On Thursdays, as many as 20 Whitlow Elementary students stay after school. Clad in green T-shirts, they visit more than 100 of their school’s classrooms to empty recycling bins.
“We go around and collect all the bins throughout the entire school,” said Keith Furstenberg, Whitlow physical education teacher.
It’s all part of the school’s Green Team, which helps promote environmental issues in the school and at home, Furstenberg said.
“We try to promote lifelong appreciation of the environment to the kids to kind of help save resources and keep a healthy environment,” he said. “We try to have the kids go home and make the connections in the home and then from the home to the community.”
Two years ago, the school’s parent-teacher association and Keep Forsyth County Beautiful provided funding to put a recycling bin in each of the school’s classrooms.
Since then, Furstenberg and the students have worked to encourage recycling not just plastics, paper and cardboard, but also batteries, ink cartridges and shoes.
It’s been a learning process, according to Furstenberg, but teachers and students have been getting better about remembering to recycle.
He noted that the environmental efforts play well into the school’s efforts to earn Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM certification.
The students also competed in a recycling contest last school year, earning third place in the state and 128th in the nation for the Keep America Beautiful Recycle-Bowl Competition.
Furstenberg has been an active supporter of environmental issues since his days in the boy scouts in the late 1980s.
“I’ve felt connected to the environment ... and just kind of kept it going,” he said. “We talk about how things that we do here in Forsyth County impact other areas around and the things we can do to save power and electricity and water here impacts other states.
“Saving resources is not just important for us today, it’s for future generations.”