The three Rs of environmental stewardship—reduce, reuse, recycle—are foundational in the efforts to protect our planet. Of the three, “reduce” may be the hardest for individuals to implement in their daily lives. Luckily, these Treasure Coast residents are setting some good examples for how to create small habits that add up to a big, positive impact.
Rachael Delekta, board member at Keep Martin Beautiful
Focus: Founder of the blog chasingteddy.com (named for Theodore Roosevelt and his legacy of conservation policies), Stuart resident Rachael Delekta regularly picks up trash around Martin County and documents what she collects on her blog to encourage people to think about the waste they produce and how they can mitigate it.
Tip: “Reducing waste is a process of being thoughtful and making one change at a time,” says Delekta. Follow her lead and take the time to pick up trash when you see it rather than walking on by. Delekta also encourages replacing disposable household items with eco-friendly options like reusable paper towels and aluminum straws to reduce the use of plastic and paper.
Laura Issac, outreach project coordinator at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
Focus: Issac leads Harbor Branch’s Keep the Sea Free of Debris program, which teaches local teens about harmful marine debris through weeklong camps.
Tip: A big part of runoff waste affecting local waterways is chemicals found in sunscreen, which is why Isaac promotes lathering responsibly. “Common chemicals in sunscreen affect corals’ immune systems, reproduction, and DNA,” she says. “Florida’s reefs are getting very sick. Use reef-safe sunscreen, which utilizes minerals rather than chemicals to protect our skin from UV rays—plus, it’s healthier for humans too.”
Mary Jarrell, first-grade teacher, and Rachael Sharp, media specialist, at Warfield Elementary School in Indiantown
Focus: Jarrell and Sharp helped lead their school’s effort to become a designated Green School, a program established by the FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center. “Due to the pandemic, the program ended in 2021, but our Green School efforts did not,” Jarrell says. The school has implemented green habits like enhancing school grounds through vegetable and butterfly gardens, using energy-efficient lighting, sorting trash, recycling, composting, and collecting clothing donations to be reused for local Dress for Success programs aimed at helping women in the workforce.
Tip: “At home, it’s easy to recycle items instead of throwing them away,” says Sharp. “Don’t throw away old clothes—donate them at a clothing drop-off center. Also, Publix has a drop-off where people can bring their plastic bags so they don’t end up in a landfill.”
Jennifer Pelham, county extension director at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Martin County
Focus: Pelham leads training programs via Florida Friendly Landscaping, a statewide program run through the University of Florida that aims to teach landscaping professionals and homeowners how to reduce pollution while still having beautiful landscapes so Florida’s natural resources are protected.
Tip: “The majority of our work relates to reducing runoff and waste, including stormwater runoff,” says Pelham. “Don’t let anything go down the storm drain but water, especially grass clippings and fertilizer, which can release harmful chemicals into waterways.” Pelham suggests blowing grass clippings and fertilizer away from sidewalks, driveways, and roads to avoid drains. “We also suggest composting grass clippings. If a compost bin on site is not possible, make sure you only put lawn waste out during landscape debris pickup—not on regular garbage pickup days—so it does not end up in our landfills.”