For over nine decades, Wyoming has hosted May Fete, a tradition that means the day off school for kids, an army of volunteers running game and food booths, and inevitably, silly string—lots of silly string—300 pounds of empty silly string cans.
In the last two years, a group of Wyoming parents formed the Green Team through the Wyoming Schools Parent Student Association (PSA). In two years’ time, the group has: diverted thousands of pounds of recyclable and reusable materials from landfill, secured grants for lunchroom recycling stations, supported the newly formed Middle School Green Cowboy Club, begun removing invasive honeysuckle and planting butterfly friendly plants and initiated recycling at the high school, to name just a few of its successes. Most importantly, the PSA Green Team has planted the seed of awareness in students’ minds and the ideas they have for diverting would-be trash are growing and spreading.
But perhaps the day the Green Team’s impact is most observable is on May Fete—a day full of fun that, like all festivals, also involves a lot of trash. Last year, the Green Team brought recycling to May Fete. “In setting up lunchroom recycling at the schools, we learned that once Rumpke sees a bag of recycling is contaminated—meaning contains non-recyclables, food or liquids—they send the whole bag to the dump,” notes Sarah Stankorb, a Green Team member and Wyoming City Council member. “That’s why last year and this year you saw Green Team members throughout the day checking each recycling can and pulling out trash.”
Wyoming’s Public Works director, Terry Huxel, helped make recycling for the event more affordable too, by offering to schedule an additional pickup for the city-managed recycling dumpsters behind Gabby’s and the Wyoming Pastry Shop instead of PSA having to rent and pay for—the much more expensive—one-day event recycling dumpster.
Another important change, on a day when silly string seems unavoidable, was helping get kids to pick up their empty cans, when in previous years, empty cans were often found littering the Village Green. “We noticed how people were more aware of their actions regarding trash. Instead of throwing empty cans and caps away or on the ground, festival goers collected them and turned them in at the Green Team booth. One group of kids collected over 200 empty silly string cans!” says Lauren Albarella, Green Team co-chair. Albarella notes that with caps and nozzles removed, Rumpke can recycle aerosol cans.
The Green Booth this year also featured a small electronics drop-off. “People don’t know what to do with outdated electronics and electrical cables that contain reclaimable materials so they get thrown away. Enter PSA Green Team. The nearly 200 pounds of materials we collected this year will be scrapped and the money will go back into our fund to expand our efforts.” said Elizabeth O’Keefe, Green Team co-chair. Once again this year, the Green Team’s booth also featured a trash sorting game in which kids—and a few adults—practiced sorting items one might need to toss out at home: strawberry scraps (compost), an old shoe (Simple Recycling), soap bottle (recycle), and plastic toilet paper wrapping (trash, unless you return it to Kroger with your plastic bags). The game, developed last year by Katie Lawrence, another Green Team member and Environmental Stewardship Commission member, was popular enough it earned over $100 from players who had fun—on the most fun kid day of the year—sorting trash.
To top things off, Wyoming Middle School’s student-led Green Team had yet another booth dedicated to their environmental efforts. Students and parents sold Wyoming-themed reusable water bottles as a fundraiser for bottle refilling stations for their school, and offered cold water throughout the day. “Our small, but mighty, group had an amazing learning experience. We learned how to promote and sell something, while helping the community reduce waste. Thanks to the Community, we raised over $1,700 for the filling stations and saved approximately 100 plastics water bottles from getting thrown away,” says Ainsley Benken, a Wyoming Middle School student.
The PSA Green Team noticed substantially less plastic waste as compared to last year and May Fete volunteers began recycling all of those boxes that prizes come in. “Everyone is becoming more aware of their actions which translates to less plastic use and less trash—a win for the community!” says O’Keefe.