crabs that he'd caught in that creek.

But there are so few crabs in the creek now that he doesn't even bother.

"Every day I am reminded why we need to do whatever we can to clean up the environment."