The Story of Sustainable Roanoke
While enjoying the scenery of the Roanoke Valley on her numerous walks, Celeste Delgado-Libreo became discouraged by the abundance of single-use plastic which litters our streets and waterways. Never one to wish that someone else would “do something” to take corrective action, in 2019, Celeste started a Facebook group called Sustainable Roanoke.
Within a year, the group grew to over 1,000 members. Soon Sustainable Roanoke began conducting community recycling events, at which they collected various hard-to-recycle waste streams. The more people stepped up to assist the grassroots effort to run these community events, the more the group was able to recycle, and the more information Sustainable Roanoke shared about our environmental crisis.
In 2021, Sustainable Roanoke became a 501 (c) 3 non-profit. The size of the events grew, as did the number of recycling streams collected. Sustainable Roanoke is proud to say it has diverted over 11 tons of waste from the landfill!
While diverting waste is laudable, the production, distribution, and disposal, including recycling, of single-use products exacts a devastating environmental toll. The reality is that only 9% of the plastic ever manufactured has been recycled, and more than half of all plastic is designed to be used only once. The recycling rate has decreased in the US while production has soared. Sustainable Roanoke knows we cannot recycle our way out of this problem. Education and advocacy are vital to long-term change. Sustainable Roanoke has empowered and inspired its members and contributors to take corrective action. Influencing consumption and buying behavior sends a clear signal to manufacturers, as does environmental advocacy with governmental agencies.
The circular economy is a myth unless we take local action to fill in the gaps. It can be difficult for businesses to know how to participate in helping the environment. Business behaviors are ripe for change along with the behaviors of the people they serve. Sustainable Roanoke is here, now, doing the work, and is poised to make the Roanoke Valley a case study to resolve environmental issues locally and flourish sustainably.