Efforts of St. Charles’ ‘Green Team’ grab president’s attention

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 23, 2011

By Baileigh Rebowe


DESTREHAN – Three Harry Hurst Middle School students and their teacher were recently honored in Washington, D.C., for creating a recycling program at the school.

The trio with the help of their fellow students collected more than 16,000 gallons of recycled material last year.

Teacher Julie Rexford said the “Green Team,” the name of the group that started the program, began when she asked her science classes one day if anyone was interested in starting a recycling organization since recycling seemed to be hiatus in the community after Hurricane Katrina. She said the outpour from interested students was amazing.

“I had close to 40 kids sign up and come to the first meeting,” said Rexford.

Like most organizations, the only issue was funding.

After intense research, the team found a company to pick up the recycled load from the school each day for free until the program gained footing. After receiving a small grant from Valero Refinery for costs for the rest of the year, Rexford decided to see where the recycling project would take them.

On July 19, it took them straight to the nation’s capital, where representatives of the Green Team were honored as “Champions of Change,” a White House program that acknowledges community involvement and innovation.

Rexford said she picked three outstanding Green Team students to accompany her on the trip.

“They really worked hard and stood out in my mind as to what recycling is all about,” said Rexford. “They just went the extra mile.”

Sean Walsh, who just started eighth grade, said traveling to Washington, D.C., was really exciting.

“It was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said Walsh. “I definitely couldn’t sleep the night before.”

During the school year, Walsh, Courtney Crane and Collin Walsh spent their lunchtime visiting each classroom to collect bins full of recycled materials and taking them to the designated area to be picked up by the recycling company.

They also made signs about recycling and conserving energy and posted them around campus and in every bathroom.

“These students educated the entire school about being green friendly,” said Rexford.

Walsh said he likes keeping things clean.

“I love the planet. It’s where I live,” said Walsh.

Crane has other ideas on how to make the school more environmentally friendly. She does not want the efforts to end with recycling.

“I’m really interested in how to compost leftover food to make fertilizer,” said Crane. “It would reduce the waste from the cafeteria.”

The team is also looking into creating floor mats out of grocery bags.

She said the Harry Hurst community has been really supportive of their efforts.

“I have teachers already asking me, ‘We’re doing the recycling again this year right?’” said Rexford. “We want to get more people involved, get more Green Team efforts going and spread the Green Team concept around the parish,” said Rexford.

The recycling program will continue next year thanks to a grant received from Abundant Power in North Carolina.

The team also received a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to expand the program into Destrehan High School.