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Going green, schools do their part for Earth Day celebration

April 22, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Williamsport Elementary students, teachers and staff have recycled 2,000 pounds of paper since the beginning of the school year.

That's one ton, or half the weight of an elephant, third-grader Teddy Batson said.

"It's a lot," he said. "And it helps the environment."

All Washington County Public Schools sites are doing their part for the environment, recycling a combined 385 tons of paper and cardboard since the beginning of the school year. Beginning in July, all schools and the school system's central office will begin recycling glass, metal and plastic.

"We had a lot of requests from the schools to enlarge their recycling program, and we want to respond to that," Director of Maintenance and Operations Michael Peplinski said. "We have to look at the amount of resources we have on this planet and what we can reuse. We don't want to be wasteful."

Recycling

Peplinski said more paper and cardboard have been recycled this year than last year, and that students, teachers and staff are becoming more active recyclers.

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The school system has been recycling paper and cardboard since at least 1995.

Cardboard and paper recycling are available at each of the 45 building sites and are paid for through the same contract. When the board approved the addition of commingled recycling at those sites during a meeting last week, the cost was an additional $42,000.

Next year, when refuse collection and recycling of paper, cardboard and commingled items are bid together, the cost will be about $255,000, Peplinski said.

Board Member Ruth Anne Callaham is an advocate of recycling and said the school system should partner with the county government in seeing that recyclable items do not go into the county's landfill.

"It's showing the children all of the little things that can be done," Callaham said.

She said that commingled recycling in the schools will be well-received, and that offering that option for students is part of their full education.

Callaham also said the school system's central office should be an example of proper recycling practices, which means adding more available bins to the offices. Right now, she said there are no recycling bins in the board's conference room.

"You have to go to a distant location in the building to find someplace to recycle a soda can," Callaham said. "I'm hoping for more bins. We should be the leaders, the role models."

The contract approved by the board last week for commingled recycling is for only one year. However, Peplinski said he believes the school system will continue to recycle plastic, metal and glass, along with paper and cardboard.

"Unless we have some major problems with people putting trash in the commingled Dumpster, we will continue," Peplinski said.

Green schools

Students at Williamsport Elementary said their teachers help promote paper recycling at the school by walking around to their desks to collect paper.

There is a paper recycling bin in every class, they said.

In addition to the ton of paper that has been recycled there this school year, the students also have plans to plant 1,000 pine trees this week.

That and other activities helped the school earn distinction as a green school by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, said Carol Towle Thompson, green school coordinator for that organization.

Williamsport Elementary was awarded that distinction Thursday, becoming the second Washington County public school to do so. Western Heights Middle School became a green school in 2006.

Abigail Koons, a Williamsport Elementary third-grader, said she helped create signs that said "don't dump" near storm drains.

Camryn Keller, 8, a third-grader at the school, said he enjoyed placing bluebird houses in the school's courtyard.

"We have a notebook for the bird-feeding station that we mark," he said. "If any kids see a bird, they're supposed to write it down in the log and write observations."

Jennifer Blum, a third-grade magnet teacher at Williamsport Elementary, said those are just a few of the efforts the school has made to go green.

"We have encouraged teachers to turn off all monitors when they're not in use," she said.

Blum said teachers have been asked to turn off the lights in their classrooms when they aren't there to save electricity. The school has plans for a rain garden.

"They really did some very interesting things," Thompson said, "above and beyond the things you usually see."

Blum said Williamsport Elementary teachers have been recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles in their teachers' lounge. Water bottles the students used during recent state testing also were recycled.

"We need to take care of our environment," Blum said. "The people it's really going to affect are these kids. They'll feel the impact of global warming. Having them become active participants at this age makes them think about their actions and how it impacts their environment."

Increased efforts

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