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Lifelong North Haven resident Sandy Stetson is one of the forces behind the upcoming forum, “The Plague of Plastics and What You Can Do About It” at the North Haven High School auditorium on Thursday, Oct, 17. (Photo by Elizabeth Reinhart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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On Thursday, Oct. 17, Sandy Stetson will be rewarded for bringing public awareness to an issue that’s of great importance to her personally and as secretary of the North Haven Conservation Commission. With Sandy’s help, the commission will host a forum, “The Plague of Plastics and What You Can Do About It” at the North Haven High School auditorium from 7 to 9 p.m.
Louis Rosado Burch, the director of the non-profit environmental organization Citizens Campaign for the Environment, will sit for a Q&A session after a showing of the 2010 documentary, Bag It.
The film explores the widespread use of plastics in today’s society, its effects on wildlife, the environment, and human health.
“There are some disturbing statistics on plastics,” Sandy says. “The life of a plastic bag is about 12 minutes. This is why [we] pushed for the ban of single-use plastic bags.”
Sandy, along with the six other appointed members of the Conservation Commission, made a serious effort to combat the use of plastics by advocating for a local bag band and for the passage of Connecticut’s plastic bag law.
The new Connecticut law, which took effect on Aug. 1, charges consumers a 10-cent fee for using a plastic bag to carry purchased items. A full ban on plastic bags will go into effect in July 2021.
“I have never been a fan of plastics,” said Sandy. “It’s in most of the food containers these days and the flavor of plastic leaches into food. I like good old fashion glass.”
The prevalence of the use of plastic globally is duly noted by numerous environmental and health organizations.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, every year, an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans—that’s one dump truck every minute. Plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade, and it’s detrimental to wildlife in ways we are only just beginning to understand.
“It’s a worldwide issue,” Sandy says. “You can see it’s everywhere. It’s not where it should be.”
An avid traveler, Sandy says, “I’ve been to third-world countries where there is plastic floating in the water ways. It is sad to see that.”
Burch says it’s imperative to have volunteers like Sandy, to help champion positive change on environmental issues.
“The policy makers [already] hear from environmental action groups,” he says. “It’s critical that they hear from members of the community who take the time out of their personal lives to engage their neighbors.”
In addition to being actively involved in organizing the commission’s annual fall forum, Sandy spends several months planning and coordinating activities for the town’s Earth Day celebration, typically held in April each year.
She makes an extra effort to involve local organizations and schools, to help educate young adults and students on the importance of taking care of the environment.
“Education is important because it helps people to understand the issues better and relate it to their future,” Sandy says. “They see what can happen to them if they are not mindful of taking care of things.”
“Giving members of the public an awareness that their actions have an effect on the environment is a first step,” Burch says. The public “can take really easy steps to change their behavior.”
Some of these changes might include some that Sandy has already adopted.
“I recycle plastics and cardboard, use environmentally friendly cleaning products such as vinegar and water, have a composter out back, and no longer use cardboard boxes at Christmas,” Sandy says.
Sandy encourages members of the community to come to the forum on Oct. 17, to gather greater insight into the ecological impact of plastics and conservation efforts that everyone can do to make a difference.
It is “so important that we are mindful of what we have and what we need for the sake of future generations,” she says.
A life-long North Haven resident, Sandy remembers playing outdoors for most of her childhood.
“As a youngster, I would always be outside, climbing trees, sometimes higher than the boys,” she says. “I would like to see [the environment] preserved for its natural beauty.”
In her leisure time now, Sandy enjoys spending time with family, gardening and traveling.
In fact, “I’ve been to all seven continents,” says Sandy. “I’m passionate about the learning and discovery that travel brings.”
When Sandy isn’t planning her next trip, she volunteers with several different organizations to benefit the North Haven community including Peter’s Rock Association, the North Haven Historical Society, the North Haven Opportunity for Affordable Housing, the North Haven Land Trust, and the Mayflower Society.
“I just enjoy [volunteering]. I used to volunteer with the Red Cross, doing disaster relief,” Sandy says. “It is rewarding. I love helping people. It keeps me connected to the community.”
To find out more about the Conservation Commission’s forum on “The Plague of Plastics and What You Can Do About It,” contact Commission President Hugh Davis at email@example.com.
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