Posts tagged recycle

Reduce, Reuse, Rethink

By Kelsey Klein

Quick: what’s the most recent thing you’ve done for the environment? Chances are, you just thought that time two days ago when you tossed a plastic bottle or piece of paper into a recycling bin on your way out of class or after you were done eating. Recycling is incredibly visible at Bowling Green State University, so this isn’t surprising, but is recycling really the best thing BGSU can do to cut down on waste?

Recycling at BGSU started in the 1980s with a push from a few students in the environmental studies department, according to Gary Silverman, chair of the Department of the Environment and Sustainability at BGSU. These students recognized that recycling programs on BGSU’s campus could not only help the environment, but they could also save the university money.

Institutions must pay to leave waste at landfills. BGSU’s relationship with the Wood County Landfill is no exception. When materials are collected for recycling, less waste goes to the landfill, resulting in lower deposit fees for BGSU. As an added bonus, companies who break down and use BGSU’s recycled materials bay the university for its recycling. The university agreed to funnel some saved money from recycling back into the student run operation, and BGSU’s recycling program was born.

Today, BGSU’s recycling program is alive and well, with recycling bins in every campus building, according to Nicholas Hennessy, sustainability coordinator at BGSU. The university receives $100,00-$130,000 annually for recycling, Hennessy said.

Many buildings, such as residence halls, have multiple bins: for paper, plastic, and aluminum. One material is missing, though— glass.

Silverman explained recycling is driven by market factors—what materials are being used at the current time. At this time there is not a market for glass, leading BGSU to abandon glass recycling because the material is heavy and hard to manage, he said.

Hennessy disagreed with Silverman when asked about the recycled glass market. “I think that there is a demand for glass,” he said. “It’s just a matter of financials.”

Those financials include the high cost of transporting the heavy material in relation to the monetary value of the material. Administration at BGSU has not institutionalized glass recycling because the university would lose money, according to Hennessy.

Groups of students, however, are taking matters into their own hands. Volunteer students currently collect and take glass to the Bowling Green City Recycling Center, according to Hennessy, but this situation is not ideal. The volunteer system sometimes results in unfortunate situations, such as a story Hennessy told where he saw a group of students wheeling a recycling bin down the street in the rain. Because the volunteer system is not ideal, there is student movement to re-institute glass recycling at BGSU.

Janelle Horstman, who is leading a glass recycling effort through the BGSU student environmental group Net Impact, says she is working on finding glass recycling options that are cost efficient for the university. While the university is paid for recycled materials, BGSU can lose money from having to transport heavy glass to recycling sites, Horstman said. Institutionalization of glass recycling will require working out financial problems with the potential program.

Brooke Mason discusses glass recycling in the Kreischer-Batchelder lobby. Photo by Kelsey Klein

Brooke Mason, Sustainability Chair for Net Impact, spoke about the importance of options other than recycling. “Recycling is the last R and I would promote reducing what you use and reusing it before recycling,” she said. Recycling a glass bottle is better than throwing it away, she said, but it would be even better to use a reusable container instead of individual bottles or reuse the glass bottle.

Hennessy believes the three “Rs”—reduce, reuse, recycle –are “in order of importance” as well. Reduction of waste is much better than creating waste that is then recycled, although recycling is better than waste ending up in a landfill, he said.

Silverman used a stapler to illustrate the same point. If a stapler breaks, what can be done with the materials? “Where did that metal come from,” Silverman said. “We had to mine it, we had to refine it, we had to use a lot of energy to manufacture it and now all these resources are in the trash. If we should recycle it, that’s better because at least we could recover the metal. If we could fix it and use it again, better yet.”

BGSU’s reStore is aimed at just that—reusing products. At the reStore, students can trade for things they need instead of buying new items. A shirt could be turned into a book. Shoes could become a DVD. A desk lamp could be traded for a backpack.

Hennessy developed the concept for the reStore after he saw the program at a few other universities. He was intrigued by the idea and enlisted the help of two BGSU students to make the reStore a reality. The reStore is located on the Kreischer Compton-Darrow side of the SunDial dining hall on campus.

