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From Home Furnishing Business

Trash Trek

All last fall a section of the laundry room became trash central. As time passed, the room was nearly taken over with empty plastic two-liter soda bottles and paper toilet paper tubes all for the sake of an elementary school First LEGO League Challenge.

The youngest of the boys’ robotics team was on an ambitious quest to gather the items to meet the assigned challenge—figure out a way to put less in our landfills. The team decided to build a greenhouse from thousands of empty soda bottles. The paper tubes were to be used as decomposable seedling starters. Every greenhouse, afterall, needs a few plants.

With the school community backing the team, social media posts by parents and friends, the drive to collect tubes and bottles was underway, and it was serious business here at home.

Nearly daily, a collection of empty bottles would appear on the front porch; the paper tubes followed. It seemed the never-ending stream of garbage would consume the entire house. In the front door then out the back as we carted the collection to school.  I thought we were going to be buried alive in trash over the weekends, and I considered gathering up the collection several Saturday mornings and dropping it in the green recycling bin outside. Who would know, right?

I’ll tell you who. A 9-year-old fourth grader passionate about the challenge, his team AND the environment. At his bequest, we went to the church four days a week to scour the recycling bins placed in the kitchens and meeting rooms. We peeked into dumpsters for stray bottles deposited in the wrong receptacle.

Just as I was ready to say “no more empties”, he would come up with another creative idea for gathering more.

Other parents had similar stories to share. There were stops on the side of the road because a bottle was spied by the curb, and grocery store managers questioned for empty bottles. These kids were nearly rabid in their quest. The passion was palpable. When it comes to fourth and fifth graders, who wants to—or should—quash the drive?

So the O’Maras, and nine other families—bolstered by a supportive community—continued to collect these reusable and recyclable items for months.

 The result? The Challenge came and went, and the first-year team brought home a trophy for best robot. The greenhouse is standing in the school’s courtyard filled with cucumber seedlings grown from seed in a medium of hand-shredded paper tubes.

By spring, the school will have a bumper crop of cucumber plants to transplant into its community garden available for those who need or want. All of this from 10 little people who are now haranguing their parents about what to recycle, how to reuse and strategies for reducing waste. They, unlike some in previous generations, care deeply about what the Earth will be like when they’re adults.

What the heck does this have to do with furniture? Not a lot really. I only share because I see a drive in the kids to make a real difference in cleaning up the world. Even if it’s through one soda bottle at a time, they’re moving in the right direction. And, for them, recycling has always been a part of their lives. They’re not being retrained on how to treat trash; recycling, upcycling and reusing are inherent to their  way of living. That, my friends, gives me hope.


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