Here's the entire, unabridged (I had to shorten the one in the paper a little bit) newspaper article. It tells a lot about my inspiration for this project, and things you can do to help:
Did you know that according to the EPA, the average American produces about 4.43 pounds of municipal waste (basically a fancy word for trash) every day? As a high school student this concerns me; I mean our generation is supposed to be the one that’s going to have to clean up the planet. A mission trip I took this summer made me see how much I waste, when there are people out there who squeeze every drop of usability out of what they have and still just scrape by. The people of the church we were staying at threw so little away—the whole church had only two bags of trash for the past couple of months, while our group of twenty people had three or four bags after less than a week. I realized how I don’t think twice about tossing something in the trash, and had no idea where it really went after I put it out on the curb. When I started researching this more, I was shocked by the numbers, and the consequences this trash has on the environment. Most of the plastic manufactured (using enormous amounts of valuable energy and oil) is made into single-use items, plastic bags, bottles, packaging, etc., much of which can be recycled, but often is not. Plastic takes nearly a thousand years to begin to biodegrade, and each person sends 63 pounds of it to the landfill every year. And they don’t really biodegrade; they just break into smaller and smaller pieces. There are huge swirling whirlpools, or gyres, of trash in all the major oceans, the items themselves and the chemicals in them harming animals all the way up the food chain to humans. I had been trying to find a topic for my Girl Scout Gold Award project, and after learning all this I knew that I had found my cause. Many people have no idea about how they can reduce the amount of trash they generate, reuse and repurpose items they already own, and as for recycling, all the little numbers on things might as well be in a different language. There are so many cool things you can do with “trash”, and every pound diverted from the landfill will lighten the environmental and social weight of our community’s footprint.
Titled Slash the Trash, my project is a town-wide campaign to increase Purcellville’s recycling by 15% and reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill. Through community outreach I hope to teach residents of Purcellville and other communities about the consequences of waste and how they can help, especially through recycling. Although 75% of the municipal waste I mentioned earlier can be recycled, in Purcellville only 35% of this is actually set out for recycling pickup. San Francisco, which has the highest reported recycling rate in the nation, recycles 72% of its trash, proving that a high recycling rate is possible. The Slash the Trash campaign is set to last for about 6 months, and at the end of each month the trash and recycling tonnages are calculated (the collection trucks are weighed before dumping their load at either the landfill or a recycling center). So Purcellville, we have 6 months to increase our recycling rate to 45%. We now have what’s called single-stream recycling, meaning all your recyclables can go in the same bin; they don’t need to be sorted. Recyclables include all plastic bottles and containers with a number 1-7 on the bottom (no Styrofoam), metal cans and even aluminum foil, glass, and almost all paper—office paper, catalogues, junk mail, old books. If you don’t have a blue bin, they’re available for free at the town hall across from the roller rink. And there are other ways to “slash your trash” and conserve resources. Before you get to the point where you’re actually throwing something out, whether into the recycling or the garbage, try to cut back on the amount of potential trash you take in. Bring your own reusable shopping bag or water bottle when you go out instead of relying on single use plastic. When you pack your lunch opt for metal utensils, Tupperware, and a reusable lunch box rather than disposable everything. Compost organic waste and shop at the farmer’s market, where not only do you get fresh, yummy food, but you cut back on resources used in transportation and packaging that are unavoidable at the grocery store. I find packaging one of the most frustrating examples of waste; it seems so pointless. I mean do we really need everything we buy wrapped in ten million layers of plastic wrapping and boxes? Buying in bulk helps a little with this, as does shopping second-hand. And spread the word—encourage your favorite businesses and stores to cut back on their packaging and use of plastic bags (which by the way, there’s a bin at most grocery stores to recycle those). The trash you do have doesn’t have to be trash though. Use it to make crafts; google “art from trash” and you’ll find the most amazing things, or find ways to reuse it for other purposes.
Join the Slash the Trash movement. Sign the pledge (look for a table for the project at the farmer’s market) saying you’ll do your best to ‘slash your trash’- reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as you can in your own household, and join the Slash the Trash Facebook page online. Keep your ears open for events that’ll be going on throughout the 6-month period. There will be craft classes to turn what some may call trash into art, and as soon as I can Slash the Trash will have a blog sharing some of these craft ideas and different tips on how to reuse. Also send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and find out about all the latest events. Even if you don’t get officially involved, still keep the three R’s in mind before you toss something in the trash. Everything helps, no matter how small.
Everybody when they’re little wants to save the world. I know I did anyway. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that it’s not going to happen all at once, that we can only make slight changes in our lives to make the world just a tiny bit greener, happier, better. We can use reusable shopping bags and water bottles instead of plastic single-use ones, we can compost, and we can recycle. That’s what my project, Slash the Trash, is about; educating people about all the different ways they can reduce, reuse, and recycle to make our town just a little better. The measureable goal is to increase the town’s recycling rate by 15% and hopefully decrease the amount of trash going to the landfill. But more than that, I want to build habits and a “green” frame of mind in our community that will last even after my project ends. So sign the pledge to “Slash your Trash” and join the movement to waste less and live better.
This is me at the Tag Sale!