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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Schools and Grocery Store, Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany

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Schools and Grocery Store, Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany
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Registered: December 2009
Posts: 1
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Recycle! Make it a Point!

I believe I inherited my passion for the environment from my Cherokee background. I feel a connection to America’s native peoples; their respect for nature, and their ability to live in harmony. “Recycle! Make it a Point!” was the motto for my community service project, in which I also earned my Girl Scout Gold Award for leadership, organization, and networking skills. I was able to make a positive impact in Wiesbaden’s military community by introducing and establishing a recycling routine for 1,200 elementary and middle school Department of Defense Dependents School students, and by informing commissary shoppers about energy conservation – encouraging them to shop with reusable bags instead of paper or plastic ones.

Wiesbaden is a city with several parks and many trees, as well as some beautiful architecture and which strives to maintain an attractive and livable urban setting. As in any city, waste disposal is always an issue. On the military bases it is even more of an issue, as families and soldiers who come and go every few years are often unfamiliar with German laws regulating the sorting of trash. It dawned on me that inspiring young people would lead to the education of adults. Armed with dozens of recycling containers, a self-made informational DVD and heaps of optimism, I headed out to turn the schools green. My goal was to teach and establish a recycling routine, which would filter through to the larger community.
The first thing I did after coming up with the idea was to brainstorm how to put it into action. I made a list of whom I would work with to accomplish the project, a timeline for the project and a budget with a plan on how to get the necessary funds. This helped me to see my idea in a more concrete form. Having made a preliminary plan, I began with the first step: Creating the instructional DVD to accompany my presentations – at the same time contacting the principals and teachers at the three schools to set up times and places for me to give my presentations. My mother filmed me by the recycling bins in the military community neighborhood, in our home, and even standing in front of the city dump, while I narrated and asked questions that students might have raised themselves. These questions were then answered in an interview with Herr Zeisberger, our local Army Environmental Engineer, who served as a great resource and advisor throughout my entire project. He explained the financial need to recycle; that the Army has to pay more for trash collection when recyclable items are found in regular trash bins. While in the process of editing the movie, I also started contacting the Parent-Teacher-Associations of every school, requesting the purchase of yellow-bag-holders (plastic and packaging recycling) for every classroom in the schools, as well as the cafeteria. Moreover, I submitted a request to the Wiesbaden Army Spouses Club in hopes of getting colorful pencils for every student in the schools with my motto “Recycle – Make it a Point!” engraved on them and enough reusable bags to last me through a weekend’s worth of customers at the commissary. Not only did they approve the request for money; they even donated 50 additional reusable bags! With this success, my project truly started taking shape. Having finished the DVD, I started working on the rest of my presentation. I gathered up household items – tissue boxes, milk cartons, soda cans, water bottles, pizza boxes, magazines, empty paper towel rolls – to use as ‘props’ and stocked up on yellow bags to give out after each presentation. With the money from the Parent-Teacher-Associations, I went out and bought dozens and dozens of yellow bag holders – one for each classroom and the cafeteria. The pencils arrived, and by February I was ready to go – first Aukamm Elementary, then Hainerberg Elementary, then Wiesbaden Middle School.
I went to different classrooms, or met classes in the school library, and gave 20-minute presentations on recycling. I began these presentations with my homemade movie, “Recycle! Make it a Point!” to spark the students’ interest. This short DVD provides information about recycling, particularly in the Wiesbaden area, using a question-answer method, all the while emphasizing the importance of recycling at home and at school. The second part of my presentation was an interactive demonstration of “what goes where” with a hands-on approach showing them the household objects I had collected. After this, the students could ask any questions they had. At the end of the presentation, I distributed the special “Recycle! Make it a Point!”-pencils to every student; each class received a yellow bag holder and (if necessary) a container for paper recycling, as well as a recycling “cheat sheet”. During lunch, I went to the cafeteria to set up a recycling system for milk cartons and plastic-ware. As the students passed by to empty their trays, I showed them where to pour out any remaining milk, and had them dispose of their cartons and plastic-ware in the designated yellow recycling bags. By the end of March I had given presentations, answered questions and installed recycling systems in the cafeterias and was ready to move on to the adult world.

The second part of my project was to revolutionize the bagging system at our local commissary by encouraging the use of reusable bags. I was in luck: the commissary had already started selling reusable bags around November, so when I promoted reusable bags on Earth Day weekend in April, the customers already had an idea of what I was talking about. I purchased about 200 reusable bags and made around 600 brochures (I still ran out!) to distribute on the weekend. As the shoppers entered the commissary, they received a brochure and a raffle ticket for a reusable bag. Every
fifteen minutes we had a drawing and I (or another Girl Scout helper) would announce a recycling fact and call out the winning numbers. Lucky shoppers would come to our little table at the front, all smiles, and pick up their reusable bag.
My Earth Day-weekend-extravaganza could not have happened without a lot of planning and coordination. I made sure to establish a contact at the commissary early on, so as to plan ahead with their schedule as well. I also recruited some of my fellow Girl Scouts – creating a shift list, so that my booth at the front of the store would always be occupied by at least one other girl and an adult. And I found out that I needed the extra help – between making announcements on the intercom every ten minutes, fishing out more reusable bags, handing out brochures and drawing tickets out of a basket, we had more than enough to do for two straight days. I do not think I have ever greeted so many people at once before; and neither had I seen so many smiling faces in such a small amount of time. One man holding a winning raffle ticket exclaimed, “I’ve never won anything before in my life!” It was this enthusiasm expressed by so many people that propelled my project forwards and gave me the motivation to continue and finish my project.

