From healthcare center to Envirocare Central

Reduce, reuse and recycle. The mantra of seasoned environmentalists is now becoming common practice among people of all walks of life throughout South Florida. With its strong international “medical tourism” industry and growing baby boomer population, the region has long been a leader in the nation’s healthcare efforts; now with the health of the world’s environment in a critical state, South Florida is turning its focus to envirocare issues.

In Miami-Dade County, the Department of Solid Waste Management has taken on recycling efforts on a massive scale, offering services to unincorporated community members and 20 municipalities, totaling more than 340,000 households.

Aside from these impressive numbers, smaller efforts are beginning to add up in big ways as consumers, one-by-one, begin using reusable shopping bags, made from eco-friendly materials, and learn how to reduce their “food miles” to lend a hand to the environment. Growing numbers of Floridians, from kindergarteners and college students to working professionals and retirees, are now tracking the distance their food travels from the growers to their plates, including to and from food processors and retailers. By reading food labels, local consumers are now starting to calculate the carbon emissions of each item they eat, which has a huge impact on global warming

While such practices have long been commonplace in Europe and larger U.S. cities, the emphasis in South Florida has been more scattered in the past. In the United Kingdom, for example, people visit their local farmers market for the freshest food, have “veg boxes” delivered right to their doorsteps and take matters into their own hands by growing their own veggie patches in their backyards.

A 2005 study by University of Chicago researchers found that eating vegetarian food is actually more effective in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions than replacing cars with hybrids.

Miami Dade College freshman Melissa Cortina, 18, tries to eat leftovers as much as possible to help conserve the environment by not throwing out food remaining after dinner. “It’s great because you save money that you would normally spend on food as well as helping conserve the environment all at once,” she said.

While people in Miami-Dade County are doing their part, countries all over the world are also increasing their envirocare efforts, especially and most symbolically on the one day set aside to honor the health of our planet: Earth Day.

In India, for example, Earth Day was celebrated by nearly 1,200 children. They performed skits and took part in a rally by carrying signs with slogans and messages about preserving the Earth’s environment. At another event, children presented a “Children’s Clean Air Manifesto” to the president’s wife.

Cities around the world are making streets, roads and special paths just for bicycles and pedestrians. On special days each week, month or year, many cities close some roads to cars and other vehicles to promote walking and bicycle riding.

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