Get to know...Heather Drugge, co-chair of the Darien Environmental Group
DARIEN — The environment has always been a passion of Heather Drugge’s, so much so that she studied environmental science at Dartmouth College. Her interest in preserving the Earth has led her from classroom volunteer to becoming one of the chairs of the Darien Environmental Group.
“I believe strongly in the environment,” she said.
The Darien Environmental Group, founded in 1990 as a nonprofit volunteer group, is dedicated to educating residents about ways they can recycle and help the environment in Darien. In the past, the group has helped with plastic, battery and electronics recycling programs. It has also distributed reusable bags to new residents.
“The original mission was broader, educating the citizens,” Drugge said. “Its line was to ‘Think locally, act locally.’ However, we now have issues coming up that are going to hit us.”
Drugge notes the Darien Environmnetal Group is just one of many eco-friendly organizations in town and the group is assisted by the Department of Public Works, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and the local elementary school principals. Much of the group’s efforts are focused on the elementary schools in town, where volunteers go in and teach the students about habits they can adopt to help the environment.
“It’s easier to have these conversations on a kid-level and then they bring it home,” Drugge said. “They’re going to have to become stewards of the environment.”
Chairwomen: Heather Drugge and Christine LaJaunie
Secretary/treasurer: Jennifer Shea
Education co-chairwomen: Cynthia Clough and Juliet Hahn
Members at large: Susie Flaherty and Meghan Howard Sharron
Ex-officio: Beth Harmon
School representatives: Jen Dolce, Jean Graziosa, Megan Kilroy, Laura Pesce-Gray, Lillian Raben and Paola Sardoni
“Through that, you hope to educate the community, going from the ground up,” she added.
Volunteers teach students each year about the benefits of composting and recycling, all as part of the students’ science unit. First graders learn about the Darien Swap Shop where residents can swap items they don’t need for ones they want and the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), while third graders get to tour the recycling center. There are about two volunteers per elementary school in town, leading to ten volunteers. Each school also has its own garden.
“The programs coincide with the science curriculum,” Drugge said. “It’s outside science enrichment coming in to enhance the curriculum.”
“There’s a lot of potential in the schools,” she added. “But each school is different.”
Drugge started out as a classroom volunteer when her oldest daughter entered kindergarten in Darien. Since then, she’s helped develop a classroom curriculum, which she’s seen change over the years, particularly when it comes to incorporating the shift to single-stream recycling. Drugge said the group now focuses on trying to teach the students about the recycling resources they have available to them in town, such as an advanced recycling center and the Darien Swap Shop.
“Being in an affluent area, we can try to manage these issues,” Drugge said. “The kids, they like it. That’s been very positive.”
Moving forward, Drugge said she’d like to see students from Darien High School come in to volunteer and teach the elementary school students about being environmentally friendly, including students in the Advanced Placement environmental science class. Drugge said she’s already seen an interest from her own daughter, a senior at Darien High School, in the environment and being eco-friendly.
“She’s interested in environmental stuff,” she said. “A lot of kids are. They’re more sensitive to where their waste is going.”
For more information on the Darien Environmental Group, visit www.darienenvironmentalgroup.org.