Choose to Refuse: Plastic-Free July at Chelsea Retirement Community

Julia Strimer has a passion for the environment. She, along with her fellow Chelsea Retirement Community (CRC) residents, are bringing awareness to Plastic-Free July, a global cause focused on reducing waste and single-use plastic. The 2019 theme of Plastic-Free July was Choose to Refuse. To wrap up CRC’s commitment to the theme, residents were invited to view the film Inside the World’s Garbage. More than fifty residents attended the screening and participated in a discussion about waste, recycling and that we must “choose to refuse” plastic as much as possible.

Julia is no stranger to going green. As a teacher at Trenton High School, she and her students fund-raised to implement a recycling program, to provide every classroom with a recycling bin. To Julia, being environmentally friendly goes beyond Plastic-Free July. Protecting the environment requires a change in our thinking, Julia says. She adds, “to make a difference, we must become people of commitment, not convenience.”

Julia and many other CRC residents are making commitments to lessening their plastic waste and “choosing to refuse.” Residents observed that the area of campus with the most single-use plastics was dining. Residents met with Ann Marie Villarreal, Senior Director of Dining Services, and brainstormed how to work together to lessen waste.

Recently, Dining Services announced their support of Plastic-Free living. Over the past few years, Dining Services has committed to recycling plastic packing from supplies and stopped the use of Styrofoam for cups and to-go containers. Residents and Dining Services worked together to find solutions to single-use plastics in the Independent Living dining rooms. Plastic takeaway containers, for example, are convenient but have lasting impact on the planet. Every item of plastic that we have used is still on Earth. An easy way to lessen your impact is to bring your own reusable container for leftovers. As of July 29, Dining Services now offers brown paper bags instead of plastic bags for take-away meals and is stopping use of plastic straws unless requested.

Although Plastic-Free July has come to a close, there are many easy changes to lower your impact. Julia’s top tips are to have a reusable water bottle and avoid plastic grocery bags. Find more resources about plastic and waste here.

To Julia, it is important to approach the discussion of waste and plastic-free living in a positive way. She believes in building on the legacy of those who came before us. In past generations, there were no single-use plastics. People prided themselves on creating products that were built to last. Julia says, “We need to do this, not only for our children and grandchildren, but to honor the way our parents and grandparents lived.”