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Ahead of Earth Day, Missouri Coalition for the Environment shines light on local efforts

For more than 50 years, the mission for MCE has stayed the same.

ST. LOUIS — Earth Day is almost a week away and the organization Missouri Coalition for the Environment makes it Earth Day every day.

"We formed in 1969, so we pre-date the EPA, Missouri Department of Natural Resources. We were the first group together in the state. How can we protect people’s health and how can we protect the environment." Executive Director Jared Opsal said.  

For more than 50 years, the mission for MCE has stayed the same.

"We just follow the facts, what are the facts telling us and it allows us to stay true to what's going to best for the vast majority people we are trying to serve and help," Opsal said.

Opsal said the membership-based organization tackles issues through multiple avenues.

That includes legislation work in Jefferson City. 

In this session, there are more than 100 bills they are tracking. 

"Many times it’s confusing and it’s intimidating," he said. "That’s where we come in and show them the avenue how to get engaged and show them their voice matters. The things we’ve been most engaged with recently are around agricultural policy because if you look at the data about a fifth of all global warming emissions are coming from agriculture. It also has a major impact on water and air quality."

They are also adding more reinforcements locally.

"We’re going to be investing a lot more, many more resources into it is the nuclear waste issue in north St. Louis County," Opsal said.

They've been helping for years, but they are doubling efforts to help with the problems at the West Lake Landfill and Cold Water Creek. 

"We're going to be knocking on doors to inform people, we're going to host public meetings," Opsal said. 

Its programs are also a way to benefit the environment.

The Known & Grown program helps farmers create eco-friendly products.

It certifies local farmers within 150 miles of St. Louis. 

They see if farmers are using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, if they are conserving water and if they are doing crop rotations.

If they aren't, the organization has a learning and mentorship program to create eco-friendly certified farmers. 

As a consumer, you can look at its local food locater and find grocery stores, restaurants or farmers' markets that buy local food from the local farmers. 

"It lowers carbon emissions because say you get an apple from St. Louis and get an apple from California, there are fewer carbon emissions because of transportation costs and everything associated with it," Opsal said.

Its gleaning program also assists with food insecurity.

It's a volunteer program, which is now operated by Operation Food Search.

People go in and gather fruits and vegetables after the main harvest season. 

"What they do is take that extra produce and give it away to different communities that are in need of it," Opsal said. 

In order to continue its efforts, becoming a member can be a way to raise awareness.

"I’d say the most important thing people can do is stay informed and engaged," Opsal said.

He also said eco-friendly actions can make an impact in our community, too.

From buying certain products to conserving trips to the store to avoid emissions in the air. 

"Little actions like that can collectively make a large difference," Opsal adds.

MCE will host a series of happy hours called Chats for Change starting May 19.

It's an event to connect with other people, including lawmakers.

It'll be at 725 Kingsland Avenue, St. Louis MO 63130.

If you'd like to become a member, click here.

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