Students help TES go green
THARPTOWN – Students at Tharptown Elementary School have traded in Mother Goose for Mother Earth with their “Recycle Race” program that has had students thinking about the environment all year long.
TES guidance counselor Brandi Gholston said the program, which was incorporated this school year as part of the guidance curriculum, has been a great success so far and serves a two-fold purpose: to earn money for the school and to compete in a nationwide recycling contest with other schools.
With the economy in the shape that it’s in, Gholston said they have to get creative with the ways the school earns money and being able to help the environment while simultaneously helping the school was just an added bonus.
Gholston said the part of the program that earns money for the school comes from being a member of TerraCycle, which is a free waste collection program that accepts many hard to recycle items and turns them into affordable green products.
“We are collecting plastic bottles, jugs and other household plastics, but the list of smaller household items that are otherwise listed as ‘hard to recycle’ are what we send to TerraCycle,’” Gholston said. “We ship these items to TerraCycle where they recycle or upcycle them and the products that we send in actually earn us cash for our school.
“The parents at Tharptown have responded very well to the program because instead of them sending us their ‘green,’ we ask them to go green and we’ll earn the green.”
Gholston said the school also sells snack items to students during heir break times and many of the items they sell are packaged to be sent in to TerraCycle so they are able to make money from those products as well.
“It’s just a win-win situation,” she said.
The second part of the TES recycling program is a nationwide contest called “The Dream Machine Recycle Rally,” which is part of the larger Dream Machine program that i s designed around PepsiCo’s goal of creating strategic partnerships to help increase the U.S. beverage container recycling rate to 50 percent by 2018.
“This program works by scanning the barcodes on the bottles and cans we collect and uploading those bar codes from the scanner onto a laptop computer that was sent to me by the program,” she said. “For every bar code we scan, we earn a point.”
According to the program, these points are redeemable with local businesses or national retailers for rewards such as sporting goods, electronics, gift cards, educational events, music, books and videos.
“After the items are scanned and recorded, I bag them up and put them in our recycle receptacle because the SSWA [Shoals Solid Waste Authority] has collaborated with the Dream Machine authorities and agreed to audit the recycled materials in order to keep the contest fair.”
Being able to receive great prizes for the school is only one perks to being involved in this contest because Gholston said one of the greatest benefits is being able to help disabled veterans along the way as well.
“At the end of this contest, the Dream Machine Recycle Rally uses their program benefits to help post-9/11 U.S. veterans with disabilities receive free education in entrepreneurship and small business management through the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program,’” Gholston said.
“Helping our veterans is a reason which really drives me to work even harder because we are helping the men and women that have fought so hard for our country.”
Since the program lasts all year, to keep the students at TES engaged in both of the recycling initiatives, Gholston has incorporated the school’s own contest between each homeroom class to encourage the students to keep sending in recyclables.
“Each day I accept the recyclables in bags with the homeroom teachers’ names on the outside and for each item collected, that homeroom earns a point,” she said. “At the end of the nine weeks, a winner is announced and they earn a party and other rewards.”
Gholston said Tara Vincent’s second grade homeroom class won for the first nine weeks by collecting over 5,000 items, which Gholston said is great because the Dream Machine Recycle Rally contest is based on averages. This means that even though TES is a small school, they can still compete for top prizes.
“They take the number of items we turn in and divide by our enrollment to get the average amount of items we recycle,” she said. “The grand prize is a $50,000 dollar “go green” makeover for the school and there are also other big prizes. Right now, we are number 38 in the nation but I think we’ll get more things coming in after the Christmas break. We are a small school, but we aim big.”
Gholston said any community support would be greatly appreciated.
“We’re collecting enough recyclables that we average filling up and replacing our recycle receptacle at Tharptown once every five days and that’s not including the large amounts of things that we are mailing in [to TerraCycle] for cash credit,” she said. “We are really doing a lot of recycling around here and we would love for the community to get involved in these great projects, too.”
For more information about the recycling programs at TES, call 256-332-3404.