Harrison Center Collects Unusual Electronics

HEC adds to district electronics collection

On a crisp October 29th 2011, William J. Harrison Center (HEC) in collaboration with Midwest Recycling Center (MRC) collected a respectable 3500 pounds of electronics and appliances.  This event was our seventh and last for the St Louis Community College, pushing our total district amount to 228, 767 lbs diverted from the landfill! All of the electronics and appliances STLCC collected escaped our region’s one landfill, and saved the college over $2000.00– our fee for inhouse CRT (lead glass in monitors) recycling.

HEC’s manager, Kimberley Porter, and green team, led by Alandrea Stewart, came out to volunteer their valuable time for their first ever recycling event for the community.  Being a LEED-Goldfacility, recycling is part of the daily operations for students, faculty and staff. All the volunteers stayed warm laughing and telling stories while watching the really unusal items brought in by the community.

HEC volunteers
Here are a few oddities that caught our attention:

Officer Watson peers into the world's tiniest dishwasher

Oldtime TV!

Peep warmer (it had a cord!)



















St. Louis County Health Department is kicking off their “Recycling Becomes Me” campaign today, November 15th for America Recycles Day.  This clever campaign grabs attention as people “wear” recycling bins in various fashions–all meant to raise awareness and increase recycling efforts. The program shows that folks from all lifestyles recycle.  The County Health Department’s goal is to increase recycling by only 5 percent this coming year.  Just that small amount can fill the Edward Jones Dome 3 feet high 25 times!  And though St. Louis County has done a great job recycling, we still throw away enough to fill a quarter million dump trucks!  According to John Haasis, Program Manager for the St. Louis County Department of Health, “if each household in the county recycles just one extra aluminum can each week, that’s the equivalent of taking 720 cars off the road in a year. Imagine how much gasoline that saves from being used!” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct 24, 2011).   Show your own creativity by posting your “becomes me” photo at their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RecyclingBecomesMe  And if you are in the Clayton area today (Nov 15th) join the fun as they kick off this attention-grabbing program!

Recycling becomes STLCC–what about you?


AASHE Conference Inspires Florissant Valley Student


Evelyn Parker at AASHE Conference

Education outside the classroom can open new horizons.  For Evelyn Parker, Florissant Valley Communication major, education about sustainability crossed the country to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference.  Student Development funds from Dr. Pfeiffer, FV President, helped pay Evelyn’s way.  Yesterday, Evelyn presented her experience via powerpoint to the Flo Valley Green Team.  I was quite taken by what struck her as inspirational because I was attending different workshops on strategic planning, transportation, carbon footprinting and “trashformation.”  Evelyn was inspired by the key note speakers, workshop presenters, but more, by the whole experience of this much sharing of ideas and passion in the realm of sustainability.  Her powerpoint will be posted at www.stlcc.edu/green/presentations soon.

We ate local food in compostable containers in the spacious, daylit LEED Platinum convention center.  Attendees morphed organically attracted to their own school colleagues sharing away from the demands of work, and flowed out to absorb the ideas and best practices from around the nation and other countries.  AASHE conferences are by all means nourishing and over-stimulating.  The conference even had a “quiet” meditation room to integrate ideas from a full 3 days.

Webster U, Maryville U and STLCC share sustainability passions

In the evenings, pods from the regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium (HESC) met for dinner and debriefed the day, sharing what they were taking back to their schools for action.  Cruising around the town where I went to graduate school was a blast from the past.  I visited my former campus to find Duquesne University had greened itself quite well.  They had co-generation for heating building and great signage sharing other green building features. 

One of the key insights I brought back came from Leith Sharp (former sustainability director from Harvard)–just DO something, even if only on a small-scale.  She reminded me to never forget the core value that there is URGENT global action needed, and to act gutsier.  Look out STLCC–gutsy is my plan for my last 6 months in this sustainability role!

Community Collaboration is the Key

A well-oiled MRC team--ready to take electronics DOWN

STLCC is truly taking trash DOWN!  At present, we are well over 200,000 lbs collected and diverted from the landfill. I am humbled by the momentum of these electronic collection numbers.  Last Saturday at the Meramec campus, over 800 cars rolled through the two well-oiled lanes of Midwest Recycling guys unloading 3 cars at a time.  No one waited more than a minute or two.  And even during that short time, participants were pleasantly greeted by guys who love what they are doing for a living.  Several members of the public have emailed me to praise how the event was managed.  Not only were folks able to recycle electronics for FREE, they didn’t have to wait to do the right thing and responsibly divert dusty, some toxic, items from their homes and offices.

