Grand Traverse youth recycling program is something to "Envi"

Ellie Perry and Makala Warner, two teens from a 4-H-sponsored group calling themselves Envi, went in front of the Grand Traverse County Resource Recovery Council in May of 2009 to present their mission.

Ellie Perry and Makala Warner, two teens from a 4-H-sponsored group calling themselves Envi, went in front of the Grand Traverse County Resource Recovery Council in May of 2009 to present their mission: “We are students from Traverse City Central High School. Our primary interest is to increase environmental stewardship throughout our school. Our group is committed to waste reduction and supporting student involvement in local environment organizations and volunteer opportunities.”

Envi was born when a group of teens who wanted to make a difference in the world and better the environment got together in the spring of 2009. The rainforests of South America were too far away, and the teens wanted a project that would help their school.

The group met in the cafeteria after school to brainstorm different ways they could address environmental and conservation issues at the local level. As they talked about water issues and invasive species, they began to look around the cafeteria. “How much food do you suppose we throw out at lunch every day?” one member asked, thinking out loud. Another wondered why the few recycling bins at the school were hidden along the walls and rarely used by the students and staff.

The students compared the tons of waste Grand Traverse County residents threw out annually to the amount collected for recycling and found a big gap between the two. But the task wasn’t simply telling people to recycle more, because as they discovered, there are a lot of materials that are unable to be recycled. The group decided it was time to rethink recycling and rethink what they could do at their school to reduce waste.

Going back to the question of lunchtime waste, the group decided their school needed a composting program. It just made sense. They could reduce waste and use the compost for school gardens and science programs. Envi didn’t stop there. Envi members wanted to help the students at Central High to reduce all kinds of waste similar to what is being done in the Grand Traverse “Take it Back” program. They could collect used electronics, such as old calculators or iPods, and return these items to local businesses or providers for reuse, recycling or responsible disposal.

The club’s main focus is on disposal of waste from the school cafeteria. Members feel that by starting with an issue at the school, it makes students more aware of their club and the environment.

Envi’s goals:

  • Create a school compost site that the school’s cafeteria and science classes would use.
  • Collect the toxic waste that the school produces.
  • Get kids around the school involved in activities through the water conservancy program.

Envi is supported by a DTE Energy grant for promoting 4-H youth-driven conservation groups. Grand Traverse County is among nine counties statewide to establish 4-H Youth Conservation Councils, based on the statewide Michigan 4-H Youth Conservation Council that began in 1999 as a way to help teens become involved in state government. For more information about Envi or 4-H Youth Conservation in Grand Traverse, contact Kathryn Lepera at (231) 922-4836 or leperak@msu.edu.

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