Sunday, July 25, 2010
Four R's: Christian Environmentalism
Last week was Vacation Bible School at our church. After reading Gabe's post on how she reduced waste at her VBS, I decided to see what I could do for ours. This was going to be my first task as a Certified Master Recycler. What's that, you ask? A couple of months ago, Knox County Solid Waste asked me to be a part of the pilot class of master recyclers. The basic premise was to educate and empower a few individuals to spread the knowledge of what can be recycled in Knox County to their schools, churches, civic organizations, or neighborhoods. This was my chance.
I first sat down with the educational director weeks in advance to help her make snack choices that minimized waste and used recyclable materials. She was very open to my ideas and agreed to buy plastic cups instead of paper ones lined with wax--not recyclable. Individual snacks would be packaged in small paper bags--fully recyclable. And hand sanitizer instead of wipes would be used to clean hands. We already had a recycling pick-up at the church; so all we had to do was bag it and take it to the bin.
A few days prior to VBS, I went to the main Knox County Waste facility on Baxter Avenue to borrow three "clear stream bins." Anyone can sign them out for free; you're only charged if you don't return them. These consist of a wire X, a plastic top, and bags into which you can put all recyclable material together: paper, plastic, glass, and cardboard.
The first day, I briefly described to the kids our system for what to do at the end of snack time. "If you have extra drink, dump it in this bucket. If you have extra snacks, dump it in this bucket. Everything else (plastic cups and paper bags) go into the recycling bin." A trash can wasn't even an option. I was there to grab anything out of the ordinary.
The extra liquid was poured down the drain. The extra snacks ideally would have all gone into my compost bin. Some of the items like animal crackers and popcorn were compostable; some more sugary snacks like Fruit Loops and oatmeal cookies were not. The cute cheese and crackers shown above were a judgement call.
We did have some trash. Some kids with allergies brought snacks in foil bags and some of the packaging for cookies and goldfish couldn't be recycled. I also struggled with what to do with the wrappers around the oatmeal cookies; though they are plastic, this thin, saran wrap type plastic is not recyclable. I gathered them anyway in hopes to use them as windows in a craft project one day.
After five days and compressing the bags once, we filled three bags of recycling from the kids and another in the kitchen. We might have filled one trash bag half way. What impressed me most was how easy it was and how not one person (adult or child) balked at the idea or said anything negative about my "crazy ideas." Most people want to do the right thing; they just need some guidance and for it to be a no brainer.
But by far the best part of VBS was my opportunity to share some ideas with the kids each day as "Earth Mama." In one minute each day, I focused on one of the "three R's": reduce, reuse, recycle. I gave the kids tangible ways they could do all three. Then I decided to add one more R: responsibility. Kids, not just adults, should take responsibility for caring for God's creation. It's what I call Christian Environmentalism, but I'm sure many other religions support the same concept.
The theme this week was about creation and animals of the Bible. So it fit perfectly that we would hit upon how in the very beginning (Genesis 1:26), God gave us this incredible earth and told us to take care of it. He didn't mean for us to use it and abuse it however we wanted. Like nurturing parents, we are the protectors of every fish, bird, cattle, and bug on earth. Recycling is just one step, but judging by these kids' enthusiasm for it, I'd say our planet is in good hands.