US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

Middle school students receive national recognition for their creative “recycling” project in Homer, Alaska


Hannah Baird, Addoris Davis, Taylor Ellison, and Katherine Dolma of Homer, Alaska are this year’s first place winners of the EPA Region 10 President’s Environmental Youth Award. Today, these four middle school students will receive the award from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at a ceremony at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.

This group of middle school students formed an “EcoLogical” group to reduce local waste when they learned their local landfill in Homer; Alaska would be full by 2013. The group partnered with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Homer Middle School Site Council to reduce the weekly waste volume generated at Homer Middle School.

Within a month, the girls convinced Kenai Peninsula Borough Waste Management to recycle tin cans, and eliminate the use of Styrofoam trays at their school cafeteria. The middle school is now using reusable plastic trays and has setup a recycling area in the lunchroom. In just one week, the school reduced the amount of trash disposed in the landfill from eight bags per week to only four, cutting waste by 50 percent. In less then a month, the average recycling went from 36 pounds per week to 120 pounds per week. After a year, EcoLogical estimated that it prevented 2,000 Styrofoam trays from being tossed into the local landfill.

The EcoLogical group also wanted to create awareness in the community about reducing, reusing, and recycling. The youth distributed information through local newspaper and radio interviews, YouTube, Facebook, and a fashion show. Their “Trash into Fashion” show was attended by more than 120 local recycling designers, models, and audience members. This approach made recycling fun for all ages. Local artists designed dresses made out of bread bags, newspapers, magazines, plastic sacks, and even juice pouches. The students convinced the school board to encourage district-wide recycling, and with local environmental organizations to promote reducing, reusing, and recycling.
Recently, the Kenai Peninsula Borough dedicated US$20,000 to increase recycling in the town of Homer. The EcoLogical team continues to work with the school district warehouse to encourage the availability of recyclable products for all district schools.

The President’s Environmental Youth Awards program encourages individuals, school classes, summer camps, public interest groups, and youth organizations to promote environmental awareness and positive community involvement. Each year, young people from around the country, kindergarten through high school students, are invited to participate in the awards program as individuals or in groups. The program has two components: the regional certificate program and the national awards competition. Regional certificates from the President of the United States are awarded by each of the ten EPA regions. Additionally, one outstanding project from each region is presented with a Presidential plaque at an EPA sponsored award ceremony.

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