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Ecology Teacher Barnwell Explains Power Of Recycling


How often do your classes collect recycling?
We try to do it on the last day of the week because I have classes on odd and even, every Friday or last day of the week is usually good to do because it spreads the duty of recycling over the entire group of kids I have because I want to give everyone an opportunity to contribute. So we usually try to do it on Fridays.

How are the students involved?
Well first of all, the recycling in the building is a microcosm of what should be going on in the world itself. Education is very important in that you educate on a small scale how to recycle and one of the things we don’t have to worry about here is separation of the different recycling items because our collection dumpster is a general catch-all and it goes to a materials recycling facility which has people employed to separate the different types of plastics and papers and other things of that nature. So they essentially are providing the removal from the classrooms and keeping the process going in the building. This is very important because it instills in everybody in the building the need for and the fact that it is very much alive, that the actual process is alive in our building.

How do these collections impact the community?
The biggest thing with recycling and what happened essentially in the country from around 1962, which is actually the year I was born, until now suggests that the environment did not necessarily have the same challenges throughout the history of the planet that we do now. In fact, the planet in the last century starting around 1889 or 1890, we didn’t really have these problems because our use of petroleum was simply for very crude types of oil lamps and heating devices. Now that everything we have runs on fossil fuels for the most part we have a very big issue with fossil fuels and with things that are made such as plastic and styrofoams that we have to find ways of disposing of properly and in the best way for the environment is very much an important part to educate people to the need for recycling and for then the method by which it should be done. Sometimes people think to dispose of something is enough, but correct disposal methods and environmentally friendly disposal is very important. We have to teach those things as well. As far as the community, everybody has a part in this process, I try to teach from the standpoint of my students, and have them go out and be beacons for the same process so they in turn pass it on to their little brothers, little sisters, mother, father, and it will spread.

Why is recycling important?
We only have but one Earth, and people may dream of going to other planets and seeing other places but this is all we have for right now. If we destroy this planet or we destroy the efficiency of the way the planet handles waste, we are basically ending it for ourselves. If we can’t separate the things we do as humans from the things that affect all other species on the planet, they don’t deserve to have a world we destroyed. We don’t deserve to have a world that some of us destroy. It is just what it is. It is at the core of importance, it’s maintaining the planet, teaching people to reverse some of the bad processes that have happened in the past, and continuing to educate so that this doesn’t happen again. We cannot just assume that people know how to do these things, so education is paramount in turning things around.

How should our school become more involved with recycling?
I’d like to see more rallies and recycling events that really highlight those students who put forth extra effort. It should be an award type thing for people who work hard to insure the environment stays clean. As individuals in each school we can start to breed these types of occasions. Since we get together for everything else, I would like to see us getting together maybe once a month for walks picking up trash or something similar. I haven’t quite seen this response and I’d like to see for those type of things to become reality. I plan to initiate some of these events, getting together and cleaning up here in the area, at least starting here right around the school and then moving away from the school up and down the roads that we have here away from the school and cleaning up. We would focus on the neighbourhoods that most of the kids live in and doing the same thing with those places on the weekends.

How can students create a greener earth in their everyday lives?
It starts with the thought. You have to have the mindset, you have to feel like it’s important and you have to feel like what you’re doing when you become a steward of the environment, you have to take it seriously. It’s not a plaything; it’s real – it means something. It’s not a great impact one person can have but one person, and many others like that one person, all together come to make something that we do notice and they make a big difference as a conglomerate. If I can expose one person to a method by which they can help the environment, than that in itself can grow exponentially. That’s the biggest thing in this whole movement, because it is a movement. Environmental protection and cleaning the environment is a movement. It has not always been this way. When I was younger I remember them first putting up signs of the first fees you were going to be charged for pollution or littering. We had commercials that we watched, one called the crying indian where he was going up a river and running into all kinds of garbage in the waterway, one tear coming down the right of his eye. Those type of commercials made us aware, it captured your feelings and your heart was involved in it. You have to be part of it, that’s just the way it is.

What are materials people can recycle?
It’s just about everything, really and truly. In it’s made in manufacturing senses it can be recycled. There are some things that are worse than others as far as being recycled, when we talk about nuclear waste that is a very big problem and chemical waste also poses a problem. We actually are in a area with what is now Honeywell, used to be Allied Chemical, which houses the historical chemical spill with the chemical kepone. Up until the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, Kepone was the worst chemical spill in the entire planet’s history. A lot of people don’t know this, but right here in Hopewell we hold the record for the worst chemical spill on the entire planet, up until Deepwater Horizon. If there’s an area that should really take environmental protection seriously, it’s this area. When we talk about recycling, we can just about recycle most of the things that are manufactured. Those things that are manufactured that we can’t recycle, this is where we need to educate people on not to use those types of products. We can recycle plastic and glass. We can do the different types of metals including aluminum, steel, iron. We can do all different types of papers like cardboard, regular paper that we use in the building, just pretty much across the board. There’s not too much you can’t recycle. What we have to be mos careful with is our water supply. Water is supposed to be a renewable resource but we can destroy water if we se too many of the devices that are being proposed, like the cars that split the water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, can knock off the balance of the water that we need on the planet so we have to be careful with our water supply. If we contaminate water supply we will reduce the amount of water that is available for use by human beings and that’s another danger.

What do you hope students learn from those experiences?
Being stewards of the planet, we are only here for a certain period of time and during that time period we need to be as responsible as we can so that the next generation and the generation after that will be able to enjoy this beautiful planet that we have. And if anyone has ever seen any of this planet they will agree with me that we have a beautiful world we live in so want to keep it that way and keep it healthy.

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