Disposables could turn into dollars for Trinity Catholic School, which is very close to winning the largest cash prize in a national recycling competition.
Trinity Catholic, on Grandview Avenue, is in second place in its size bracket in the Dream Machine Recycle Rally. The competition, part of the Dream Machine program managed by PepsiCo, Waste Management and Keep America Beautiful, challenges schools to collect non-alcoholic plastic and aluminum beverage containers.
At the end of each trimester (the most recent ended Feb. 14), the top three qualifying schools in each category receive $1,000 to be used for “green” improvements. After the contest’s conclusion on April 30, a $25,000 grand prize will be awarded to the top school in each of three brackets. Trinity is currently in second place behind St. Cornelius School in Chicago, which won last year and therefore isn’t eligible for the top prize for another two years.
To help prepare for a final push, Trinity Catholic will hold a recycle fest on April 27.
While Trinity Catholic has participated in the Recycle Rally since the end of 2010, additional communication, via flyers and inclusion in the school’s regular communications to parents, helped motivate the student body to increase its collection this year.
Susan Haninger, the school technology coordinator, is spearheading the program and estimates that students have collected at least three tons of beverage containers this year.
“The teachers and parents are very important for us all (in this competition),” Haninger says.
Last year, Trinity Catholic was awarded $1,000 in a trimester contest, which it spent on a window upgrade, and this year it won a Hitachi interactive whiteboard in the First Trimester Green Leader Sweepstakes. If Trinity Catholic wins $1,000 this year, Haninger wants to upgrade one of three drinking fountains. A water bottle filling station would reduce waste generation, she says.
The $25,000 grand prize must be spent on green improvement. Upgrading the other two drinking fountains, purchasing more iPads to reduce paper consumption, adding more green space to school grounds and purchasing small in-classroom greenhouses are some options, Haninger says.
For now, the school is keeping its eye on the prize as parents, students and teachers strive to earn more points. Students are motivated by incentives such as a non-uniform day in exchange for one bag of recycling.
Parents and students often help sort, clean and weigh recyclables after school. When a group helps out, the process can take less than half an hour, Haninger says. When the program was just beginning, she worked alone and obviously spent more time at the task.
When she first entered the school in the Recycle Rally, Haninger says, her intention was not to make money, but to instill good recycling habits. Now, the practice is becoming more ingrained in families.
“People are really changing. I think that’s really important,” she says.
Missy Bishop, mother of fourth-grader Alyssa, says their family has always recycled. The family regularly generates one can of trash and two filled recycling bins per week.
“It starts at home,” Bishop says. “It cuts down on our trash.”
Last spring Bishop and her daughter collected bottles and cans out of public trash cans and participated in neighborhood cleanups.
“We’re such a wasteful society,” Bishop says. Often when she goes to parks, she will discover unopened bottles of pop and water.
Alyssa says she is happy to do something positive for her school and the community.
“I feel really good that we’re helping out,” the 10-year-old says.
Dan Moretti, father of third-grader Dominic, first became involved last March when he hauled recyclables in his pick-up truck. He has handled much of the Recycle Rally’s outreach efforts this year. Offering dress-down passes to kids who participate was his idea, and he even designed an informational flyer for parents that was handed out at school.
“There weren’t that many people involved when we started this project back in September,” Moretti says. “(But) it’s been wonderful … I mean, I get excited.”
Early in September, the school averaged about 100 pounds of cans and bottles per week, he says. Now it averages 500-700 pounds per week.
Moretti often leaves a half an hour early to take his son to school, so they have time to drop off their recycling. When his son goes to his grandmother’s house, he returns with her recycling. And Moretti visits car washes, where he is sometimes shocked by how much people waste. In one trip to a car wash, Moretti returned with 50 pounds of recyclables.
Moretti and his wife have also used their business to help generate recycling collection for the school. At Grow Yoga, their Grandview Heights studio, they offer a free class for a 30-gallon bag of recyclables. Since they started the program about nine months ago, they’ve given away 47 free classes.
Dominic Moretti feels good about his family’s contributions.
“I think it’s really cool,” he says.
Sarah Sole is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.