Every day the BSM community is presented with a simple choice: do I throw my plastic bottle into the trash bin or the recycling bin directly two feet behind it? The recycling staff has found that many will choose the latter. Despite the opportunities offered by BSM to become green, its community carries out its days unconcerned by the environmental issues.
BSM’s recycling staff (made up of Chris Ryehle, Karanja Kihanja, David Leedham, Suzanne Miller, Maureen Terrell, David Hochstatter, and their advisor Janet Virnig) works tirelessly every day to ensure a greener community. “What we do is when we come in the morning, there’ll be paper here on the table, and we’ll process that. We’ll go around the school and collect paper in the hallways, the classrooms, and in the faculty places, and then we’ll pick up the bags of cans and dump them into a separate bag that we’ve got,” said Miller.
Looking solely at the statistics, BSM’s efforts to create a more environmental friendly community have in fact made a difference. Just last year, the BSM community recycled 22,260 lbs saving approximately 189.2 trees. “This is my third year here, and I know that prior to my coming here they did not collect cans and bottles; they just collected paper and only in classrooms, and I do believe the volume has gone up,” said Virnig.
However, most of this progress is solely due to the determination of the recycling staff as many students disregard recycling entirely. Although statistics have improved, a majority of the BSM community remains unaffected by the school’s green initiative. “We’ll go into trash cans, and we’ll pick out maybe 10 to 20 [bottles and cans] from kids who actually put them in the trash when there’s a recycle bin right there. And then sometimes we have to take out clean paper that’s already in the trash, and then at the end there will be giant piles of notebooks that are unused that kids have just tossed,” said Miller.
Students aren’t the only culprits. Teachers contribute to the increasing amounts of bottles and cans found in the trash just as much or even more than students. “One time we went in [the teacher’s lounge], and we found uneaten food and open packages of food that were just dumped in there. It was just plain disgusting,” said Miller.
To the recycling staff, this half-heated effort shown by the teachers will only hinder the students’ abilities to integrate into the new green initiative. “The teachers should basically be role models for the students. They should be setting an example,” said Miller.
At the same time, by asking the right questions and adapting the program, the staff displays hope that this care and awareness for the environment can be cultivated. “I think what we need is to ask people to be more aware of where they’re placing things. The problem also is that the maintenance staff decided to pull the recycle bins for all the cans and bottles out of all the classrooms, so this year I think we’re noticing more bottles and cans in the trash in the classrooms and in the trash in the halls,” said Virnig.
Though for now, continuing to disregard the environment not only burdens the recycling staff with more duties, but provokes the question: do people really care? “I think there are a few people. I think there are some kids that because at home they have been taught about recycling they’re conscientious about it, but I really think that probably about fifty percent of the kids really aren’t that concerned,” said Virnig.