May 14, 2001
Bronwyn Wilson/staff photo.
In concert with the environment
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Students at Timbercrest Junior High show a visitor the colors of their pencils. Some are the color of money. "The wood part is made out of real recycled dollars," one student explains, pointing to the pencil. "The shiny metal copper part that holds the eraser is actually recycled pennies," says another student and adds, "This dark blue pencil is made out of recycled denim." You mean that pencil was once someone's pair of jeans? "Yeah," the student answers, "that's really weird to think about."
The green and blue recycled pencils are part of a program called "In Concert With the Environment" sponsored by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) in partnership with other area utilities, including the Woodinville Water District. The pencils were purchased through a vendor and given to the students as an example of recycling. "Kids use pencils. They love pencils. We look for items to support our message," said Nancy Grill, PSE program manager. "The pencils are a neat item because it gets them to thinking that recycling doesn't have to be in paper form." Grill explained that the program is taught through classroom activities. Its focus is to help students learn about choices when it comes to conserving natural resources. "We go in and teach kids about energy, water conservation, solid waste and air quality issues," said Grill of the four-day program, which was held this month at Timbercrest. Also, an abbreviated one-day version was held at Woodinville High School.
A classroom activity that the middle school students love is the shopping game. It shows students which products have the least packaging and how each item impacts the environment. A Campbell's soup can, for example, is recyclable. But a Cup o' Noodles container, made of Styrofoam with plastic wrap, is not. Grill said, "We have four different sets of products." The activity gets the students to thinking about re-using packaging. Grill cites Orville Redenbacher's popcorn jar as an example. "Can you re-use this?" Grill asked. She explained that the plastic popcorn jar could serve as a container for more popcorn or hold small household items. The re-use of containers reduces the size of garbage that accumulates in landfills, plus encourages bulk buying. The emphasis is on reducing and re-using.
Kristin Mittelsteadt, eighth grade student at Timbercrest, explained what the program is about, "Basically, it's teaching kids to conserve the few natural resources we have and make good choices about buying products that are not wasteful." Eighth grader Jessica Hart added, "It teaches the kids how much they can save. [The program] was interactive and really fun."
Jessica described how the students participated. "We all filled out a packet that tells how many showers we take, how many times we flush the toilet and how much we buy." Students were asked to take the packet home and answer questions in a workbook. Questions included: "Are the outside walls of your home insulated?" and "In an average week, how many loads of dishes does your household wash?" When completed, the student responses were entered into a computer software program and were treated as private information. A "real-life" report was generated with easy-to-apply suggestions and information that can save money, resources, and help protect the environment. The workbook, designed to involve the whole family, was a great opportunity for kids and parents to learn about their own use of natural resources and ways they can save.
Evan Brand, also an eighth grader at Timbercrest, learned of a way he could save water. "I learned that you can put a jar of water inside a toilet tank and you can save the amount of water you flush." He also said that he learned that if he cut a few minutes off a shower, he could save water that way too.
During the program, other water efficient as well as energy efficient ways are taught. Topics include the discussion of shower timers, a good way to measure the length of time a person takes a shower. The Timbercrest eighth graders said they discovered a water-wise trick. Place an empty tuna can in the yard where a sprinkler is splashing water onto grass and when the can fills up, the yard has had enough. Students learn energy-saving tricks, too. Fluorescent light bulbs, as opposed to incandescent light bulbs, last much longer and use one-quarter of the energy of the other bulb.
"I think, as we all know, education is the first step to making change," said Christine Stubblefield, science teacher at Timbercrest.
Through this program, PSE is educating their future customers. Since water utilities are also talking to their customers about conservation, PSE partnered with water districts in the Puget Sound area. Grill mentioned that the Woodinville Water District was one of the first water districts to partner with PSE. She said that solid waste departments are also included in the twenty-four partners.
"Hopefully, we've given the students enough information to make choices, on their own, that makes sense," said Grill.
For further information on ways to reduce energy costs at home, call the Energy Hotline at 1.800.562.1482 or visit www.pse.com.