With the college’s cooperation, she began by placing cardboard collection receptacles in various buildings on campus with the intention of reducing the vast amount of used and discarded paper being generated. Her effort was appreciated by those who worked at the college and their contributions produced approximately 23 large bags of recyclable paper each month.
Dr. Puffer had been inspired to initiate such an effort after living in Germany for a while and witnessing that country’s extremely successful recycling efforts.
“Germany had an amazing recycling program,” Dr. Puffer recently noted. “Collection containers were in train stations, malls, villages. There were separate sections for paper, green glass, brown glass and clear glass. They were so thorough it was hard to find a stray piece of paper if you wanted to make a note.”
The paper recycling effort at BSCTC eventually became so successful that it became too much for one person to handle. The IT Department volunteered to take on the challenge although Dr. Puffer still supplements those efforts by collecting the paper waste in one of the campus buildings.
With the paper recycling effort well under way, Dr. Puffer then turned her attention to other recyclable materials.
She was inspired to collect pop cans by the efforts of a former BSCTC faculty member who picked up cans after the Kentucky Apple Festival in Paintsville, turned the cans in for cash and then donated the proceeds to the Floyd County Animal Shelter. Building on that idea, Dr. Puffer placed aluminum recycling receptacles on campus. Once again she had created the opportunity for people to contribute with limited effort and the receptacles filled quickly and on a regular basis, again reducing the stream of garbage generated by the BSCTC Prestonsburg campus.
Those efforts then inspired others to collect and contribute cans from outside campus. One faculty member saves his own cans and collects his neighbors’ cans and delivers them to Dr. Puffer, while another campus couple collects their cans and donates them to the effort as well. About once a month Dr. Puffer transports the collected cans to Mountain Metal in West Prestonsburg and trades the cans for money. While the income on a monthly basis is small and fluctuates depending upon the market, the proceeds generally add up to a donation of $100 a year to the animal shelter.
Ironically, those visits to the animal shelter inspired yet another recycling effort. Dr. Puffer noted that shelter workers were exceedingly grateful for the donation of newspapers. She was told the newspapers were used to line the puppies’ cages. She began saving and donating what papers she could and other faculty members began contributing their newspapers from home. The animal lovers in the BSCTC library heard about her efforts and began making significant contributions to the effort as well.
While Dr. Puffer has turned her efforts primarily to the collection and recycling of cans and newspapers, her original initiative of recycling paper on campus has continued to thrive through the efforts of the IT Department coordinated by staff member Emily Hurd.
Hurd took responsibility for the paper recycling efforts about three years ago and is aided by work study students. Hurd notes that the paper recycling effort on the Prestonsburg Campus continues to grow each year. In 2008 the effort resulted in the collection of almost 12.5 tons of paper equivalent to 204 trees.
“Each ton of recycled paper (2,000 pounds), can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy, and 7,000 gallons of water,” Hurd notes proudly. “This represents a 65 percent energy savings, a 58 percent water savings and 60 pounds less of air pollution.”
Just recently, yet a fourth recycling effort was started on campus by Tina Ousley, an assistant professor of Biology. Ousley’s recycling efforts were initially confined to her own home where, with the assistance of her husband and son, the family sorts its waste into containers for cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and aluminum and steel cans. The bulk of the recyclables are taken to the Magoffin County Recycling Center but the glass recyclables are delivered to a recycling facility in Morehead about once a month.
While the average American family of four produces 100 pounds of garbage each week discarded in multiples of bags, the Ousley family has reduced its weekly household waste to one small bag.
In Fall 2008, Ousley elected to begin a plastics recycling effort on the Prestonsburg Campus and the quiet initiative quickly began to take over her office. Co-workers collect their plastics at home and bring them in bags to Ousley for transport to the Magoffin recycling center. Over the Christmas holiday, Ousley took a few days off only to find a mountain of plastic deposited outside her office door upon her return. “I could hardly get my office door open,” she says with a smile.
Ousley’s long-term goal is to coordinate a comprehensive recycling effort on all of the campuses of Big Sandy CTC, significantly reducing the college’s waste stream. The hope would be that BSCTC could serve as the model of an institution-wide recycling effort and would serve as an inspiration to other schools and businesses throughout the region.
Dr. Phyllis Puffer, Emily Hurd and Tina Ousley are BSCTC’s environmental warriors. Their personal commitment and sacrifice demonstrate the significant difference one person can make, while the success of their individual efforts demonstrates the easy acceptance and readiness of others to pitch in to the recycling effort as the opportunity becomes available.
Mother Earth appreciates their efforts and, considering the current state of our planet, she needs all the warriors she can get.