2017-03-02 / Life in Leelanau

Eco Heroes

Glen Lake students spearhead recycling program, reduce school’s landfill waste
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


GLEN LAKE Envirothon and Students for World Awareness have launched a recycling effort believed to be the only one of its kind in the county and region. Pictured (back row, from left) Gus Slack, Grace Muma, LuAnne Dreves, Ina Vander Werff, Mallory Lund, Klara Teubner, Emma Karagas-Spencer, Ethan Gleason, Caleb Gleason and Stephanie Purifoy; (front row, from left) Lanita Dreves, Cathy Daniel, Annie Lively, Annabel Skrocki and Drake Parker. GLEN LAKE Envirothon and Students for World Awareness have launched a recycling effort believed to be the only one of its kind in the county and region. Pictured (back row, from left) Gus Slack, Grace Muma, LuAnne Dreves, Ina Vander Werff, Mallory Lund, Klara Teubner, Emma Karagas-Spencer, Ethan Gleason, Caleb Gleason and Stephanie Purifoy; (front row, from left) Lanita Dreves, Cathy Daniel, Annie Lively, Annabel Skrocki and Drake Parker. Once a week, Annabel Skrocki gives up part of her lunch period to help make the world a cleaner and greener place.

She is one of 15 Glen Lake High School students in two different organizations who have come together to launch a recycling program to streamline the flow of materials going to the landfill.

“We started talking about it last year when we were juniors, but we got too busy,” said Skrocki, vice-president of Glen Lake’s Students for World Awareness (SWA). “This year, we decided to crack down and get it going.”


INA VANDER WERFF, left, helps her classmates separate waste for recycling in the Glen Lake School cafeteria. INA VANDER WERFF, left, helps her classmates separate waste for recycling in the Glen Lake School cafeteria. SWA coupled with students from Glen Lake’s Envirothon team and the groups have been recycling lunch waste since early January.

It’s the only effort of this kind in Leelanau County and here’s how it works:

At the west end of the cafeteria, there are two, lined 60-gallon containers — one for plastic silverware, Styrofoam and paper and the other for food scraps. Student-designed posters mark each container and student volunteers from the two groups help “educate” their classmates, monitoring materials deposited there.

Each lunch period generates about one 60-gallon container full of recyclables, which students take out to a designated recycling bin.

“It fills up quickly. The only items we can’t recycle are things made of mylar, such as granola wrappers or potato chip bags,” Skrocki said.

Sounds easy, but it took a lot of behind-thescenes work to get the program underway. Work, such as coordination with the food service department, custodial staff and American Waste, which provides the recycling bin, was done by students with input from club advisors — Shannon Fisher and Karen Richard.

“To me, the coolest part of this whole project is how easy it was to cut through the ‘red-tape’ which would have prevented anything and everything from happening at a larger district,” Brian Hartigan, secondary principal said. “The students had an idea and wanted to talk with Chef Jackie (Cobb), and we were at a table together within a week. Students wanted to meet with our head custodian to discuss the addition of dumpsters and ordering the materials necessary.

“This is the epitome of the benefits of a small district.”

The students tapped into Cobb’s experience with a similar project at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC).

“She was a huge part of their mission,” said Fisher, who teaches high school chemistry and physics. “She had done something like this at NMC (Northwestern Michigan College) and the kids turned to her for guidance. I think we’re the only program like this in the area other than the college.”

But the student groups aren’t satisfied yet.

The food waste — separated from the other materials — is currently going into the landfill. This will soon be a thing of the past.

Table scraps and other food waste generated in the kitchen will be collected in compostable bags, placed in a separate container and taken to Food for Thought, a maker of organic food products located just over the Leelanau/Benzie County line.

Food for Thought is owned by Glen Lake parents Tim and Kathy Young and has its own compost operation.

Once composted, some of that material will be returned to the school greenhouse, used by biology and Advanced Placement environmental science students.

To date the recycling program has been limited the secondary lunch only. However, there are plans in the works to extend it to the entire school.

“We have safety patrols and these kids will become ‘eco heroes’ with green badges and do what we’re doing at the high school level,” Skrocki said.

Envirothon member Caleb Gleason, a junior, is hopeful that recycling practice will stay with students. The recycling effort doubles as the “community service” component for the Envirothon competition.

“It’s a valuable teaching lesson,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s something the younger students will want to carry on.”

Mallory Lund, also a junior, said the effort demonstrates what students can contribute to their communities.

“We’re a club and people think that we’re active just in school, “ she said. “But we’re making a difference outside as well.”

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