Letter to the editor: The impact of DV recycling

Dear Editor,

I am Jeffrey Khau, the CSF activity coordinator who was in charge of reshaping CSF recycling at DVHS during the 2016-17 school year. I am writing in response to the article “Out with the old and in with the truth: does DV recycle?”, which appeared in the May 2017 issue of the Wildcat Tribune. I would like the opportunity to comment

So here is what we — the school, hundreds of volunteers and I — did from October 2016 to the end of May 2017 for recycling at DVHS.

Last October, then-Assistant Principal Megan Moilanen told me that I would have to come up with something new for CSF recycling, since our partner club for recycling was no longer clearing the bottles from the school grounds. I devised a plan, and made sure that it was executable. It also had to be approved by Leadership and the school administration. I worked closely with Moilanen, Ms. Peggy Thomas and our CSF advisor, Ms. Michelle Wilson. My fellow CSF officers and I wanted this new addition to the CSF activity portfolio to benefit an environmental club. The Sierra Club was our choice. As a designated fundraising club, it meant a longer process and more forms to fill out. We also had to have the Sierra Club approved by the district as a club CSF could donate to. I waited for about a month, before I was able to implement the new recycling project.

In November, I received word that CSF would officially be in charge of both aspects of recycling — the collection of trash and bottles at school, and the taking of the bottles to the recycling center for cash. I started advertising through Loopmail, in the Schoolloop news section, Facebook, Twitter, our CSF website and during our meetings. I re-established the interrupted dialogue with my assigned custodian, Mr. Tuan Nguyen, and set up monthly SignUpGenius forms. I organized the shifts of volunteers for both activities: during school and after school. I followed up after each shift. It went on like this during the whole school year.

Each week, twice a week, a total of 20 volunteers went around the campus to collect trash and bottles during Access periods. Our CSF advisor would receive a weekly list of volunteers from me, and she would place their names on the Access excusal spreadsheet. Each time, I took the attendance, and distributed gloves and bags to the volunteers.

Another shift of five volunteers would take the bags of bottles with them after school, on Thursdays, to get cash from the recycling center. The money and receipts were then remitted directly to the school bookkeeper, Ms. Thomas, who recorded the students’ names and amounts received. Also, the volunteers sent a picture of the receipt and cash collected, and of the reusable bag that they returned, to CSF’s email.

Every Thursday at lunch, I would go behind the Commons to make sure that each of the bags that the volunteers would pick up later contained only bottles, and would distribute the bottles equally between each of them if needed, while cleaning up any trash left around the area. I would also take with me the empty bags for future reuse; there was not waste there either.

Initially, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to recruit enough volunteers. After all, they had many other volunteering opportunities that were easier — more entertaining, better regarded, more appealing to the senses and better incentivized. Picking up others’ trash, sorting bottles, hauling large bags to the recycling center and waiting in line to get only a few dollars? Who would sign up for such a perceived tedious task? As it turned out, many of us did, week after week. Actually, hundreds of volunteers signed up over the course of seven months. The transition went smoothly and the change was a success. With so many doers and the full support of our school, recycling was not an empty concept at DVHS.

From November 2016 to May 2017, CSF recycling totaled 525 volunteer hours (420 during Access, 105 after school), and we raised $172.82 for the Sierra Club by May 22. We helped keep our school clean, and with small amounts of money trickling in each week, we had a decent amount for the Sierra Club. And we are not likely to become litterers ourselves in the future.

The most important thing to me was that we did real work for what we believed in, and that we all came together to do it. More than a thousand students chose to join CSF.

The membership requirements are rigorous. CSF promotes academic achievement and community service. I think being a CSF member means this: it is a personal commitment, an awareness of our surroundings, a way to get out from our comfort zones and to reach out, allowing us to explore our potentials. We all worked hard to become better people, helping one another and our community, each in our own capacity. Our collective recycling work is one example that embodies these principles.

We found our own truth while doing recycling at DVHS.