Environmental Stewardship: Your ‘Million Dollar Bill’

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One of my friends and colleagues passed along to me one of the “Million Dollar Bills” featuring Bill Elliott several years ago. This was in honor of his winning the Winston Cup Championship, so I was totally impressed to now have a “million dollar bill.”

Of course, I’d like to have a few real ones if there was such a thing, but the memorabilia is priceless.

There is another “million dollar bill,” though, that I wish to share with you about in this month’s column. It deals with environmental stewardship.

Here is a link to our Web site focused on system initiatives: www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/rethink.

Reduce - Reducing consumption is the first leg of this “three legged stool.” A great testament, I would say, to its effectiveness is the return of Lake Lanier to near full pool. Individuals and municipalities cut back consumption of water tremendously for over two years. While we were largely aided by the additional rain since January, the truth simply is that the reduced consumption made a difference.

You’ve probably heard about our “waterless urinals” in the school system. These have saved tens of thousands of dollars since installation; however, there are other things we can reduce that we often take for granted. Anytime possible, we need to be sure that we turn out lights, control thermostats and simply do not waste. Because of the recently enacted energy audit within Forsyth County Schools, I think it is safe to say that we have saved well over $500,000 during the past year alone just through reducing.

Reuse - Reusing items, when possible, also makes good sense in reducing the generations of waste in our community. Currently, reuse of water continues to be a form of good stewardship. Other items that we can reuse include shopping bags, glass and plastic containers, electronics and clothes. Our local thrift stores are great examples of community household reuse.

A popular new “reuse” is with aluminum or acrylic water bottles. Their slick style and handy use are trendy, and they keep potentially hundreds of plastic water bottles per person each year out of our trash cans, off the sides of the roads, having to be recycled, or out of the landfills!

Recycle - There are four things I will say about recycling right from the start:

Recycling is a commitment to the present. Recycling is a commitment to the future. Recycling saves landfill space. Recycling is simply the right thing to do.

One of the outstanding things observed about the quality of life in Forsyth County is the omnipresence of recycling. For many people, it is a way of life.

From homes, schools, businesses, collection centers, and the landfill, recycling is seen and adopted as a conscious part of everyday life.

Through the waste management contract that Forsyth County Schools has in place, the district has recycled hundreds of tons of product in the past several years.

For various reasons, accurate tonnage reports are difficult to obtain, but over 87 measured tons of newspaper was recycled in 2008 alone. Add to that the plastics, cardboard, and other products recycled, and it is conservatively estimated that at least 250 tons of product is kept out of the landfills each year.

There are number of heroes in our community when it comes to recycling. Our teaching personnel, who include environmental stewardship into the curriculum, are instilling values that will continue for generations. Several organizations in our community work to make all of us aware of the need for good environmental stewardship to include the outstanding leadership of the Keep Forsyth County Clean initiative (led by Tammy Wright).

My friends Denise Carlton and Mary Nix of Reaping Nature Productions are also driving forces in teaching, as well as demonstrating environmental stewardship in schools and the community. The passion that each of these individuals have for recycling and environmental stewardship is most commendable, and I believe it is making an incredible impact in Forsyth County.

Our waste management companies also do a fantastic job providing leadership that is often not recognized. Others, like The Avenues of Forsyth, have also recently joined our recycling efforts in providing each of the five new schools recycling bins for every classroom.

In conclusion, I would ask for your comments and thoughts regarding:

• How can we further reduce our consumption of energy and other resources to be better stewards of our environment (and consequently lower our utility bills)?

• Are there ways that we can further reuse items that we are not currently doing?

• What about recycling? It looks like it is working to me, but how can we do a better job?

Thank you for your comments regarding this important topic of environmental concern that impacts all of us. Recycling is truly a “Million Dollar Bill” when it comes to reducing costs today, as well as protecting our environment forever. I wish you all the best as we begin this new school year.

Visit www.forsyth.k12.ga.us and click Blog Central to see more school information and blogs by Superintendent Buster Evans.