OPL Spotlight: Lesley Dennison Shares Tips from her Sustainability Journey

OPL Spotlight: Lesley Dennison Shares Tips from her Sustainability Journey

Lesley’s First Tip: Everybody’s Sustainability Journey Looks Different. Choose Joyful Changes that Work for You.

Lesley Dennison, Head of Product Development, joined the One Planet Life team near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was already looking for something new, feeling burned out from her role in software consulting.

“I spent the first part of my career testing software, bouncing from project to project,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to break out of that a little bit. So when there was an opportunity to take over the whole app development process – from finding  design and development agencies to building the app from the ground up – it was a chance that I jumped on.”

Sustainability has always been in the back of Dennison’s mind, but it wasn’t until joining the One Planet Life team that she felt empowered by making changes in her own life.

“Personally, I never felt like the things that I did would actually make a difference,” she said. “When I joined OPL and Lorie [Buckingham, Founder] and I started actually talking through the data of some of these joyful changes, it was like, wow I can actually make a huge difference just by cutting down the amount of beef that I eat – and that’s just me alone.”

Having data that showed just how much of an impact these changes can make was a huge inspiration for Dennison to actually take it seriously.

In fact, One Planet Life helped Dennison shift her perspective to what was really important in her own eco-journey.

“Joining OPL was a big wake-up call for me to just look at things like my food consumption, like trying to eat what I have in the pantry before it expires,” she said. “For example, I try to have weeks where I challenge myself to make lunches using only the things in my pantry and fridge. You can come up with a lot of creative meals when you look at what you have with a critical eye!”

Lesley also mentioned that after compiling a huge backlog of makeup and skincare products, she’s focusing on trying to use those things up before buying anything new.

Consuming less in the first place and taking care to extend the life of products already at home has become a big part of Dennison’s journey.

Making sure to properly follow washing instructions to extend the life of her closet, as well as reusing the plastic containers she already has in her kitchen instead of buying new ones, have been simple changes that can save time, money, and emissions.

“A lot of people think that to live a really sustainable life, you need to throw out everything wasteful and buy all new, sustainable stuff,” she said. “Those things are great, and you should aim to replace things with sustainable alternatives when they wear out.”

A Buy Nothing Project group in Dennison’s Atlanta neighborhood has helped reduce consumption.

The Project is considered a “Benefit Corporation, tasked by legally-binding charter with performing a public good,” according to their website. At the time of this publication, the Buy Nothing Project boasts over 7 million members across more than 128,000 communities worldwide.

“It’s a really great way to meet other people in your community that are like-minded,” she said. “You might be surprised by the wide variety of things people offer and the things people end up needing. Sharing and borrowing are great ways to consume less. There might only be a need for one leaf blower on your street instead of every family having their own.”


Celebrating more of a “lending economy” helps cut down on unnecessary purchases, therefore cutting excessive waste. Dennison’s local group has grown big enough that they’ve splintered off new groups.

Another great sustainability resource is the local library – and for reasons above and beyond what you may immediately think.

“One of the other things that I am very passionate about when it comes to sustainability is the library,” Dennison said. “You can find me at the library at least once a week checking out books, but there is so much stuff that the library offers that a lot of people don’t know about. My library has passes to local museums that you can check out for the day; the one in my hometown has a whole maker area with 3D printers, and I’ve heard of others where you can check out things like fishing rods and power tools.”

Eco-friendly living isn’t always easy, though.

One aspect of Dennison’s journey that’s been a challenge is recycling. Hopelessness crept in when she realized just how much recycling gets thrown away from contamination. But through a little bit of research, she learned of some helpful local resources to combat the problem.

Every month or two, Dennison makes the trip to a center for hard-to-recycle materials. Locals can drop off items such as glass, chemicals, old mattresses, and flimsy, single-use plastics. 

“It’s free, and it’s easy,” Dennison said. “You just drive around, drop off all your stuff, and you know that it’s getting disposed of properly.” 

In addition to recycling, Dennison has also started implementing composting in her home.

“Because we live in an urban area, we use a composting service,” she said. “I think we’ve been doing an okay job, but when you’re in a rush at the end of the day, trying to make dinner, it’s a lot easier to just dump things in the trash than to separate them and deal with them with care. We’re trying to be a lot better about actually doing the work. It gets easier every time, every week that you do it. That’s a big focus for us.”

That’s the great thing about making Joyful Changes and sticking with them – they can become Lifestyle Habits. Establishing a routine can really help make the transition to sustainable living easy. With the One Planet Life App, you can see, in real-time, just how many emissions are saved through these individual Joyful Changes. This data is a huge aspect of what encourages Dennison on her sustainability journey. 

Realizing that the path to sustainable living varies from one person to the next is also important to keep in mind.

