Every day is Earth Day for area schoolkids who recycle to raise money.
Instead of selling chocolate bars and bags of M&M’S, the kids at Incarnation Catholic School in Palos Heights look to another resource for fund-raising: garbage.
Not all garbage, mind you, just recyclable paper—magazines, newspapers, junk mail and paper students use for classroom assignments and homework. Since December 2003, the school’s been participating in the Abitibi Paper Retriever Program. By collecting paper in the massive yellow and green Abitibi receptacles in its parking lot, Incarnation has raised close to $9,000 and instilled a lesson about responsible living in its student body, according to Karen Alex, a school parent.
“This is much easier than making the kids sell candy, and they learn [about the importance of] caring for the environment,” says Alex, who helped introduce the program at Incarnation after watching her daughter’s preschool use it to raise enough money to repave the school’s driveway and install new landscaping. “My daughters know that all of our newspapers, mail and magazines [never] go in the garbage.”
The program is run by Abitibi Consolidated, an international manufacturer of newsprint and commercial printing papers. The company provides free collection receptacles, then weighs and picks up the paper at regular intervals for shipment to its processing centers. There are no costs involved for participating groups, which receive monthly statements detailing the weight of the paper along with checks calculated on a sliding scale per ton of collected paper.
Alex estimates Incarnation has collected about 460 tons of paper so far, with the whole parish now involved. “Our pastor writes articles in the church bulletin about the recycling program,” she says, adding that the school started with one recycling bin, which holds about two tons of paper, and now fills four. “It’s a way for parish families to help, too.” The money goes into an account for the school’s Mother’s Club, Alex says, which makes an annual donation to help defray the cost of things like computer software, gym equipment and financial aid.
Abitibi says roughly 700 schools in the Chicago area use the program to raise money for everything from field trips to school uniforms and even teacher salaries.
Administrators like the program because it’s a form of fund-raising that doesn’t contribute to the mounting problem of childhood obesity, plus it helps students understand how much paper they use and consider ways to reduce their consumption.
“The benefit is twofold,” says Bernadette Felicione, the principal of Immaculate Conception School in Norwood Park, which has been using the Abitibi Retriever program for two-and-a-half years. “We’re helping the environment and our extra steps help us to finance a middle-school writing-program instructor.”
She says just having the kids place their trash in specific bins is a good learning tool, but they’re also put to work moving paper from the school into the outdoor receptacles. “We are trying to teach the kids to be more green-minded, and hopefully our activities transfer to [what they do at home],” Felicione says.Pre-school and early-elementary kids are the most eager to get involved, she adds, but with a little prodding middle-school students come around, too.
Like at Incarnation, the entire Immaculate Conception parish participates in recycling, according to Felicione, using three containers and raising about $220 a month. “Not bad for garbage,” she says. “And there are no challenges. Recyclable garbage is plentiful.”
For more about the Abitibi Paper Retriever program, go to paperretriever.com or call 630-587-1300.