Community Voices - Melissa Thompson

MelissaThompsonbyCarolynBurnhamMelissa Thompson is an Oberlin resident who has made sustainable changes in her home and daily life as a result of POWER (Providing Oberlin With Efficiency Responsibly). She has lived with her husband and three children in Oberlin for over thirteen years and believes that being environmentally conscious is a natural part of being part of this community.

Q: How would you like to be referred to as?

A: Just Melissa.

Q:What words or images would you use to describe Oberlin?

A: Diverse, community, on the cutting edge of new things, doing things in new ways, and being the first to do something.

Q: Could you elaborate on why you chose those words?

A: The diversity is very important to me. I think the diversity is not in different races but in different economic status and interests. There’s a lot of opportunities I would like for my children that I would like them to be exposed to beyond my roof. They will experience things here that they might not get to in another community. Diversity is really important to me. Community because this is a community where I feel safe, I feel connected, I feel like I can have a voice and I feel like I’m really a part of making it better. This is a place where you can really do that.

Q: How is it that you came to live and work in Oberlin?

A: I came to live here when my husband and I moved here thirteen years ago. We acquired this house as a gift from my step-father. Shortly after we got married, he had offered us this house and we moved in. Since then, we have had three children. We love it here and we love that we are here in this place.

Q: Some people use the word “sustainability” to mean actions that enhance/maintain the economic, environmental and social welfare of the Oberlin community.  The Climate Action Plan defines it as “policies, decisions, and actions that meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (7).  What does sustainability mean to you?

A: Sustainability to me means being able to make the environment better. We all have a part in sustaining what we have, and not adding or taking away from it. We can all contribute to making it better.

Q: What actions do you take in regards to sustainability in your own life?

A: We recycle, we try to use limited water, limited electricity, we have had some work through the POWER organization to come and do an energy audit in our home, we’ve had some duct work done, we’re better at conserving heat and energy in our home. Those are the things that stand out.

Q: Was it challenging to make those changes?

A: No, I don’t think so. I think the challenge is actually just doing it consistently. I think you just have to start somewhere. POWER had done a visit in the neighborhoods, and so they came to us and it wasn’t something I sought out, but they brought it to me and it made sense that they wanted to save us money. It really has been beneficial to us in our household.

Q: How do you think sustainable actions are important?

A: I guess this is kind of a cheesy answer, but they make the world a better place. We can do it one at a time, one household at a time. My influence influences, whether it’s my children or my neighbor. Or other people that I come across with sharing things that I’ve tried that maybe they might try. The more people that try sustainable actions, the more our environment is better for generations to come.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to tell your fellow community members regarding care for the environment and respect for nature.

A: I think everyone has a part to play. There’s so much education out there, obviously I’m not doing it the best or as well as I would like to. You know, I think that if you don’t know what to do, find out what to do. We all have a part in making our environment better. It’s not going to change just because we are talking about it. We have to actually do the work, and it’s one thing at a time. If it’s just recycling, I mean, that’s a big piece. If it’s just saving on electricity and water, composting. There are so many things we can do, if we just start somewhere, we can make it better.

Q: If there was just one small change yout think people could make today, what would that be?

A: I think recycling is one thing I hadn’t done for quite a while. We just adopted that in our home more recently. It’s a habit, to not just throw everything all in one bin. Now we can put all our recycles in one thing and we don’t have to separate them. That’s been really helpful to have the trash bins that are separate like that. That’s an easy place to start, that’s not too complicated. Environmentalism really is for everyday folks for us who are working and paying taxes in the community and contributing to leaving something beyond once we’re not around anymore.

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Carolyn is a fourth-year Studio Art major at Oberlin College and is originally from Boston, Massachusetts. She works as an editor of one of the school's newspapers during the school year and is excited to be working for Environmental Dashboard this summer as a research fellow.

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Carolyn Burnham
Carolyn is a fourth-year Studio Art major at Oberlin College and is originally f
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