There has been such a win-win on these events.  More than saving folks in the community money and protecting Ma Earth, there is a true element of social justice operating.  Next week will show this justice clearly at our last event at the William J. Harrison Education Center in underserved north city. Two key just developments are ongoing in the Jeffvanderlou neighborhood: a brand new LEED-Gold campus of St Louis Community College, and dozens of LEED-Platinum homes built by Habitat for Humanity and the owners.  Research shows these shining examples of green architecture INSPIRE occupants to dream big.  Not only do these buildings save energy–money that can be reallocated into educational goals–but residents are healthier.

International studies from India show that urban poor are more than motivated to recycle given the opportunity and means to do so (Wahid Murad & Chamhuri Siwar, 2007). In fact, community co-ops find a living wage re-using and re-manufacturing waste, but need policy to protect them from commodies pimps who force labor at horrid health consequences. “It is no exaggeration to say that, throughout the world, the poorest people are forced to live in, on, and from the waste produced by the rest of us” (Leonard, 2010).  Education remains a key for resource management and way to improve quality of life in underserved areas.

This whole quest to collaborate with the community on these recycling events began with one elderly man trying to dispose of 3 televisions and not having the $45.00 to do so.  He left dejected and unserved with his TVs. Tony Krieg (MRC Co-Owner) and I could only wonder what would happen to those units.  Hopefully they ended up at Goodwill who still accepts TVs without charge.  But what if they ended up by a stream all because of fees? We knew that to really succeed, we needed the help of the surrounding communities to get the word out.  And that is exactly how these events have grown and succeeded. Many are faced with economic challenges, but none more so than those without employment and living below the poverty line.  The grand idea was to help across the board–financially for those monetarily challenged; environmentally for those with too much STUFF; and socially for those who live with trash as a part of their landscape.

Kudos to Mayor Richard Detweiller who got the word out to his staff and community; to Hands On Kirkwood, a consortium of churches volunteering their labor of love and time; to Dr. Emily Neal and her Meramec Green Team (including Toni Oplt in Community Relations); the Kirkwood Community Newspaper; and Kristen Cornett at KMOV Ch 4 TV who all got the word out to bring in a guestimated 85,000 lbs of electronic and appliances.  And of course to Tony and MRC–together we all have made a true difference.

The conspiring duo, Peggy Moody and Tony Krieg


Leonard, A. (2010). The Story of Stuff. Retrieved on 24 Oct 11 from storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/what-you-can…/demand-fair-recycling/

Wahid, M. & Chamhuri, S. (2007, Feb.). Waste Management Resources, Vol. 25, 1: pp. 3-13.

Let’s talk TRASH–diversion, I mean.

MRC tech assessing value

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley’s electronic collection was the 3rd of 7 recycling events.  Saturday October 1st was the quintessential fall day–cool morning temperatures, a light breeze, cloudless blue sky and warm sun.  Working with Midwest Recycling crew, I admitted to Tony Krieg, co-owner, that I had “collection anxiety.”  This was our 4th year together at Flo Valley.  For the past 3 years, the Environmental Quality Commission in the City of Florissant organized the electronic recycling events at Flo Valley.  The first year we collected 37,000 lbs of electronics and appliances.  The second year, the numbers dropped to 17,000 and the 3rd year to only 10,000 lbs.  I couldn’t understand why the numbers dropped–was it poor signage?  Not enough advertising? Was it procrastination? “Oh, I’ll just catch the next event.”

So this time I engaged community relations and all my green team leaders to reach out.  We decided to do 7 events for those procrastinators to catch up.  And indeed this year my “collection anxiety” has been soothed by all the awesome participation on the part of college employees, students and community neighbors.

