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Nonprofit organizations, Gresham-Barlow School District receive state sustainability awards for being green

COURTESY PHOTO: ASSOCIATION OF OREGON RECYCLERS - Laura Gumpert, Laura Kutner and Alondra Flores Aying, all with Trash for Peace, show off their award from the Association of Oregon Recyclers. Three local groups won prestigious 'green' awards during an annual conference last month in Bend.

Nonprofit thrift store Chase Me Again, the Gresham-Barlow School District and Laura Kutner from the nonprofit organization Trash for Peace all were named "Recycler of the Year" at the Association of Oregon Recyclers' event.

The Association of Oregon Recyclers, a nonprofit trade association that promotes recycling and waste prevention in the state, presents Recycler of the Year awards to groups and individuals who make significant contributions to recycling and waste prevention.

COURTESY PHOTO: ASSOCIATION OF OREGON RECYCLERS - Gresham resident and volunteer Charlotte Becker received the Recycler of the Year award on behalf of Chase Me Again. Now in its 10th year, Chase Me Again sells new and used clothing, home décor, kitchen and household items, used furniture, patio wares and some seasonal home and yard décor. Profits from sales support other local nonprofit groups. Donations have included $107,000 to My Father's House community shelter, $27,500 to Birch Community Services, $11,500 to Gresham Outdoor Public Art and another $31,000 to groups including the Gresham Senior Center, Meals on Wheels, Infusion Gallery, NW Battle Buddies and PAWS, Adventist Hospice, Hospice Care of Washington County and others.

A certified Gresham Green Business for six years, Chase Me Again uses green cleaners, upgraded their fixtures to be more water efficient and are looking at reductions to electricity usage.

The Gresham-Barlow School District has been a longtime partner in sustainability with the city — from winning national Energy Star awards multiple years in a row to leading the state with a large list of Oregon Green Schools in pursuit of reducing waste.

COURTESY PHOTO: ASSOCIATION OF OREGON RECYCLERS - Alan Crapser, with award, posed with city of Gresham staff in celebration of being named a Recycler of the Year.In the 2018-19 school year, the district was the first in Oregon to collect food scraps in the kitchen as well as from students in the school cafeterias. Composting food scraps keeps the waste out of the landfill where it creates greenhouse gasses. District staff across the board work toward being sustainable, with the award specifically highlighting the work of Custodial Services Supervisor Alan Crapser. He has partnered with the city for the last five years to implement several sustainability projects. Those have included an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality water bottle filling station study; a donation partnership with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to reuse old school equipment replaced via upgrades; and participating in a national food waste reduction study with the World Wildlife Fund.

Kutner started Trash for Peace in 2012, after she was inspired to assist people in Guatemala during her three years in the Peace Corps. She said she wanted to bring the idea of converging trash, recycling, art and education back to her home state of Oregon.

Trash for Peace, which provides hands-on, creative experiences that encourage waste reduction, started by providing education in schools and under-represented multifamily communities through Home Forward. The youths create fun and functional art from recycled or trashed items, engage them in cleaning their communities and teach food waste prevention.

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