Two high school students join with City Council to outline plans for bag ban in Molalla

Almost two years ago when Natalee Litchfield was a freshman at Molalla High, her leadership teacher Mackenzie Behrle assigned the class a project. They were to collect and wear a clear plastic bag of the trash each generated during the week. Natalee not only collected it, she tied it around her neck and even wore it while singing the National Anthem at an assembly.

And that, according to Behrle, was the start of something big. Not only did Natalee just follow through, she went over and above, researching and bringing people with her. She and her friends Cori Oster, Adam Miller and others have succeeded in removing Styrofoam plates from the cafeteria starting with the new school year in September.

The students, spearheaded by Natalee, met and worked with the principal and the district to get rid of the plastic plates. She's talking about getting rid of other plastics in the school, like straws, to improve conservation as well as energy resources.

"Natalee and Adam made signs for each light switch in every room in the school," said Behrle. "The signs asked to turn off lights when the room is empty. It's impressive, these little things add up," she added.

Natalee, Behrle said, was at a FFA fair and noticed there were no recycling bins in the park. She called the county parks director and told him. He was amazed and agreed they didn't, but would get them.

This summer Natalee and Cori will be working with the city to develop a campaign for a city-wide plastic bag ban on the November ballot. The two presented a program to the Molalla City Council regarding the use of the bags. This showed how these bags end up in rivers, streams and in the ocean. They create trash, clog waterways and kill aquatic animals. Council members were so impressed they asked the girls for their help and determined to put it on the November ballot.

Currently, Natalee is communicating with council members through email. Not much has been determined other than the possibility of showing Wall-E, a movie about a robot and trash, at a local park this summer and Bag It at the High School for everyone when school starts. The two have decided to do most of their work after school starts again closer to November. Part of her plans include communicating with grocery stores.

"The council voted in favor of putting an advisory measure on the ballot in November," Mayor Jimmy Thompson told the Pioneer in response to an email. "Ms. Litchfield was going to work with the school I believe to put together a presentation and to help otherwise educate the public.

I mentioned to her that Councilor Elizabeth Klein and Councilor Leota Childress were coordinating an event around the community visioning project in September and that she may want to work with them to include something for that event. The vote in November will inform council on the direction that the community would like for the city to take."

Meanwhile, if the students need help, Behrle will be there to support them. She said her secret is to provide the students with open ended topics and let them run with it. Natalee is busy, she is often working on several projects at once as well as getting good grades. This summer she will spend about two and a half weeks in New York at what she calls New York Times Camp and a week in Washington D.C. for an FFA leadership conference.

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