Recycling program celebrates milestone, efforts continue at home

April 22, 2020

Marketing and Strategic Communications

What started as a recycling project for Dr. Denise Barkis Richter, communications professor at Palo Alto College, has expanded into a network of faculty, staff, and students all working toward one thing: promoting environmental sustainability.  

“We want to do something to help the onslaught of climate change,” said Richter. She leads the student organization, Club Earth, along with the Go Green ¡Viva Verde! employee committee. “We want to educate not only students, faculty, and staff, but the wider community about the critical need for us to be involved and not to be complacent.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the ¡Viva Verde! committee recently celebrated a milestone of its own. Since implementing this volunteer-driven recycling program in 2009, the College has saved nearly 600,000 pounds of paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, and glass from the landfill. About 45 volunteers are involved in looking after their buildings and collecting items from the recycling bins throughout campus. 

The conservation lessons this year will be greater than ever before as reports around the world show a fall in emissions due to people staying home as a result of the pandemic. Spending extra time at home presents an opportunity to begin eco-friendly habits; while it may seem like a daunting task for some, Richter says it all starts with one step. 

Take the time to set up a recycling program during this quarantine era of staying at home.

"Take the time to set up a recycling program during this quarantine era of staying at home,” Richter said. “At our house, we have a recycle bin set up in our kitchen that we fill with paper, cardboard, clean metal, clean plastic, and clean glass. When it's full, we take it to the outdoor recycling toter [bin] that the city picks up once per week." 

Jesus Lopez, a member of Club Earth, started being eco-conscious by avoiding single-use plastics like grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups, and cutlery. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 80 percent of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet America's recycling rate is only 28 percent.

“The main thing I do is stay away from plastic waste and unnecessary packaging in anything that I buy,” said Lopez. “I’ve stopped buying plastic water bottles, and I’m not using single-use plates or cups at home. I’m making food at home rather than getting takeout.”

During the current period of social distancing, Club Earth students are continuing their efforts in their homes by taking on new projects and encouraging their families to adopt good habits that will benefit the environment. 

“We've cleaned our yard and are going to build the garden we've been planning for a while. We are going to grow veggies,” said Ashley Arellano, Club Earth vice president. “Also, instead of using the dryer constantly, we’ve been drying our sheets outside.” 

For Richter, her motivation for being eco-friendly stems from a desire to use resources wisely and leave a place better than she found it. Richter will be retiring this year, and now it’s time for someone else to lead the ¡Viva Verde! mission at the College.

“Dr. Richter is very outgoing, and she really cares about the environment. It’s very inspiring to see her and how she’s making a change,” said Erika Alonzo, Club Earth member. “It’s made me want to do more for the environment.” 

To learn more about getting involved in Club Earth, visit Alamo Experience. The City of San Antonio also has resources available for anyone interested in learning how to recycle correctly and setting up recycling service to your home.