Just what do you do when you need to unload thousands of books?
That was the question troubling staff and students at Princeton Secondary School, until last week when the entire student body took part in a recycling effort that diverted at least 2,000 pounds of material from the local landfill.
“Everyone participated,” said vice-principal Crystal Larsen. “You couldn’t help but feel that you were part of something that was bigger than you. You couldn’t help but feel that this was really cool.”
Two years ago the library at PSS was converted to a learning common room, and a stockpile of books needed to go.
“Books are used, but not to the extent that they were,” said Larsen. For educators “there are a lot of digital resources that are available, up to date and more engaging sometimes.”
Attempts were made to sell the books, and also to donate them, without success.
As it turns out, books are very hard to recycle. Covers must be separated from pages, bindings and glue must be removed and brown paper, white paper and glossy paper all has to be separated.
The school didn’t have the resources “and we wound up throwing 5,000 books in the garbage.”
When more books needed to be eliminated this year, Larsen said she felt she had no choice but to once again throw away books.
“My students wouldn’t let me give up. My students kept saying ‘Mrs. Larsen there has to be a way.'”
The idea for a mass recycle party came from student leadership including Jett Larsen, president of student council. “He said there is always an option.”
Last Wednesday, stations were set up around the school, with 25 students and a teacher assigned to each work area, and the project was underway.
“We worked together for an hour. We had music in the hallways. We were tearing apart books and we stopped counting after 2,000 pounds.”
One student was even assigned to shredding as much paper as possible, so it could be multi-purposed for compost or animal bedding.
“I think we did a really great job of community building. I think if you are going to do anything in a school you want them united for something,” said Larsen.
“What goes through my mind is the power of student voice, the sense that these kids had something important to say and they refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. They were determined that there was a way to make this happen and it took all of them.
“It was student voice that led this. It was student initiative that made it happen, and without them I wouldn’t have been able to think outside of the box.”
The book recycling project was the kick off for a series of school events to mark earth month which also include a clothing drive and plastic reduction and water conservation exercises.
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