Liz in the teacher’s lounge where she also initiated recycling a number materials (that she takes home and recycles herself!)
Meet Liz Nafus! She is our wonderful February recycling spotlight! Liz is a 2nd grade teacher at Truman Elementary School in West Valley City where she has done some really incredible things with the entire student body. After coming out to the Salt Lake Valley Landfill for a tour, she started a recycling program in her school. Once she had that under control, she decided to shoot for the Hogle Zoo’s Polar Bear Challenge, where they have earned an honorable mention, a silver award, and finally, they won the gold award.
We thought it would be awesome to see recycling in action at her school, so we visited one Tuesday morning to see the process. What fun that was! Luckily, Liz had a bit of time to sit down with us after the recycling was done and answer a few questions.
Students go to each classroom in the building to gather the paper and recycling boxes and bring them to the front of the building
Next they walk the paper down the sidewalk to empty it in the recycle bin!
Salt Lake County Recycling: When did the importance of recycling hit you?
Liz Nafus: I started taking my students to the landfill on field trips a number of years ago, that’s when it really started to sink in; nothing out there is decomposing. I knew we had to do something. I went to college in Oregon where recycling was a large part of the culture, so I guess the background was there. But the tours with my students, realizing this massive landfill is closing in only 50 years and we can change that. That’s when the real importance of it struck me.
SLCoR: What recycling idea would you like to communicate to the masses?
LN: That recycling is too easy and too important not to do it. If there is a fee, it’s minimal for most people. And if it’s a larger fee than you want to pay, find a recycling buddy. I have a glass buddy. We save up all our glass, collect it from our neighbors, and then she takes the brown glass and I take the mixed glass to the drop-off locations.
SLCoR: What recycling moment are you most proud of?
LN: I would say my most proud moments are finding out about the students who take the knowledge they’ve learned here at school and bring it home. One year for the Polar Bear Challenge, we made sure every student had a reusable water bottle, and counted how many disposable bottles we saved by doing so. During the challenge, we had a medieval festival at school. One of our sixth graders has a dad who works for a grocery store and he offered to donate bottled water to the festival. She told her dad there was no way they were bring bottled water into the school! It’s great to see what we work on here translate into the students' everyday lives.
SLCoR: Not to be a downer, but for awareness’ sake, what is your recycling pet peeve?
LN: Finding paper in the garbage can in the teacher’s lounge. When people come in to make copies, there is a "Reuse Box" for paper that still has one blank side, and a recycle can right next to the copy machine. And still, paper ends up in the garbage can. I don’t know how to make it easier!
SLCoR: What else should we know about you?
LN: Because we’ve worked so hard with the Polar Bear Challenge, the Hogle Zoo asked us to become a pilot school for some of the new initiatives they are trying out. It has been wonderful for the students– they get extra experiences and prizes that we wouldn’t have otherwise. When we set out on our sustainability journey, we didn’t do it to make it lucrative, we did it because it was the right thing. But the kickback has been our partnership with the zoo, and that has been amazing.
Students (who are sometimes too small to do it on their own – how cute are they?!) dump all the recycling into the bin.
All this paper is just from this morning’s excursion! We’re so glad Liz makes this happen each week!
Thanks for being such a superb recycler, Liz!
Do you know a stellar recycler we should feature as our next Recycling Spotlight? Tell us about them! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to follow Liz’s example and become a great recycler? Take our 20% Challenge, pledge to recycle more and help Salt Lake County catch up to the national recycling average!