The current intern with the reStore, Andrew Myers, pointed out how the reStore involves all three “Rs.” It reduces consumption because it encourages students to trade for used goods instead of buying new goods, it helps students reuse products that other students no longer want or need, and it contributes to recycling through students’ donations to the store, Myers said.

While BGSU is making steps in waste reduction like the reStore, Silverman and Hennessy both believe the university should be doing more to reduce its waste footprint.

“An institution has to decide what its role should be as a citizen,” Silverman said. “An institution can be a good citizen or it can be a not-good citizen. A not-good citizen is consumptive.”

Efforts to stem consumption can begin with university programs, or they can begin with students, but Hennessy believes sharing information about reduction is vital.

“It’s little by little,” he said. “One student learns about reuse and starts spreading the concept to a roommate, a friend… it spreads from person to person, one step at a time.”

Sustainability in the classroom: teaching green

by: Nikia Washington

Environmental Education is currently waiting to be introduced to the United States education system. Recent awareness has drawn national attention and legislation is underway, with the hopes that environmentally aware children will lead to a greener future for our country.

“Will they have pink water suits and waiters?” was the first question sixth grader Gabrielle Aquindo asked when she heard she would be drudging through the polluted Maumee River, with boots that meet her waist and river water past her knees.

Teri Fisher’s sixth grade class at St. Benedict Catholic School will be participating in the General Motors G.R.E.E.N. (Global River Environmental Education Network) program on May 2nd. The G.R.E.E.N. program, which is a partnership between General Motors Toledo and the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments(T.M.A.C.O.G.), gives students the opportunity to explore the Maumee River and its life forms, all while learning about the large amount of pollution it holds.

Students from Jackman Elementary work with GM volunteers during a GREEN project last year. Photo courtesy of Janet Kruse.

“[G.R.E.E.N.] takes them from the classroom and gets them out in the field,” said Matt Horvat, coordinator of the Student Watershed Watch for TMACOG. “Many of these kids have never even been near a stream.”

Horvat, who has worked with TMACOG for the past 10 years, is a supporter of environmental education being implemented into the curriculum of United States schools.  Currently, the United States Department of Education, led by advocates for the curriculum change, is battling to introduce environmental education into the country’s elementary and secondary curriculum. Meanwhile, the lack of the subject raises awareness.

A commonly accepted saying is that the children are the future. But what does the future hold for this world when environmental issues such as global warming, oil depletion, and pollution haunt every decision we make? This is the question many environmentally aware individuals and organizations are asking.

In an article titled “The Concept of Environmental Education(EE)” by William B. Stapp, a former professor at the University of Michigan who is considered by most to be the founder of international environmental education, Environmental Education is defined as education with an aim to produce citizens who are knowledgeable about the environment, its concerns, and how to solve them.

This chart shows that the world's most enviromentally friendly countries all have some form of environmental education.Information of courtesy of

In 2007, a group who went by the ‘No Child Left Inside Coalition’ presented the first national effort to immerse environmental education into the U.S. schools system. The bill, titled the No Child Left Inside Act, was passed by the House of Representatives, but was not passed by the Senate. However, the legislation was adapted by a number individual state governments. The No Child Left Inside movement is still currently active, with over 200 co-sponsoring organization, including the Sierra Club.

“How do we get them [children] excited about coming to school every single day,” said Arnie Dunkin, secretary of the department of education, at the First White House Summit on Environmental Education held on April 16, 2012. “I actually think EE can be a huge tool to doing that.” The United States now carries a dropout rate of 25 percent and possesses a large achievement gap. Some government officials feel environmental education can help to improve these statistics.

Students from Jackman Elementary work with GM volunteers during a GREEN project last year. Photo courtesy of Janet Kruse.

Studies show that students with environmental experiences have better performance in the classroom. Maryland Congressman and environmental education advocate John Sarbanes said educators have pointed out that student achievement sores when environmental education is programmed into the student’s curriculum.

