‘Go Green 4 Education’ drive turns trash into cash for schools
by Mariko Lamb
Published - 08/01/12 - 01:07 PM | 3034 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pacific Beach schools, like Kate Sessions Elementary, above, are benefiting from a new recycling program called “Go Green 4 Education,” which helps augment campus budgets in slim financial times for the San Diego Unified School District. Kathy Combs, left, is vice president of fundraising at Kate Sessions. Kate Sessions Elementary principal Sue Devicariis is second from left.                                                                                                        Courtesy photo
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A new green initiative that launched in the 92109 neighborhood is not only an easy-to-use recycling program to encourage environmental consciousness in the community, it is also one that supports the future of tomorrow’s young leaders in the midst of financial woes for the San Diego Unified School District.

“Go Green 4 Education” is a community-minded approach to recycling that blends the long-gone milkman-service method of personal delivery and pickup with an innovative, yet simple, business model for the benefit of future generations.

“The program works very simply,” said Go Green 4 Education founder and 20-year Pacific Beach resident Destry Whitney. “Go Green 4 Education will drop off a six-gallon [recycling] bin to the home of the participant and do a collection right from the participant’s home. In order to safeguard the material, participating homes are asked to place the bin on the front porch and, on a weekly basis, we will empty it and provide another fresh crate for the upcoming week.”

While the number of participants and recyclables collected varies, local schools are presently getting a return after the program’s operational costs. The percentage of return for schools will increase, however, as the number of participants and recyclable volume grows, because operational costs decrease, he said.

Whitney’s inspiration for the program came from his observations of an everyday fact of life — scavengers rooting through recycling bins in front of his home.

“I was curious as to how much they actually received in monetary value for their efforts. I was surprised at how much money was being generated by their effort,” he said. “I began to research the industry and found a significant hole in the system that these scavengers fill. In my research, the idea was created to take this material and do something of value with it.”

Whitney also discovered that local schools had, in fact, already been using a similar model to generate internal revenue for schools through recyclables. The schools’ attempts often fell short of their intended monetary impact, however, because program organizers expected people to bring recyclable material to the schools.

Whitney’s business model is just a slight readjustment of what has already been in place at schools for many years.

“Schools have always tried to use recyclables as a small fundraising effort,” said Whitney. “The expectation of the participants was that they would load this material into the family automobile and haul it to the school. This program was messy and unsuccessful at best.”

Instead, Go Green 4 Education uses the good old-fashioned “heels to the pavement” method for many of its undertakings — from community awareness about the program to pickup and recycling of collected material.

“The reason we’re doing this is because we need to get creative as a community,” said Whitney. “We continue to rely on the state for funding, and the school budget seems to be on the table the whole time. The financial money train we call the government is out of answers and money.

“We’ve done this program with zero public funds of any kind,” he said. “We haven’t gone for grants, loans or sponsorships. This is an internally generated program, starting with one trash can I put behind a bar, and it has grown over the past nine months with that methodology. We are not beholden to any government agency. We are an independent PB-based organization.”

Although the recycling program is currently only available for participation by residents in the 92109 ZIP code, Whitney and his Go Green 4 Education colleagues hope to stamp out the business model in other ZIP codes as well, starting as early as next year.

For now, he hopes to hit the ground running with the program and make an impact for elementary schools in Pacific Beach — one nickel at a time.

“Our end goal is to provide an ongoing source of financial support that will never be completed until we, as a community, can fund through our recycling the entire elementary schools’ budget needs,” he said. “This may sound like a hefty task, and it is. But if we, as a community, can pull together – all of us who call PB home — it is achievable.”

Whitney found that each household in the 92109 ZIP code generates an average of $10 in recyclable material each month.

“At 1,000 homes, that is $10,000 a month in revenue divided among the four elementary schools in PB. At 3,000 homes, that is $30,000 per month dividend,” said Whitney, bringing to light the potential monetary impact that could go to support financially troubled schools in the area. “There are 26,000 households in the 92109 ZIP code. Imagine what we could do for our local elementary schools.”

To participate in the free recycling program, call (619) 634-5179 or visit www.gogreen4education.org for more information.
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