Reed student steers college into major recycling effort
"She is going to change the world," commented Kevin Myers, Director of Communications at Reed College, as I passed him on my way to a campus interview with student Hayden Hendersen.
Hendersen has started an on-campus recycling center. After an hour of speaking with her, it was clear what Myers was referring to. Hendersen's passion, perseverance, and probing research on recycling sources are very impressive. Since her sophomore year she has worked diligently on creating a very comprehensive recycling center for students, faculty, and staff at Reed.
Bins at the recycling center accept all kinds of things – some which can be recycled locally or in the metro area; and some for which there are no recycling outlets in Portland.
The Internet has enabled Hendersen to find places throughout the U.S. that accept the recyclables that are not taken in Portland. Using brown cardboard boxes that people bring to the center, she mails recyclables from the campus mailroom with funds provided by the college. Before she takes anything to local recyclers or mails to a company elsewhere in the U.S., she calls ahead to make sure their website accurately lists what they still will accept.
Hendersen's recycling commitment is unwavering. In the past, she has ridden her bike several times to the Metro Station in Northwest Portland, with bike basket and bags full of hazardous waste (batteries, light bulbs) from campus. She has used e-mail to get students to volunteer to take responsibility for emptying recycling and composting bins in dorms and other buildings on campus, and to help in other ways.
Now, in her senior year, Henderson is on paid staff – as Student Sustainability Coordinator – and is making plans to have someone replace her, so that the recycling center that she is so passionate about can continue.
Over the last three years she has designed all of the colorful and very descriptive fliers hung around the Reed campus, printed by the campus print shop, which help people understand what can and cannot be recycled.
In the BEE interview, she described how she got the college to agree to have a recycling center that takes a very wide variety of things: Two years ago, living off campus, her basement was becoming overwhelmed with recycling she had collected that no one wanted to accept.
"I was sick of having it [my basement] filled with recycling. Over winter break in my sophomore year, a friend and I collected everything from my basement and went out and bought some containers, labeled them, and put them in an inside corner of campus. Then we went to the Sustainability Committee to ask their permission to start a recycling center," she says with a grin – knowing full well that she had put the cart a little bit before the horse.
The committee granted permission that has led to many, many visible changes on campus. Bins outside of restrooms, classrooms and dorms are provided for various recyclable items.
Hendersen became interested in recycling in third grade when her mother was service-learning coordinator at her school. They worked with a couple of teachers who implemented "green and healthy" lessons. "There were very few recycling bins in the classrooms, so I started changing that," she says.
Now in her senior year at Reed, majoring in environmental studies and political science, she is writing a thesis on implementing a national plant-based school lunch program. "I'm trying to come up with a policy that would do that," she explains. She is applying for fellowships, and would love to stay in Portland in a job that would achieve more of her recycling goals.
In her small hometown of Raymond, Wisconsin – population 3,500 – her family has been changed by her passionate work. They have become vegetarians; and her sister, a mechanical engineer, learned from her about a foremost U.S. recycling company – Terracycle, in New Jersey – that Hendersen ships some of the recycling to. Her sister has moved there, to take a job with them.
To see Hendersen's instructive recycling fliers, and learn more about the recycling center, visit the Reed College website – www.reed.edu/sustainability – and click on the gold box: "Recycling and compost information." The Metro website – www.oregonmetro.gov – also lists recycling depots in the metro area.
Since the campus recycling center is just for the Reed College community (Hendersen says the restriction is difficult, but necessary, in terms of volume and space), she hopes that with some of the information she provides, people can get together and carpool to Agilyx in Tigard, and/or find other recycling options from the websites provided. There are alternatives to dumping it all in the garbage.
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