Historically, students who have taken the SAT and ACT have tested lowest in the science section, as reported by

Janet Kruse, coordinator for General Motors Toledo’s GREEN program said, “GREEN makes science and engineering really exciting to them and helps them gain an interest in the science field.”

Fischer, who once taught science and now teaches English and religion, feels that her students enjoy learning about the environment and how they can protect the Earth.

“I’ve never had a kid that felt like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t pertain to me,” said Fischer. “They care about it.”

11-year-old Megan Miller, one of Fischer’s students who appeared meek at first, spoke strongly about the affect she is having on the environment through her everyday actions.

“I think all of us know that when we do help the environment, we’re not just helping one person,” she said. “We’re helping all of us, because if we don’t do that, we’re not going to be here.”

St. Benedict Catholic School, which houses preschool through eighth grade classrooms, incorporates environmental education into their curriculum through their religious teachings, as well as personal passion teachers may wish to share. However, Fischer feels non-religious institutes can also greatly benefit from learning about the current issues which our world faces.

“I think it’s important that we work really hard to let kids know that we all have a responsibility to protect the Earth and respect and protect our resource,” she said. “Because they’re not always going to be here.”

“I don’t think we’ve historically done enough in this area,” Dunkin said at the summit, on educating youth on the environment.

Environmental Education is also beneficial to the future of U.S. students, as more jobs are opening in the field. Deputy Secretary for the Department of Interior, David Hayes, said that in the past year more than 22,000 young people, ages 15-25 have, been employed in environmental environments. Dunkin agreed, as he stated many of today’s and tomorrow’s jobs are in the area of environmental sustainability.

“We have to prepare them for jobs of the future,” he said.

Another positive aspect of environmental education is that it does not stop at the classroom – what students learn at school is applicable to their daily lifestyles.

“I have my own recycling bin in my room,” said Elizabeth Pierson, 6th grade student at St. Benedict in Fischer’s homeroom class. She said also uses the following phrase often: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Classmate Rheanna McDowell says she encourages her siblings to recycle and save energy, and her parents uphold a similar philosophy.

“My family does recycle cans and paper,” she said. “My mom always tells me every day to make sure I recycle my paper, so other people can reuse it.”

While there are many who are pushing for environment in the classroom, there are just as many who oppose the idea of the topic being implemented into the U.S. school system. Funding, political agendas, and overall effectiveness are the arguments naysayers are using.

It was reported by that Representative Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) said environmental education is a special interest topic and it should not be imposed on the education system by our government.

Another common complaint is that the funds, which will go into providing environmental education curriculum, which will be an expensive venture, will be a waste. There is a fear that even with environmental education, students will continue to lead the same lifestyle, doing nothing more to better the Earth.

Despite the criticism the potential new program has received, supporters continue to push forward with strong beliefs that this addition to the curriculum will benefit students and the community.

“America’s great outdoors is the greatest classroom we can have for teaching environmental education,” said Hayes.

Dunkin added, “[Children] want to know what they’re doing in these classroom is relevant to their communities.”

Fischer prepares her students for their river excursion by discussing environmental topics daily, with a specific focus on water sanitation.

“We’ve been talking about the project a lot,” said Fischer’s 12-year-old student, Thomas Brown.

“I can just imagine finding cans in the river,” Aquindo said, completely oblivious to how much pollution the Maumee and similar rivers hold.

St. Benedict is one of the few schools which has already adapted the environmental education plan. Movement towards linking our entire education system to the environment is slowly, but surely occurring. This past week, the first award ceremony was held for Green Ribbon Schools, recognizing schools that participate in promoting a healthy environment. Dunkin believes progress towards green education will soon begin moving rapidly.

“I think we’re on the cusp of something that’s really exciting,” he said.

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson informed participants at the White House Environmental Education summit that the first Earth Day was a sit-in – a form of education. Just as Earth Day has grown into an internationally celebrated holiday, she believes the same level of growth can happen for environmental education.

“If YouTube can make those “Charlie Bit Me” kids famous then we can make climate change famous too,” Jackson said.




First Annual White House Summit of Environmental Education



White House Summit on EE – Part 2 

Catch up on the events of the 2012 Environmental Education week here.

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