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Establishing a Plastic Waste Management Program

Staunton, Virginia

Featured image for the project, Establishing a Plastic Waste Management Program


The City of Staunton, VA and the surrounding community located in Augusta County plan to increase awareness about the importance of waste stream management, the complete flow of waste from domestic or industrial areas  to final disposal. The responsiveness to environmental impacts of single-use plastics on soil, water, and air quality is a major community priority, as well as the associated human health impacts. Community leaders, including the local Earth Day committee, have outlined 4 priorities:

  1. Organize a project targeted at local support of the reduction and elimination of single-use plastic straws and bags as a critical first step and model for other communities.
  2. Gain knowledge and understanding of the waste management in the community and its impact on the environment, locally and regionally (i.e. Chesapeake Bay water shed).
  3. Monitor and test levels of toxic pollutants and micro plastics throughout local waterways.
  4. Improve and educate the community about responsible waste management and its’ impact on the community and surrounding areas (stewardship).

About the Community

The City of Staunton, VA and the surrounding community located in Augusta County are the focus of this project description. Downtown Staunton is home to Mary Baldwin University. Staunton is also close to the University of Virginia, James Madison University, Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute.

Staunton is consistently on many “top 20 small town” lists for culture, arts, architecture and preservation by such organizations as Smithsonian, Architectural Digest, Southern Living and several travel sites. It is a town noted for its beauty and its nationally recognized main street. Along with these recognition, the TEX community leaders would like to see Staunton appear on top lists of towns that are environmentally progressive and that practice sustainable lifestyles.


Notes from the field: March 2019

These project updates come straight from the communities and scientists we work with. Send your Thriving Earth liaison a quick update + photo and we’ll highlight your project in our next newsletter!


Yasmin Davis installing weather sensors

From 7th Ward, New Orleans: Raising Sensors, money, and trees in the 7th Ward: Yasmin Davis (pictured) and Kayla Frand installed sensors to capture local weather features with ISeeChange. The team was awarded a $3,825 grant from the Tulane Center for Public Service for community meetings, student assistance and more sensors. Images of photoshopped tree plantings were created to gather community opinions in the 7th Ward under community leader Angela Chalk in collaboration with Thriving Earth Exchange, Tulane, Georgia Tech and the EPA.



Comparison of draft 2016 City of Durango emissions vs. La Plata County


From Durango, Co.: During 2018 and early-2019, the City of Durango Sustainability Coordinator, Imogen Ainsworth, worked with local scientists, Laurie Williams and Joanna Gordon Casey to conduct a Community-wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for the area inside Durango City Limits.

In March 2019, after much collaboration, learning and some challenges, Imogen presented draft data to Durango City Council. With the exception of the on-road transportation data, the figures presented are likely to be those that appear in the final report. The draft inventory reveals energy use by commercial buildings and facilities to be the greatest source of emissions, followed by transportation and residential energy.

Imogen is currently working to complete a draft report of the inventory, highlighting results along with actions underway to reduce emissions, and possible future actions. The report will be reviewed first by City staff along with Laurie and Joanna, before being shared with other community members and, finally, published on the City’s website and shared with the public.

Per the City’s Sustainability Action Plan, the inventory will be updated every three years, with the next update due in 2020 using 2019 data. Once the inventory report is finalized, the team will work to document methodology and identify opportunities for improvements in data collection and reporting processes.


Vulnerability to temperature map created by Julia Tomkins M.S. Montana University

From Missoula, Mont.: Student research shows that increasing heat and wildfires will place Missoula’s disabled at risk. Climate Smart Missoula and the City of Missoula Climate Office initiated this project with Thriving Earth Exchange to study the effects of heat in the Missoula urban environment. The heat vulnerability map overlaid socioeconomic factors with heat exposure for the city of Missoula at the unprecedented census block scale. The primary components of vulnerability are linked strongly to communities with disabilities, living alone or low income. These findings will be presented to the city of Missoula committees and full Council, and the team plans to present the findings present at a Downtown Missoula Master Plan session and an Invest Health meeting.


BJ Vaughn representing Staunton Downtown Development Association, Melody Tennant, Chair of Shenandoah Green, Georgi Tomisato, Founder-President of Shenandoah Green and Tim Kreps representing Sustainable Shenandoah Valley.



From Staunton, Va.: Collaboration is key! This project’s goal is to eliminate single-use plastic straws and shopping bags, map and cut back Staunton’s waste flow, measure plastic in the Middle River and tributaries (all of which are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed) and educate the public on the hazards of plastics. In January, the two project community leaders joined forces with others in the community who were interested in the fight against plastic and formed a group called Shenandoah Green. Shenandoah Green had its first meeting of multiple community groups and the local mayor, Carolyn Dull, on February 01, 2019 to discuss resources and the collaboration necessary to develop a sustainable conservation initiative in the Shenandoah Valley.

All updates for this project

Project Team

Community Leads

Georgi Tomisato of EarthDay Staunton is a farm owner in Augusta county and active member of the City of Staunton.  She is a former educator, practicing farmer and community activist.


Fred Blanton, an involved resident of the City of Staunton, is an analyst with Boeing and a Sister Cities International Representative.

Georgi and Fred are founding members of Shenandoah Green, a non-partisan, grass-roots organization, working with local and scientific stakeholders to create an environmentally sustainable community through education and advocacy.


Scientific Partner

Win Cowger, University of California, Riverside  (Photo and biography coming soon!)

Collaborating Organization(s)

RiverPickers Carol, David, Joe, Mark, Marion

The Friends of the Middle River (FOMR) was started in 2010 by a group of citizens who had been influenced and inspired by a conference in 2009, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).  The organizers of FOMR felt that the community of residents who were interested in the welfare of the Middle River needed a collective voice. Since 2010, FOMR has sponsored activities to heighten awareness of the Middle River’s recreation opportunities as well as its water quality challenges.

Our mission: FOMR promotes the stewardship and enjoyment of the Middle River Watershed through volunteer action, education, science, and outreach.