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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Hero of the Month

RRRHeroAprilJane Goodall once said, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make”.  Much like Goodall, Cori Ander, a 17 year old student in the Gilbert Public Schools (GPS) system, determined she wanted to make a positive environmental change.  Ander is a Girl Scout working towards a Gold Award, the highest achievement in scouting for a Take Action project.  Ander’s premise was to create a sustainable and impactful recycling program for the Gilbert Public School kitchen staff.

Starting a recycling program was not Ander’s original plan.  Ander commenced her journey with a campaign to replace the Styrofoam trays used in all GPS kitchens with a more eco-friendly reusable plastic plate. She asked for and was granted the opportunity to launch a pilot program at her own Highland Junior High.  Ander fundraised tirelessly to purchase the new plates, recruiting the other students and even their parents to participate in her efforts.  Once she raised approximately $1,000 dollars, Highland Junior High matched her contribution.  The combined funds were used to purchase special dishware, dishware racks and special trash receptacles into which the soiled plates would be collected for reuse.

The new eco-friendly plates made their unveiling on Earth Day 2011 with a celebratory lunch which included a recycling cheer performed by the cheer squad, and the drama class performed a special Earth Day skit.  Ander created such an enthusiasm for recycling in her school that there was even a waitlist to become a “Recycle Ambassador!”

Unfortunately, despite a measurable decrease in trash volume, the program was discontinued. GPS preferred the “cleaner” look of individually sealed plastic serving cups for all foods, making the use of the plate impractical.  The plates were rotated out of use after only 6 months.  Instead of being discouraged, Ander shifted her focus onto creating a successful recycling program in all GPS kitchens to help offset the new plastic packaging.

While this new phase of Ander’s Take Action project is only just starting, she has clearly demonstrated her ability to overcome bumps in the road, all the while never losing sight of her one clear goal of promoting sustainable behavior. It also embodies a dedication to creating positive changes in our schools, a place that for many is like an extended home. While she cannot submit her project for consideration to the Girl Scouts Gold Award just yet, there is no doubt she is a shining example of the innovation and determination of Gilbert youth and a stellar representative of our Gilbert community.  For this reason Cori Ander is the Town of Gilbert’s Recycling Hero for the month of April.

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