Champions of Change

Julie Rexford

Julie Rexford

Julie Rexford, Harry Hurst Middle School, Destrehan, Louisiana

While teaching her middle school students about environmental awareness, students in Julie Rexford’s science class began asking her why there was no longer any recycling bins in the school and at home. The children remembered recycling when they were younger, before Katrina hit. Ms. Rexford had to explain to the children that since the hurricane, the school and community overall no longer had the funding required to pay for the removal of recycling. They soon learned that their school was not the only school that no longer had the ability to recycle – none of the schools in the region were recycling, something that has been taken for granted and become a way of life in much of the country.

Based on the interest of the students wanting to “do something,” Ms. Rexford and her students launched the “Green Team” on September 15, 2010. The Green Team, which consists of about 35 students, organized a campaign to convince a local recycling service provider, Phoenix Recycling, to contract with the school to pick up recycling for free for one year. Once the service provider was secured, the Green Team started collecting recyclable materials on campus in order to reduce the amount of materials that were being sent to the landfill through the regular waste management systems of the school.

The program was designed in a manner that patterns itself on community “curbside” recycling. Each classroom was given a collection bin for clean paper and another for other recyclable materials. Teachers and/or students place these bins outside of the classroom door at lunch in order for the Curbside Collector to pick up the materials. Participating students are assigned a zone on campus as well as a regular scheduled day to go and collect the materials and deposit in the receptacles for the partnering disposal company to come and pick up on a bi-weekly basis.

In addition to the collection of materials, team members have been actively involved in educating the members of the student body as well as the faculty to the need and requirements of recycling. They have made and posted posters showing the materials on campus that can be recycled as well as encouraged all stakeholders to participate.

As of March 29, 2011, the students have collected approximately 11,755 gallons of recyclable materials.

Moving into the 2011-2012 school year, The Green Team is researching options for funding in order to continue with their program. Phoenix Recycling cannot continue to pick up the recycling for free, and the Green Team would also like to expand their efforts to include composting as well as developing educational material to be shared with other students outside their school campus.

Although this program does not create any jobs, it is helping to educate a generation in regard to the necessity of sustainable living, and is encouraging children to learn more about the opportunities that exist in the ever-expanding clean energy and environmental fields.

As part of the Champions of Change meetings in Washington, DC, the Clean Economy Development Center will work to identify a long term funding solution for the students at Harry Hurst Middle School. In particular, we will be looking for a solution that could scale up to include all the public schools in the region.