Registered: December 2011
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I grew up in a Maryland suburb of Washington D.C., which had much to offer in the recycling field. I remember filling the bright blue bins with recyclables, dragging them out to the curb, and watching them get emptied, a weekly ritual. Then, my family moved to a small, very rural town in southern North Carolina when I was ten years old. There was not a single blue bin in sight, and absolutely no one recycled. My parents would hoard our recyclables in our garage and empty them every time we would go to Raleigh, which was an almost two hour drive from our new home.
My mother was so excited the day my town finally got a recycling drop off bin a few years ago, the only one in the county. Even though we now had a place to recycle, no one in the town was using it. We spread the word to many of our friends, and a few people finally began utilizing it. I was active in Girl Scouts and decided to encourage people to recycle for a project.
I started off small at first. Many people at my high school would buy bottled water or Gatorade at lunch every day, and all of the plastic bottles would end up in the trash. I began collecting my friends’ bottles every day, and I took them home to add to our recycling bin. After a few months of this during my freshman year of high school, people started seeing what I was doing and would come up and give me their bottles. My backpack would be stuffed to the brim with these bottles every day. By my senior year, I needed to bring a reusable bag to school for my growing collection. When people in the halls asked about it, I used it as an opportunity to tell them about the benefits of recycling, and soon I became known around school as “Mother Nature.” Much to my delight, many of my friends began following my example and started taking bottles home to recycle.
My next step was to visit an elementary school. I taught the children about reusing, reducing, and recycling. Most of them had never heard about recycling and only a few recycled at home, so I instructed them on what and where they could recycle, as well as why it is necessary to help the environment. I passed out little leaflets with information for them to take home to their parents, and all the children were enthusiastic to start their recycling collection at home.
At my church, I placed a basket at the back of the sanctuary for people to drop off their paper bulletins after the service, and it would be overflowing when I collected them each Sunday. I made posters with leaflets attached around various places in my town, and I had a booth with one of these posters during our local Christmas parade. Most of the people that I spoke to were curious about recycling, because they had not heard a lot of information about it before. Soon, a new recycling collection bin was added to a more central location in town, and more and more people began using it, much to my delight.
Another part of the project was an annual clean-up day at our local river. My biology teacher told my class about it, and I helped round up my classmates to help out. Fourteen of my eighteen classmates came that day, and we waded all morning in murky puddles, filling numerous bags with trash and recycling to help clean up the river. One other activity I did with my biology class was decorating our classroom door. My high school has a contest every year for the best decorated door at Christmas. All of the decorations we used for our door were recyclable, such as can tabs, plastic bottles, newspaper, and cardboard, and the message on the door was “Rejoice, Reuse, Recycle” to help encourage recycling in the Christmas spirit.
Throughout the rest of my senior year, I collected recyclables at every event I attended. My Science Olympiad team competed twice, and every time there was a plethora of canned and bottled drinks. I made signs to encourage everyone to recycle in a designated bag, and I was able to collect all of the recycling both times.
The greatest reward I have obtained from my on-going project is not when I am able to save recycling from being thrown away; it is when I see people that I have taught and encouraged take the initiative to recycle. I am now a freshman in college, and I am still doing new projects to help the environment. In my English class, I wrote an essay about the benefits of recycling and clean energy, and I am now pursuing a minor in Environmental Sustainability to further my education on how to help the future of recycling and saving our planet.