Helping save the world, one discarded pop can at a time
Sophia Clark reached into a recycling bin at Basalt High School after classes Wednesday and pulled out a moldy avocado.”Eeewww,” she said, frantically dashing to the closest trash can.Such is life for the 20 students in the Basalt High School Recycling Club. Helping save the world is definitely a hands-on experience for them.Students under the tutelage of teacher Seann Goodman started the club last school year, and it has taken off this session. Scores of rectangular recycling bins, like those used on curbsides, adorn the high school halls. Students now have a choice to recycle rather than throw away everything from pop cans to office paper.The club only recently started tracking the amount of material diverted from the landfill, so no figure is available yet. But when 475 students, teachers and administrators are involved, rest assured it’s a ton – or tons – over the course of the school year.Goodman guessed that two-thirds of the school recycles, but some club members are frustrated that it isn’t universal.”If you look at the garbage cans, there’s always going to be bottles and cans in there. Not everybody is recycling, that’s for sure,” he said.It’s up to the recycling club members to empty the bins each week into roll-away containers that the trash hauler will pick up. Sometimes it’s messy business. Through ignorance or cruelty, their classmates do some pretty gross things, like pitching half-eaten sandwiches, gum, even moldy avocados in with recyclables.
The young ecologists, not yet jaded by humanity’s failures, figure things will be all right if they just inform their classmates about why it’s important to recycle and why they can’t mix in garbage. They have faith that their classmates will do the right thing once they are educated.Club members took their low-pressure tactics to classrooms last week, making presentations on the hows and whys of recycling.”It’s not like ‘Recycle or die,'” said Dakota Morrison, a freshman in the club. “Since we did the presentations, you can tell how much more people are aware because of what’s in the bins.”Casey McClanahan, a junior in the club, can recite an astounding series of recycling facts in just a brief conversation. The Styrofoam cup that ends up in the landfill will remain buried there for 1,000 years, he said. And unfortunately, that’s where 25 trillion of them head each year.That’s part of the bigger picture of garbage production that motivated him to get involved in the recycling club. “It can’t continue without someone doing something about it,” McClanahan said.The recycling club is led by charismatic junior Trevor Brown, who labels himself the president/tyrant. To promote equality, everyone else holds the title of vice president.
“I’ve always wanted to be on the cover of Newsweek,” Brown said. But he’ll gladly settle for an article on the recycling program in The Aspen Times. He’s the kind of go-getter you can easily imagine landing on the cover of a news magazine some day.But the cool thing about the Recycling Club, Goodman said, is its appeal to a diverse range of students. Organized sports and activities like chorus or Boy Scouts just don’t cut it for all kids. While there are exceptions like Morrison, who is on the basketball team, many recycling club members aren’t “joiners.””They’re not the typical kids who show an investment in extracurricular activities,” said the pony-tailed Goodman, who seems equally capable of relating to his students and their parents.Goodman recounted how one member of the recycling club showed up in his classroom as a freshman very shy and withdrawn to the point of sitting in the back with a coat on and collar pulled tight.Something clicked with the environmental club and coaxed that young man, now a junior, into a leadership role.That’s not an uncommon example, Goodman said. “When some of these guys stepped up, I said, ‘Whoa, this is cool,'” the teacher said.Clark, a sophomore, said she’s always been environmentally conscious because of the way her parents raised her. Once Goodman learned about her environmental ethic, he suggested she attend the club. She accepted the invitation and found an extracurricular activity that appeals to her.
“Now I’m involved in something I’m passionate about,” she said.Membership is voluntary and no credit is available other than the satisfaction of assisting the environment. There is no greater award, said Matt Klahn, a junior.Students who belong to something like the Key Club help certain segments of the community through projects, he noted.”When we help the environment, we help everybody,” Klahn said.Now that the recycling effort is humming along, the club, also informally known as the Basalt Environmental Coalition Planeteers is looking to diversify. A speaker from the Aspen/Pitkin County Community Office for Resource Efficiency, or CORE, gave a presentation this week about depletion of the world’s oil reserves and the inevitability of production hitting a plateau in the near future and then falling. A speaker from Carbondale’s Solar Energy International is on tap for next week.CORE’s presentation inspired the club to do “more than the recycling we do now,” Brown said. Members will launch a letter-writing campaign to U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado to encourage development of alternative energy sources.Since none of the club members is a senior, Goodman is anticipating big things to emerge from the group – in coming school years and beyond.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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