“This is shocking,” said Joanne Yepsen, Saratoga County supervisor. “We need to get into the 21st century and get a system in place as a role model for the rest of the city as soon as possible.”
Yepsen knows the recycling situation at city hall is a concern to many members of the community, and not only because city residents and employees are complaining about it.
She and Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan see recycling efforts throughout their community and want to get the city on board.
Just a few blocks east of 474 Broadway, the students at Lake Ave. Elementary School, including Madigan’s son, earn $350 each year for their recycled paper, bottles and cans – money the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) then uses to fund important programs and philanthropic activities.
“Lake Ave. [school] sits in the heart of Saratoga Springs, and they’ve implemented a whole green initiative – kids are learning about recycling at an early age,” Madigan said. “I’m a little surprised city hall doesn’t recycle, but I think we can work to change that.”
Madigan, who brings her work recyclables home with her, is currently researching programs that could turn waste into extra revenue for the city, and Yepsen said she hopes to have the issue on the city council agenda before the next meeting.
However, they need every office on board, specifically the Department of Public Works, which is responsible for gathering and disposing of waste. Commissioner Skip Scirocco was not available for comment.
It seems cooperation is the key.
The elementary school’s successful recycling program is the result of a spirited partnership between the PTA’s Green Team, the staff, student council and a company called Green Fiber Earth that pays for paper waste and repurposes it for insulation.
“Our program at Lake Ave. can absolutely be used as a role model for the city,” said Monica Winn, mother and Green Team member.
Winn explained that each week, the student council becomes the “Green Fiber Earth Patrol,” as students move from room to room, gathering paper waste and rating each class on their recycling efforts. For a job well-done, the patrol leaves a note that says “Good job, you are helping to conserve the earth’s natural resources!” For classrooms needing improvement, the note says “Wasted resources are lost forever.”
A Green Fiber Earth bin in the staff parking lot is filled with recyclable materials collected by the student council.
“It is available to the whole community to use for their unwanted paper, including cardboard, phonebooks, newspaper and rinsed out milk and juice cartons,” Winn said.
Students also gather bottles and cans, which the Green Team then brings to a recycling facility to collect deposits.
With the money earned from collecting paper, bottles and cans, in addition to an annual book sale, the students at Lake Ave. have made two donations in honor of their school mascot, the leopard: they adopted a snow leopard at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse and have also made a donation to the World Wildlife Fund.
Winn said she hopes to put additional funds toward a three-bin composting system that would reduce pre-plate food waste in the cafeteria and benefit the school’s gardening club.
The $350 generated through the recycling program may not seem like a lot, but it certainly goes a long way.
“The school is doing this and perhaps the city should as well,” Madigan said.
“I am feeling optimistic that we can move the sustainability and recycling issues up the ladder on the priority list and really start thinking about how to preserve and protect our great city,” Yepsen said.