Tulsa Memorial High School’s Earth Team is making Tulsa a cleaner city — one recyclable item at a time.
Jackson Hayward, Brianne Long, Garrett Berger, Madalyn Hawes, Channing Martin help with recycling efforts at the Route 66 Marathon at Veteran's Park.
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Making Tulsa greener is not as easy as it looks. It depends on an entire community of people coming together to ensure that items do not end up in the trash or on the streets but in containers to be recycled and reused.
One Tulsa high school knows this process all too well.
When Memorial High School student Dana Zalta saw a few modest recycling bins in teacher John Beasley’s environmental science class in 2005, the two arranged a meeting with Shelley Umezawa, outreach and volunteer coordinator for the Tulsa Metropolitan Environmental Trust (M.e.t.), who then provided recycling bins for the school as part of its bin loan program.
During the 2007-2008 school year, the Earth Team adopted its official name when volunteering with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which Beasley works with as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tulsa County Conservation District, and its Earth Team.
Six years and approximately 100 members later, the Earth Team won the 2011 Recycling School of the Year award from the M.e.t. in November 2011, and Beasley was honored with the Recycler of the Year award in 2010. The award came as a result of years of recycling service to the community and also marked the first time the honor was given to a school.
One major project for the Earth Team is collecting recyclables at the Tulsa State Fair. Together the Earth Team and former students logged more than 200 volunteer hours at the 2011 fair.
“Kids were diving into trash cans to pull out recyclables,” Beasley says.
Back in the classroom, students clean and separate items at the school before they are recycled. Additionally, each classroom has bins provided by the M.e.t. to collect items such as No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, aluminum, paperboard, cardboard, Styrofoam, used ink cartridges, old cell phones and batteries.
Items are recycled once a month but also serve other purposes. For instance, before taking aluminum cans to the M.e.t. for recycling, Earth Team members pull off the tabs so they can be used for art projects.
Beasley says it takes thousands of tabs, but once they are collected, art students turn them into purses and handbags. Memorial Art Teacher Alex Kokorich and students are also using the tabs to make Easter baskets.