Taking items from the business world and reusing them in the classroom - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Taking items from the business world and reusing them in the classroom

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Posted: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 5:46 pm | Updated: 5:46 pm, Tue Nov 30, 2010.

There are words in our vocabulary that are gaining more notice these days – no longer do we just “recycle,” now we repurpose, reuse, and reduce. To recycle we take material and return it to an earlier stage and then convert it to a reusable material. When we repurpose it means we simply take one thing and use it for something other than its intended use. To reuse we take the item and just use it again – like taking a cardboard box you received in the mail and using it again to send your Christmas gift.

Treasures 4 Teachers (T4T) has taken these concepts to a whole new level. The dream of T4T Founder and Executive Director Barbara Blalock of providing vital materials to educators started in her own garage has grown over the past six years and now is housed in a new facility at 1230 W. Southern Ave. in Tempe. T4T provides rescued goods and materials to educators and students through their collections of donated materials from corporate partners and individuals to help teachers in their jobs convey to their students the value of recycle, repurpose and reuse. Blalock’s desire to divert materials from landfills to teachers who then reuse and repurpose the supplies is at the heart of T4T.

At the same time the teacher is bringing repurposed items from T4T to reuse in the classroom – the student is learning the powerful lesson about interaction with the environment for the future by reusing and recycling everyday items. What can a teacher do with 100 yellow pillow cases donated by IKEA? She can make them into bumblebee costumes for her students! What can be done with used CD cases? They can become mini-dry erase boards in the classroom. What about wire folder stackers that are no longer used in the office? They’re great for stacking kid’s artwork to dry. And the list goes on and on.

Not only does SRP encourage their customers to conserve energy but through an internal companywide SRP program, employees are encouraged to practice sustainable practices at work and at home. Through the program, nearly 500 tons of paper, cardboard, plastic, newspaper and aluminum cans were collected and recycled. An extensive carpet square recycling program has been implemented that sends carpet squares off to a recycler to break down the old carpet and salvage materials that can be used in the manufacture of new carpet.

The salvage items that are collected from corporate donors such as SRP and sent to T4T are sorted, tagged and shelved by volunteers. Many things will be free to the teachers or offered for a nominal price. T4T gives used cloth bags to the teachers and whatever they can stuff in the bags will cost only $5. Shopping carts are provided and it’s not unusual for teachers to leave with two full carts of supplies for under $10. Not bad for teachers who often are paying for supplies out of their own pockets.

Picture the art teacher who no longer has her own classroom but must move between classrooms with a cart of supplies for projects. She comes to T4T and is able to gather materials for the next quarter – used plastic boxes, wallpaper books, boxes of unneeded computer paper, end cuts of foam core, colored pencils, sharpeners (very important items), scrapbooking paper, and two bags of books. The cost? Eleven dollars!

Corporate partners such as SRP, US Airways, Intel and IKEA are the greatest source of product donations for T4T. Each month T4T sends a 24-foot truck to their donors where pickups have been arranged. SRP is on the list for this week with three loads of items such as used folders, three-ring binders, end cuts of paper rolls, excess envelopes from print projects and many more items that might have ended up in the landfill.

T4T provides businesses with smart, cost-effective alternatives to “scrapping” their excess supplies by putting these items directly into the hands of local educators and students. Check out the website www.treasures4teachers.org to see how you can join them in their mission to preserve our environment by donating your dollars or product to help them keep their shelves stocked. So many teachers have had their supplies budget either cut or eliminated entirely so anything that you can do to not only “recycle, reuse, and repurpose” your materials will help teach the concept to our students and ensure our future generation will learn the lesson.

Karen Fisch is manager of community outreach for SRP.

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