I decided to challenge each campus to out-do the others.  Cosand Center collected 5737 lbs on a rainy day.  The second event at Forest Park collected 10,030 lbs!  Yahoo!  I’m still waiting on the numbers for Flo Valley, but know they will be high!  It took 4 large box trucks to take all they collected to their warehouse where they sort, count, weigh, and send off to the appropriate final processing places like Doe Run who process the toxic materials in the cathode ray tubes (CRTs).  Other materials are locally processed too.  Steal is processed a short 3 miles from the warehouse in Crystal City to Farmington; plastic is processed in Quincy, Illinois, and the various metals like copper are processed through a broker in Illinois as well.  For those really unique odd-ball items, his crew singles out and posts them on Ebay.  Tony said they have shipped these treasures all over the US and even to Russia!

Diversion is the main goal of any recycling.  It is important to keep this waste out of the landfill and away from leaching into our water table. Even more important is to get the toxic lead, zinc, mercury processed here in the US rather than shipping to Asia where materials are burned to extract gold and copper resulting in horrid lung and cancer health problems.

Call me Retro, but I am most interested in reusing.  When items can be rebuilt and put back into use, no new materials are needed to create it.  No mining.  No mixing of petroleum to form plastic casings. There is something COOL about styles of an earlier time.

STLCC Student Maddison Crooke stands with Wildwood Mayor Tim Woerther.

This past weekend, Wildwood campus was busy too.  They collaborated with Cintas and the City of Wildwood to collect and shred 30,000 lbs (15 tons) of paper and some plastic! Tiny Wildwood is a diversion giant, and next they are taking down electronics.

This weekend, Sept 8th, South County Center will have its first collection on Meramec Bottoms Rd off Rt 55 south.  And if you are one of those procrastinators out there, help keep my “collection anxiety” at bay by pitching in at Wildwood on the 15th, or Meramec on the 22nd or lastly at Harrison Center in north city on Oct 29th.  Let’s keep taking trash!

Losing Two Millions Tons–STLCC-style!

Micky Mouse treasure in the electronic recycling heap

There is a slight misty rain on Clark Street in downtown St. Louis this morning as Midwest Recycling Center takes in old and broken electronics as well as appliances large and small–basically, anything with a cord.  After so much dought in the area, today it rains.  I see this as a sign that Ma Earth approves of what we are doing to divert toxic elements from unwanted electronics from the landfill.  Did you know that each year, 2 million tons of electronics make their way into the landfill?  STLCC is taking this down.

At 11:00 a.m. the truck is half full. Our business neighbors are pitching in to help jump start this 7 event collection.  So far, we have had drop offs from Laclede Gas, Tums and many STLCC Cosand Center employees.  I’m wet and slightly cold from standing in the rain asking where folks are from, but bursting with excitment because this waste diversion is so important.  And did I mention, FREE?

Sustainability work is satisfying because of the partners in the region who want to work to make a difference.  Put the word out, and neighbors want to help.  Tony Krieg, co-owner of Midwest Recycling Center (MRC), has worked tirelessly to make our region and state a healthier place for his children and future generations.  Sitting together at another electronic recycling event at Florissant Valley campus, Tony, his partner Jeff, and I tried to figure out how to get more people to come to the events.  What if we off-set the cost for TVs and monitors?  So MRC wrote the grant for money to do just this with STLCC supporting letters of recommendation; and St. Louis-Jefferson County Solid Waste Management District came through with the funds. Instead of $15.00 for TVs and $10.00 for monitors, we can offer the events without cost.  But make no mistake, there is a TRUE cost for cathode ray tubes due to their toxic elements.  The grant helps process these materials responsibly.

Mike Martin, Tony Krieg and son at St Louis Earth Day at Forest Park campus 2011

I put out the challenge to Cosand colleagues–can we kick off these 7 events with a walloping tonnage?  We’re small.  We’re few.  But are we mighty? In a few hours, we will see just what muscle and spark the corporate offices have to spur on our campuses and their surrounding communities!  Stay tuned for these results!

Sustainability is alive and well at STLCC

Runran's No Foam Sculpture

As the fall 2011 semester begins, STLCC continues to move forward on the sustainability front in several ways.  Two tidbits come from the food front:  Treat America has switched from foam to compostable containers AND the college has contracted with Blue Sky Recycling to compost the food scraps from our 3 campus cafeterias.  Both goals have been sought for many years and happened because managers from Treat and the college see eco advantages.  Both commitments mean more short-term cost for long-term waste savings. Compostable containers still cost more, but Treat seems committed to proceed in this direction because customers now value and ask for no foam. Composting with Blue Sky will pay off quickly as food waste is no longer part of our waste bill.  Special thanks go to Christy Hart, Auxiliary Manager at Forest Park, who manages food services contract renewals.  She kept sustainability goals high as we renewed our food service contract. 

