By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School has been awarded $500 to expand a successful environmental initiative at the school and in the parish community.
Living Lands & Waters, a nonprofit organization based in East Moline, Ill., presented checks March 10 to four Quad-City schools for their environmental stewardship efforts; St. Paul’s was the only Catholic school to receive the honor.
Lynn Leming, a teacher and student council advisor at St. Paul’s, said the “Green Revolution” this academic year has been “filled with accomplishments, much learning, some frustration, many hours of teamwork and opportunities to spread the word about the importance of taking care of the environment.”
Principal Julie Delany praised Leming and St. Paul’s students for their efforts during the check presentation in the school gym. Environmental Club member Sydney Berdi accepted the check from Madeline Luloff, Living Lands & Waters’ office manager, who said St. Paul’s efforts show that “you can make a difference.” During the ceremony, students sang a recycling song – with movements — that the Environmental Club had taught the classes.
Leming said the school has ideas, but no firm plans yet, for spending its monetary award. “We can use it for educational supplies. We can continue to reach out to St. Ambrose University (in Davenport) and Augustana College (in Rock Island, Ill.) to improve our recycling efforts. We won’t do this alone.”
Three Environmental Club eighth-graders talked about the school’s efforts and ideas for the future:
Andrew Quested said students collect pizza boxes, break them down and place them in special bins on Fridays. Receptacles for aluminum cans, plastic bottles and paper are located throughout the school. “We have paper bins in every classroom.”
Andrew Skalak, Environmental Club chairman, said members are considering other forms of recycling in the school and parish. Collection of batteries and e-waste that can’t be placed in recycling bins is one example. “We’re working on it.”
Sydney said, “We teach others the facts about recycling. We teach them songs about recycling.”
But selling people on recycling hasn’t been easy, the students and Leming say. Early in the school year, they approached the school board and parish council about recycling efforts.
“We received written endorsements for our recycling and energy conservation plans,” Leming said. But questions were raised about funding of the bin for cardboard and trips to the recycling center and about sorting and storage of recyclable materials that would require staff time.
“We started the year by raising money to purchase recycling containers for the school and parish,” Leming explained. “We now actively recycle paper, plastic, cans and cardboard. We worked through each of those mini-issues and pressed forward to start an Environmental Club that meets twice a month. We’ve had guest speakers from St. Ambrose, Central High School Environmental Club, Augustana and Living Lands & Waters.”
Funds for recycling efforts were raised through a dance last fall. A student’s grandmother volunteers to take the recycled materials to the recycling center in Davenport. “She has been such a blessing and what a great role model,” Leming said. The school and parish have managed to reduce by half, the trash that winds up in the garbage bin, she added.
Andrew Skalak is so enthusiastic about St. Paul’s efforts that he hopes to get an Environmental Club going when he attends Assumption High School in Davenport.
Challenges remain, however. The school’s milk cartons are not recyclable because they are wax coated. Leming would like to see the use of individual, plastic recyclable jugs or milk served family style. Plastic jugs, however, would be more expensive. She hopes funds might become available to offset costs.
The Environmental Club wants to work on replacing Styrofoam cups and plates in the parish hall with re-useable glasses and plates, and then train people to use the dishwasher to clean those items. But the extra water usage — and cost — is a factor to consider. “This isn’t going to be easy,” Andrew Skalak said.
As for the future, a compost project is in the works. This spring the students will work with St. Ambrose University students and staff to continue to develop a prairie plot. The purchase of energy-efficient light bulbs is another project being looked at.
And Leming will continue to encourage students and families to participate in environmental efforts such as recycling at home, helping with a fall cleanup of area rivers and streams, and planting trees.