By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
There are few people in Elkhart County more dedicated to the push for sustainability than Paul Steury. And according to Steury, that message appears to be gaining ground in Goshen.
Steury, an instructor with the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, recently talked about this growing push for sustainability during a meeting of the local Green Drinks group at Constant Spring in downtown Goshen.
The group, which is also coordinated by Steury, meets the third Thursday of every month at the downtown bar to discuss methods for making Goshen a more sustainable community.
“This all really started in the mid-90s when I was working as a case manager for men with autism in Los Angeles,” Steury said. “Every day I got to drive through the pollution and smog that hangs around that city, and I got to thinking about ways I could change things. I eventually decided that environmental education would be the secret to figuring out how to get people to think differently. So I enrolled at Indiana University Bloomington and got a degree in Outdoor Resources Management with an emphasis in Environmental Education.”
Arriving in Goshen in 1999, Steury quickly established himself as a fixture in the push for sustainability and green living, taking a job with the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center and eventually being named as president of the Goshen Farmer’s Market.
“One of the main reasons I fight so hard for this is because I have a family, two young boys, and my eldest actually has some respiratory problems,” Steury said. “Could it be those problems are caused from emissions from the nearby industrial park? It could be, and while I can’t point at it specifically, at least I can work at helping educate people to think about reducing their own carbon footprint.”
According to Steury, defining sustainability and green living is really quite simple.
“It means thinking about future generations, and doing things now that won’t harm my great, great, great, great grandchildren,” Steury said. “For me, the key term to use is just ‘think.’ Basically thinking about ramifications of your actions, thinking about how what you do affects your neighbors, and that means global neighbors as well as local.”
Fellow Goshenite and Green Drinker Ben Beyeler agreed.
“To me, sustainability means looking more at needs-based living, instead of whatever I want,” Beyeler said. “We live on an earth that has finite resources, and we can’t live like it’s an infinite resource. Our fuel and everything will be consumed eventually, and we have to be prepared for that.”
A greater push
It appears this message has started to catch on in the Goshen area in recent years — something Steury said is especially true of the area’s business leaders.
He sees a greater push for sustainability, especially within Goshen’s sustainable business roundtable. As many as 40 people show up for it, Steury said. He also mentioned a past visit by Paul Murray of Herman Miller Inc., makers of environmentally conscious furniture in Michigan, who spoke at the Farmer’s Market a couple years ago about issues of sustainability in business.
“I told him point blank, a lot of people are making green things, but they don’t have the ethics to back them up,” Steury said. “He surprised me by saying that he doesn’t care — that at least they’re green, and they’re making a difference. So if nothing else, I see people focusing on that, and thinking about that.”
Steury also sees an encouraging shift in attitudes among the city’s political representatives in recent years when it comes to sustainable living.
“(State Rep.) Wes Culver and (Elkhart County Commissioner) Mike Yoder have started coming to me for information, and I talk quite often to Mayor (Allan) Kauffman and Councilman Jeremy Stutsman,” Steury said. “They are becoming more and more knowledgeable about environmental issues.”
As an advocate of environmental education, Steury said he does a lot of research on knowledge, attitudes and behavior when it comes to sustainable living.
It’s tough, he said, for people to get past a large initial investment on something like solar panels, even though it is clean energy and will save money in the long run.
Still, he pointed to less expensive ways to live green and sustainable that can be done by just about anyone.
“Change your light bulbs to compact fluorescents. I mean that’s the easiest thing you can do, and it makes a huge difference,” Steury said. “Recycle. Bike. Walk. Use the bus. Don’t fly too often. Telecommute if you can. Grow a garden. And most important, educate yourself.”
Become a ‘greenie’
Steury also encouraged everyone to talk to their representatives and become more personally involved in the push for a greener, more sustainable Goshen.
“Call up your representatives — city, county, state, and federal — and tell them your opinion on how you want to aim for lessening your carbon footprint,” Steury said. “And think about living local — local food, local shops, etc. Try and attend local events such as First Fridays, which encourage local business. So much can be accomplished by simply staying local.”
So what are his predictions for how this growing push for sustainability will eventually shake out?
“I want all of my friends to become greenies, and while they’re not all doing it, some of them are changing, and they’re talking to me about it, and that’s good,” Steury said. “I would love if more people would jump on board and get excited about this stuff, because in the end, it’s about our future.”