Along with operation decisions, a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory class as been created to help the region continue to have free GHG emission inventories updated for the City of St. Louis (and the County of St. Louis in the future) while providing STLCC students valuable internship experience and green job training.  This class has been created as a hybrid credit (a capstone) and continuing education non-credit opportunity.  The idea was to attract government, industry and anyone interested in green job training and pair them as mentors for STLCC college students. I used my capstone: “Think Tank: using psychological strategies to solve world problems” (IDS 201-577 at Flo Valley), and linked it to a class title more apropos to the topic: “Greenhouse Gas Inventory–the future is now” (Continuing Education under Ecology 700).  We need students for this class to run, so please pass the word to anyone you know who may be interested!!  Special thanks to Janet Witter, Director Steve Long, and Vice Chancellor Rod Nunn in Workforce and Community Development for their support thinking outside the box for class creation in a short amount of time.  We nominated this collaborative project for the Heroes of the Planet–Sustainable Alliances award. 

Last, but certainly not least, during the summer, a green champ at Flo Valley (Vicky Lucido) offered to help the district create e-documents to move away from multi-page forms.  Electronic signatures are being discussed now with Accounting, Human Resources and TESS so Banner can recognize approvals.   Along with moving forward in paper reduction, Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance Carla Chance and her team are drafting a sustainability position to be added to Board Policy.  This policy will reflect our green mission statement and help spearhead decisions across the district wanting to improve operations from purchasing to green building (thanks Dennis Dill, District Manager for Maintenance and HVAC, for your input here).  My kudos to leadership to bravely move forward in this direction of transparency and accountability! 

Here’s to a fabulous semester as our faculty improve eco-literacy, and our facilities crew, TESS, Auxiliary and Business Managers and the Green Team leadership continue all their good works on each campus! Everyone makes a difference!

Saving paper with electronic forms

Trees breathe carbon--pitch in and use e-documents!

St. Louis Community College is a large district–4 campuses and 3 education centers, employing 3868 full and part-time people.  As in all businesses, keeping track of hiring, on-going workload changes, requests for travel and purchasing requires a trail for transparency and accountability.  Up until now, this accounting has been done by paper.  And not just single sheets–but multiple page forms.  I’m not a fan of filling out forms.  I hate how hard I have to press to get any information to the 5th copy–what a waste–in time and materials!

The college is on a paper reduction mission, thanks to Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance, Carla Chance.  We measured our paper consumption for 6 months to see just where our biggest usage was.  Once the sources were identified, strategies were put into effect like new “smart” copiers that not only copy both sides (duplex), but are energy-efficient to boot.  We also have software that will help direct print jobs in the most paper-efficient manner.  For example, the softward routes large jobs to the copy center where the cost is significantly less than printing that job to a desktop printer (the difference being .02 at the copy center compared to .15 at the desktop).  Many desktops cannot print duplex, so they eat up paper (not to mention toner that is more expensive).

Human Resources now uses software called PeopleAdmin.  In one estimate, that software has saved the district 617,000 sheets of paper generated by 12,443 application materials for FY 2009. Each application was estimated to average 10 sheets per application with copies going to an average of 5 people on a committee. I calculated not using paper applications would annually save 56 trees, 15,947 lbs CO2, 5,248 lbs of solid waste and 57,861 gallons required to make the paper (Paper Calculator from Environmental Defense Organization).

So what excites me the most is one elf at the Florissant Valley Campus has been working away at her e-doc workshop creating excellent replacements for tracking requests without paper!  Vicki Lucido has even offered to share and adapt the forms so they have a district logo.  I want to know how we can get those forms out to the other campuses?  The college keeps stressing we are ONE college, not 4 separate campuses. If one campus has a great idea, why can’t all share?  It is time we stop wasting paper and time, not to mention developing carpal tunnel, and move forward to the electronic age!  No one’s job will disappear–sorting still has to happen–it just will be electrons moving through space.  Yes, there is still an energy footprint from computers, but the forests will stand and continue to drink up the carbon that is created in paper and electronic production.