Monday, November 30, 2009

Booboo Bunny - Green Roots Activist

. Monday, November 30, 2009

Sorry I haven't posted here in a while. Work and family has been keeping me busy. I've also been busy with the "Go Green" blog for my son's elementary school. I recently learned that many plastic bags such as cereal bags, bread bags, ziplock bags, toilet paper and paper towel wrapping, and much more can be recycled at facilities that accept plastic grocery bags. Check out this link for a complete list of plastic bags that can and can not be recyled in this manner.

As dorky as it sounds, I was inspired to contact a bunch of manufacturers that use these types of bags in their packaging. So I e-mailed all of the major cereal manufacturers as well as other companies informing them that those bags are recyclable and would they publicize that fact on their packaging and website. I advised the to specifically note that they should be recycled at your local grocery store and similar facilities that accept plastic grocery bags. If you just mention that the bags are recyclable, people might put them in their curbside recycling. Most curbside recycling programs do not accept plastic grocery bags. They create havoc at the sorting facility because they get tangled in the machines and jam them up. The bags are also really lightweight and fly out of the back of the truck and become litter. I was disappointed in the reponse of some manufacturers in that they simply wrote back a boilerplate response thanking me for writing and that they would pass my concerns onto the appropriate party. Others did a better job and shared their other sustainable practices. They also said that they would share my idea with their marketing department and their webmaster. That would be cool if these companies made that change. Some of them were nice enough to send me some coupons for their products, so that made my time and effort more worth while.

I've been active with other grass roots efforts as well. I knew from researching the internet that many schools in our school disrtict had some sort of recycling program. I thought it would be great to share ideas amongst our schools and collaborate on larger projects. So I created a Google group to serve as an open forum to discuss these ideas. I also sent e-mails to all of the elementary schools' principals as well as the PTA presidents. I shared all of the great things we've done at my son's school, asked them to share what (if anything) they're doing at their school, and encouraged them to check out our green club blog. I got a response from less than half of those e-mails that I sent. For those that did respond, they gave me a simple answer back but gave me the impression they otherwise weren't interested. But I got some very favorable responses from about 5 or 6 schools. These are schools that are very interested in starting their own green effort and were looking for help getting things going. So my contacting them was very helpful to their effort. I got lots of great compliments on my green blog too.

One of the big changes I'd like to make in the school district is change from paperboard milk cartons to plastic milk chugs. This is because the former is not recyclable and the latter is. Switching to the plastic milk chugs will reduce the amount of trash heading to the landfill and will suplement our other recycling efforts in the school. I had enquired about this with the school district about a month ago and was told that the plastic milk bottles were more expensive than the traditional paperboard milk cartons. I did some research and learned that schools that make the switch have seen a big increase in milk and lunch sales. The increase in sales typically offsets the increased cost of the plastic milk chugs. Schools have found that it reduces the amount of waste generated in the cafeteria by about 10 - 15 percent. This will help reduce the overall amount of trash produced by the school so maybe the school could go with fewer and/or smaller dumpsters. This would result in an overall cost savings. I'm hoping that the reduction in waste hauling services would offset the costs for the school district to start a district-wide recycling program. Currently, most schools do not recycling. Some schools are partnered with recycling companies that collect only newspaper and aluminum cans. This is a free service to the schools and actually raises a little money for them. Other schools, such as my son's, pay for their recycling service. We have mixed stream recycling so we can also recycle paper, plastic, metal, and cardboard as well newspapers and aluminum cans. Our PTA pays for this service to the tune of over $700/year.

The last activity that has been taking up my time is a fundraiser for the green club. I collect cartons for MilkMuny. They pay schools 50 cents/carton and turn the cartons into neat wallets. It's similar to the popular Capri Sun juice pouch brigade that TerraCycle does. The school didn't want students bringing cartons to school so I found a different solution. Every Monday, I stop by my local IHOPs and pick up two to three garbage bags of Florida Natural 1/2 gallon OJ cartons. I average between 40 - 60 cartons a week. I spend Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (before work) cutting the tops and bottoms off the cartons and rinsing them out. I sent my first batch of 300 cartons to MilkMuny about a week ago and will soon receive a check for $150. They will accept up to 1,000 cartons over the course of the school year. We'll use that money to fund our battery recycling program as well as other activities.

All of this volunteering has been very rewarding. I hope to inspire more and more people to help protect the environment.


Mohawk Chieftain said...

You are to be commended. I hereby commend you!