My project provided many benefits to the community. One of these benefits is the accessibility and convenience of recycling provided by the yellow bag holders and paper containers in the schools. The teachers do not mind having the containers in their rooms, and all they need to do is set the full containers outside their doors for collection by student volunteers. Furthermore, it is easier for the students to recycle during snack time, since there is a container in every classroom. The use of reusable bags will definitely affect the entire community. There are many reasons why these bags help the environment, but also us personally and financially (the production of plastic uses a lot of oil – one of the interesting facts mentioned in my brochure). The fact that the commissary itself is selling them makes it very convenient for customers to choose to use reusable bags. As to the lasting impact in my community as a result of my project, I believe both the commissary, and especially the schools will benefit from an enduring impact – the schools are continuing the separating of milk cartons and other plastics in the lunchroom, as well as the classrooms. Hainerberg Elementary fills about five yellow bags a day – that makes twenty-five a week (just in the cafeteria). And to think they were throwing it all in the garbage before! As far as the commissary is concerned, all you have to do is walk in and you see a beautiful green display promoting reusable bags. A glance at the checkout counters and the outside parking lot confirms the extensive use of green bags – a wonderful sight!

Besides encouraging recycling, this project helped me to gain valuable leadership skills such as detailed planning – one of the secrets to success. I was surprisingly organized for the entire Gold Award project. Perhaps I realized that in order to achieve such high goals, I needed to buckle down and do the footwork first – e-mail people, get contacts, have ready answers to their questions, make timelines, fill out paperwork, meet with the principals, and many other things. Another thing I learned about myself that I had not noticed before was that I am very comfortable speaking in front of an audience – I even enjoy it! Whether I was standing in front of cute kindergarteners, fun sixth graders (I did my presentation for about 110 sixth graders in one room, and I not only succeeded in holding their attention, but I also got them to laugh a few times!) or slightly bored and “too cool” eighth graders (my strategy: shock them with scary facts and numbers about recycling and how much waste we produce), I always felt at ease teaching them about something I am very passionate about – the environment.

But the greatest benefit of all is an increased awareness in others and in me. By pointing out existing recycling options and by providing the tools and the know-how to make improvements, I saw this awareness lead to action. It was a privilege for me to experience the development of an idea from mind to paper to reality, then letting it go and blossom in the hands of others. I have come to understand leadership as John Quincy Adams described it: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”


Post-project Interview with NWP:


I admire those who have one interest and are already on their way to achieving their goal. In my case, I have at least two passions I am determined to follow. My goal is to be creatively engaged with the world and its people; either through music or through working to improve our planet.
That is why I plan to double-major in music education or voice performance and environmental science or policy. As an American growing up in Europe I am fluent in three languages – German, French and English. I could imagine a career in international environmental protection, putting these skills to good use, or becoming an environmental educator or communicator, drawing upon my enthusiasm for public speaking and communicating with an audience. But I am also interested in environmental issues in the U.S. and hope to learn more about them while attending an American university. Studying the connection between a culture and its environment would be incredibly interesting to me. I am particularly interested in the Native American culture, as I am part Cherokee myself, and have visited the Cherokee tribal headquarters in Oklahoma as well as the Navajo Reservation during my summer vacations. I can imagine doing an internship among Native Americans; learning from their experience and perspective as well as offering expertise from the university.


I plan to use the scholarship money to help pay for tuition, campus housing or school supplies at the university I will be attending. The cost of attending a university in the U.S.A. for four years is considerable. Although my family has planned for me to attend college, traveling to and from the U.S. adds on quite a load to my family’s financial burden. So I am sure this scholarship will help lighten a part of the load.


I think by encouraging young people to take on projects in the environment the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative is helping young people to develop an awareness and sensitivity to issues around them and drive them to take action to solve these issues. On the one hand, this creates enthusiastic leaders among young people, promoting teamwork among people who share a passion. On the other hand, by getting the youth involved, you are shaping the future for the environment; the more people care, the more will get done to protect and take care of our environment.
There are always people out there taking on environmental projects. The reason we start these projects is because we have an idea and we believe that putting this idea into action will truly make a difference in the world. Recognition from the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative encourages us to continue in our endeavors, but also inspires others to believe that they can make a difference in the world.


The project I completed for my Gold Award and for the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative taught me a lot – about being a leader, having a vision and putting it into action, and also about myself as a person. Throughout the project I was able to stay motivated and hopeful, due to the visible impact in the community and the positive feedback from people around me. My enthusiasm and passion for the environment only grew as I saw others become actively involved in my project. Most importantly, this project proved to me that I can really make a difference in the world. And for me, making a difference – being of use to the world – is one of the most enriching things in life.


We live on this Earth – so far it is our only option – and consequently, we have a responsibility to take care of our environment. We as humans are responsible for forming good habits to use now and to pass on to future generations. Being an active steward also means learning from our mistakes and coming up with new solutions for the future. The environment has been our steward for a long time. But we will not receive the natural gifts it gives by constantly exploiting them; that is why we need to start taking better care and becoming stewards ourselves.
Date: December 31, 2009 Views: 9932 File size: 49.1kb, 98.2kb : 618 x 402
Hours Volunteered: 100
Volunteers: 10
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 12 to 18
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