The Green Ridge Recycling Program

Calysta Goodwin, Editor-in-Chief

The Green Ridge Recycling Program, which launched on March 9th of this year, has seen overwhelming success here at East Ridge. The program was undertaken by the Student Government Association and spearheaded by the student body president, Najee Rodriguez, who had the idea after desiring to act against the growing threat of climate change and pollution.

Though the program only went in place a little over a month ago, the planning process has been occurring over the majority of this school year. In order to actually establish Green Ridge, SGA had to first focus on securing funding as a foundation for the entirety of the program. As stated in an interview with president Najee Rodriguez, “First we had to invest money, so the recycling program in total cost about 400-500 dollars that came exclusively from SGA. We had no outside funding, so this is something that was primarily set up by us.” To raise the money needed for the program, SGA relied primarily on member donations and fundraising to quickly establish their base fund. A large reason for the necessity to raise money for a recycling program is due to the Lake County School Board being forced to cut funding to any recycling programs their schools might have had due to budgetary constraints. This made East Ridge High School the first Lake County school to have an established and successful recycling program.

The plan for the Green Ridge Recycling Program was a pilot testing period of a month, in which two recycling bins would be placed in the cafeteria to encourage students to begin recycling rather than throwing everything away. SGA announced that their policy on recycling materials would be very strict due to the possibility of the program not continuing, and therefore will only accept juice cartons, milk cartons, water bottles, plastic containers, and paper. This was put in place in the hope that students would eventually begin not only recycling in the cafeteria, but that they would bring recyclable materials to the cafeteria from classrooms as well. When asked how the program would expand into the next year now that it has been deemed a success by administration, Rodriguez speculated that it could possibly expand into a few pilot classrooms. More specifically, he stated that the primary focus would be, “Building One because it has the English Department, so they would have an abundance of paper that they would need to use, and kids go there all the time for their English classes.”

Once the blueprint for the recycling program was finally set in stone, SGA went about ensuring that the recycling bins were properly used by stationing members in shifts during every lunch to prevent misuse and to switch out the bins when they were full. Once the school day ends, the Student Government Association gets together and sorts through all of the recycled materials and take the time to bring all of it to the Lake County Convenience Center Recycling, which is the nearest convenience center in Clermont for trash and recycling, to ensure that it is properly disposed of.

(SGA Members Chloe Dougherty and Anays Martin emptying recycling bins)

While the time taken to actually get the program together has been acknowledged by students, many have wondered why it took so long simply to announce that the program was even happening. In response to this, Rodriguez answered that, “One thing that we’re very strict about is ensuring that something happens. So rather than last year where things were promised but never given, this year we’re hoping to be different. In terms of what we were planning, we wanted to make sure we solidified everything before we actually continued with the plan… This was always on our agenda from the beginning, so we wanted to make sure that it was done correctly and properly, because we’re not going to get a second chance at this.” Once Najee and the other members of the Student Government Association could ensure that the program would actually occur, they set about with promotional marketing plan of posters, flyers, morning announcements, and administrative lunch announcements detailing what could actually be recycled and how important the program would be. They had even extended their promotional efforts to emailing the Lake County Superintendent and outside media sources to detail exactly what they wanted to do.

The goal of president Najee Rodriguez’s team was to begin promoting environmental welfare and to give students a more sustainable environment. Rodriguez and the SGA made it their mission to “foster environmental education within them that they can utilize long after high school and at home” and to “alleviate just throwing things away and just being more careful and more conscientious with what you recycle, because it’s very important”, as stated by the student body president. Rather than waiting for the school to put a policy in on their own, Najee Rodriguez and the Student Government Association took things into their own hands and pushed East Ridge towards a cultural society of sustainability that could help resist the coming climate change.

(SGA Members Natalie Cabada and Megan Yurchick sorting recycled materials)

In a follow up interview, Rodriguez was asked his opinion of how the Green Ridge Recycling Program was fairing, to which he responded, “The Green Ridge Recycling Program is one of the most successful ventures that the Student Government Association has undertaken. The students have responded with overwhelming positivity to the idea of the single stream recycling and students are learning about what items can be recycled on a daily basis…Students are learning the value of being environmentally conscientious while the volunteers are learning about the process of recycling each trip that they take. I am proud to announce that our school’s administrative staff has approved Green Ridge for another year and has mulled over the benefits of expansion.”

In this day and age, climate change is a growing concern that many ignore because they feel it does not directly affect them. Without policies being put in place by higher authorities to slow the growing devastating eventuality, it falls upon students to take environmental sustainability into their own hands, and Najee Rodriguez and his Student Government Association team have done just that.

(President Najee Rodriguez, founder of the Green Ridge Recycling Program)