“I think the other lightbulb moment I had was that everybody’s eco-journey looks different,” Dennison said. “It’s okay to start really small and find the things that are true for you. Maybe it’s not realistic for you to become a vegetarian because your kids are picky eaters and that’s okay. But maybe you work from home, and that makes a huge difference because you’re not driving. Just starting small and finding something that works for you – you can make a big difference that way.”


The staff at One Planet Life are serious about sustainable living. That’s why we decided to share the struggles and successes of our individual sustainability journeys. We will share tips directly from our team members, curated through authentic personal experience. We hope that by sharing our stories, we can help foster a community committed to helping each other – and the planet!

Read about One Planet Life Founder Lorie Buckingham’s sustainability Journey.

Read about One Planet Life Master Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer’s sustainability Journey.

Read about Kristina Shane’s eco-journey and how she manages to bring the family along.

The Florida Everglades Great Carbon Sink is in Trouble

The Florida Everglades Great Carbon Sink is in Trouble

Carbon sinks are naturally occurring or artificially created reservoirs that absorb more carbon-based compounds than they release.

Sinks are a vital component in combating greenhouse gases because they absorb carbon dioxide, trapping it into the biomass of the environment, a process known as biological carbon sequestration.

The world’s greatest carbon sinks are found in Earth’s oceans, forests, and grasslands.  But there’s another important and unique carbon sink found right here in my backyard – the Florida Everglades – and it’s in trouble.

The Florida Everglades is one of the largest subtropical wetlands on the planet. 

It once stretched 60 miles wide and 100 miles long, a dappled group of ponds, sawgrass marshes, mangrove forests, and hardwood hammocks that became collectively known as the “river of grass.”  This shallow, slow-flowing river begins at the Kissimmee River, flows to Lake Okeechobee, and then seeps down to the Florida Keys.

Initially seen as a waste of land by developers, efforts began in the late 1800s to drain the Everglades by digging an intricate series of canals, converting large tracts of land for agricultural use.  A railroad system was constructed, and as more and more people flocked to the coastal area, more and more roads, bridges, and canals were built, resulting in significant damage to the natural ecosystem that had been in place for thousands of years.  As the Everglades slowly diminished in breadth, less carbon sequestration occurred, and the natural carbon sink slowly became less effective.

The Everglades as a Carbon Sink

Carbon sequestration occurs differently depending on the ecosystem.  So what makes the Everglades an effective carbon sink, and how does it work?

Mangrove forests, sawgrass, and other wetland plants excel at capturing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and storing it deep in the root systems underwater, locking the carbon securely in the soil bank.  Wetland plants also harbor sediment from decaying plants and animals. Due to the particularly wet nature of the Everglades, microbes decompose at a slower rate, which allows the carbon-rich peat soil to absorb large quantities of carbon and prevent it from being released into the atmosphere during decomposition.  

According to the Everglades Foundation, “The peat in the Everglades isn’t just a stockpile, it’s a goldmine made up of 30 to 45% carbon. In the Water Conservation Areas, for example, the peat soils have carbon stocks equivalent to 70 million homes’ energy consumption for a year. The mangrove forests along the coast are another profitable account, sequestering and storing lucrative amounts of carbon valued at nearly $3 billion.” That’s huge for mitigating carbon emissions!

Source: The Everglades Foundation

Unfortunately, the Everglades continues to shrink.

Pollution, a reduction in available fresh water, diminishing native wildlife who are thwarted by climate changes and invasive species (such as the human-introduced Burmese python), and most significantly, continued drainage and land development by humans are all factors in deminishing the Everglades.  As drainage occurs and peat soil is exposed to air, it becomes dry, decomposes, and eventually blows away, reintroducing carbon back into the atmosphere.  Mangroves continue to be threatened by rising sea levels and artificial flood control systems. 

Failure to protect and restore the Florida Everglades may have a catastrophic effect on the environment: not only would the Everglades become less able to absorb new carbon, but dry peat soil would actually release more previously-stored carbon into the environment.  If this should occur, it would only compound the effects of global warming. 

Hope on the Horizon

Today, over half of the original Everglades expanse has been lost, and native wildlife has greatly diminished.  However, thanks to the Friends of the Everglades, founded in 1969 by journalist and activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and other groups like The Everglades Foundation, efforts have been made to protect and restore the Florida Everglades.  These foundations are passionate about influencing political discourse, supporting scientific research, and spreading awareness through education. The Everglades Foundation specifically provides free learning materials to the public and to school districts to support new generations of advocates.

So now you know a little more about the carbon sink in my backyard.  What natural wonders are in yours?

Kristina Shane
Written by Kristina Shane OPL Content Contributor and Editor
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