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Taking `Earth Day' To Heart

One White Salmon woman mounts a constant effort to show what an individual can do to minimize his or her impact on the environment.

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, people around the nation are being reminded that the planet's resources are limited.

And with shortages of energy and water looming in the Northwest, one White Salmon woman is mounting a constant effort to show what an individual can do to minimize his or her impact on the world's environment.

Kathy Thomas says the little extra steps she takes is her own way of helping make sure the world is preserved for future generations.

"I just feel like I've had so many good things happen," Thomas explained. "I'm living in the United States at a time we have a good economy and a good future, and I want to give something back. I don't want to be part of a generation that used up all the resources and caused the ice caps to melt."

Thomas pointed out that the few extra steps she takes to be less of a burden on the world's environment is not only not a hardship, it is fun.

"What I'm doing is not too unusual," Thomas said. "Everyone concerned about how we can save the planet and use less of its resources can do this type of thing."

One basic item on her list is using a push lawnmower instead of a gasoline or electrically-powered mower.

"I love using it," she said.

And that's just the beginning of a sizable list. For instance, instead of driving a car around, she walks almost religiously.

Following the 1996 death of her husband, outdoorsman John Thomas, she moved from the Snowden area in order to be closer to downtown White Salmon.

"After John died, I moved into town so I could walk more. It was good to be outside," she said. "It makes you feel healthy, and walking helps the bones."

Of course, she recycles what she can, and has a compost bin.

But many of her efforts have gone beyond the ordinary. For example, she has been working on setting up an efficient system to use recycled water from her laundry to water her lawn.

She said she believes figuring out innovative ways to help the planet is just a matter of becoming more aware of what is needed.

"I've been reading some articles about global warming recently, and about ways we can be `Kyoto compliant' even if our country isn't," Thomas said. "I keep my heat at 62 degrees, day and night. And I find that with all the walking I do, my circulation is really good, so I don't get as cold. Also, I try to buy foods that are not so heavily processed, and I try to buy local and in season. We have good food choices here with Mother's Market, and of course Thriftway is good, and Dickey Farms."

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed in the community.

"It's nice to meet a lady who really does something about the problem. A lot of us talk, but she does it," said Rev. David Duncombe, a White Salmon resident.

Duncombe added that more people need to follow the example Thomas is setting.

"The United Nations has a horrendous prediction that the world's average temperatures will be raising by 10 degrees within 100 years. It's really something we all need to think about," he said.

Emissions from the burning of carbon fuels has been discovered to be a key link in creation of the so-called "greenhouse gases" that are raising the planet's temperatures. The emissions contribute to the severe storms and unusual weather patterns, perhaps including the Northwest's lack of precipitation over the last few months.

Thomas thinks it's important to get involved with groups concerned with our future.

She is a member of the Jewett Creek Streamkeepers and is a lifetime member of the White Salmon River Steelheaders.

"They do a lot of good things for the future of fishing in the area," she pointed out, "including raising fish and providing scholarships for students going into an outdoor-oriented field of work."

She added that every individual can make a difference, and it doesn't necessarily require joining a group.

"There are ways to get involved, and choices to make," she explained. "When I went to buy a lawnmower, I had a choice of a push mower or a power mower or a riding mower. I decided the push mower was the best thing for me to do."

Thomas said she believes part of the world's problems stem from attitudes within society as a whole.

"It's unfortunate that money to us is often more important than anything else," she said. "But the most important things are not `money' things. The most important things are what we used to consider free: good solid, fresh water, clean air."

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