ANIMALS

Mississippi native works to improve the environment with The Green Initiative

Hannah Simmons
The Oxford Eagle

Oxford native Stephen Ross enjoys riding his bike every day to the parks in and around Lafayette County. If weather permits, he rides his bike to and from work, and it features a basket in case he finds something he wants to buy while he’s out riding.

Ross, an environmentalist, would like to see more people doing the same. That’s one reason he founded an environmental group five years ago called The Green Initiative.

“I knew that if I just sat around, I would feel guilty for not trying to help our planet,” Ross said. “People don’t realize that it is the only one we have, and we have to take care of it, or we will not be able to survive here anymore.

“I love when I see the students riding their bikes to class. I think the more people we get riding their bikes – not only to class, but to work as well – will help the traffic around this area, and of course, the environment.”

The Green Initiative has about 35 members, and it has grown through word of mouth. The group meets once monthly to discuss things they can do around Oxford. Some are as simple as helping spread the word about keeping the Earth clean.

They also plan days to ride bikes around Lafayette County, and while doing so, they clean up any trash they see.

“I want to start planning our first big event,” Ross said. “I want to start reaching out to people who maybe want to join a group for the environment, but haven’t yet found what they are looking for. That is out next big goal.”

Adam Stevens, another group member, said he will plan the event.

“I love helping the environment, and that is why I joined this amazing group that Stephen created,” he said. “I want the event to be an opportunity for people to voice their opinions and ideas for what we can do to help change the world. We need to get people to realize that every little thing they do can help conserve the Earth.”

Ross it would be best to let Stevens plan the event so he can continue to lead the group’s monthly activities.

Ross said his wife, Andrea Ross, helps plan group activities.

“She is the best with planning, so she and I together make a great team and end up with really fun activities for the whole group,” he said.

Andrea Ross said her husband has influenced her to become more active.

“He even got me riding bikes with him almost everyday,” she said. “I love what he stands for, and it is also great exercise.”

Ross said he has always enjoyed the outdoors.

“I think the passion for nature started when I was just a kid,” he said. “My friends and I would play outside all day. We would play for hours on end, and I was always the last one who wanted to go inside.

“Many times, my mother would make me come inside, whether it was dinner time or I had to do homework. She did not make me come inside if it started raining, but if it was a thunderstorm, I had to sit on the porch, for safety reasons obviously.”

When Ross got older, he said he became more passionate about the environment and saw changes happening in the world.

“I know that Oxford, Mississippi, is small in the grand scheme of things, but you have to start small in order to have something to build on, and that is what I am trying to do,” he said.

Ross said he did not want his grandchildren or great-grandchildren growing up in a world where they could not go outside and have fresh air.

“I started small by recycling anything I could and getting a water bottle that was not plastic, so I could keep refilling it,” he said. “It kind of just grew from there. My wife joined me soon after and we haven’t stopped since.”

Ross said he likes to get his grandchildren outside as much as possible so they aren’t playing on their phones all the time.

“I want them to enjoy nature and see what the Earth offers them,” he said. “I want them to appreciate nature the way that I do.”

Ross hopes they’ll one day lead the group and be environmentalists.

“My grandkids and The Green Initiative is all I need, because with that, I know my grandkids will have a safe and healthy place to live,” he said.

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