By Katie Dudlets
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
April 23 is a big day for the environment in Meridian Township. Upcoming Spring Clean and Go Green! and Love-A-Park Day events are giving volunteers a chance to participate in a community-wide effort to recycle items they have at home and to beautify the natural areas all over the township.
Chippewa Middle School’s parking lot will be filled with volunteers accepting recyclable items at the annual recycling event, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. that Saturday.
“This recycling event is a convenient way to recycle or reuse items that you may not be able to recycle curbside or even at your local recycling center,” said Recycling and Energy Coordinator LeRoy Harvey. “It’s fun, it provides an opportunity for people to work side by side on a feel-good community activity, it provides students with a chance to fulfill their service-learning goals or requirements, and most importantly for some, it’s a chance to clean house.”
The goal of the event, the likes of which have been occurring for nearly a decade now, is to collect items that residents usually have a harder time recycling curbside.
“[We want to] reuse material that is useful and probably should not ethically be disposed of in a landfill,” Harvey said. “People have stuff that they need and want to recycle.”
Patricia Norris, professor and Guyer-Seevers Chair in Natural Resource Conservation at Michigan State University, said recycling is becoming an ever-growing alternative to typical disposal methods.
“One of the biggest reasons that recycling has become as big as it has is because it reduces the pressure on other waste disposal methods,” said Norris. “Early on, there was a concern about the growing need for more landfills in places around the state and around the country. There was a thought that recycling would reduce that kind of pressure.”
According to Norris, events of this nature are pretty common all over the country, especially in the surrounding areas.
“Ingham County’s got one going on within the next couple of weeks, East Lansing does one and I know Meridian Township has always done that one,” said Norris.
Ann Erhardt, Director of Sustainability of Michigan State University, said that events like this one that present recycling opportunities can connect to more important issues.
“Recycling seems like a simple thing, but it is a valuable service and has a positive impact on our environment,” said Erhardt. “It is an easy way for people to start connecting with bigger environmental issues and community sustainability.”
Norris said that while there is a newfound interest in recycling, reducing and reusing, there are costs to be considered.
“There are real costs associated with recycling,” Norris said. “Just the cost of collection and sorting and getting other things into the waste stream. Many communities will trade off pressures on putting things in the landfill against recycling, the sorting, the managing and decide that it’s worth it to go ahead and do it.”
Meridian Township has certainly decided that it’s worth it, and continues ahead with that event and more.
Love-A-Park Day is going to have its return as a day of volunteerism in Meridian’s parks and natural areas. According to Meridian’s Land Stewardship Assistant, Kelsey Dillon, there are a lot of different activities to be done.
“Our most common projects include mulching, planting gardens, litter removal, tree branch and stick removal, invasive species removal such as garlic mustard pulling, and really any other beautification projects that the groups want to accomplish to improve the look and health of these areas,” said Dillon.
According to Dillon, anyone can participate.
“Groups and individuals are all encouraged to pick a park or natural area they want to work on and talk to parks staff about projects that need to be accomplished,” said Dillon. “They will then get a plaque showing that their group adopted that park.”
Dillon said this event makes a significant impact on both the community and the environment in Meridian.
“When a park receives TLC from the community members it really is noticeable. Throughout the year visitors to these parks really appreciate the aesthetics of beautiful flower beds and litter-free facilities,” said Dillon. “Environmentally, planting native forbs and grasses help to support wildlife such as butterflies and bees that are also huge fans of our parks. Invasive species removal is both aesthetically pleasing and improves ecological health by increasing biodiversity.”
Residents are seeing these volunteer opportunities as great ways to bring Meridian Township together and do some good for the environment.
“I think these are great events to try to get more people involved in volunteering and recycling in their community,” said Okemos resident Emily Hong. “Personally, I have no idea where I would recycle old bicycles or mattresses, so this event seems very helpful and practical as I could just bring them there. I think cleaning up the parks around where you live is such an easy thing to do and this event is only one day, so why not?”
Hong said growing up in Okemos has certainly influenced her view of these events.
“I know I was happy and fortunate to have clean playgrounds and parks to play in as a kid when I attended elementary school here in Okemos,” said Hong. “We should be grateful for the nice areas we have, so the least one can do is be aware and keep the areas clean.”
According to Meridian’s website, the park system includes over 900 acres on 28 sites with 20 miles of trails and another 80 miles of pedestrian and bicycle pathways. However, the significant amount of land dedicated to parks and natural areas is not the sole reason for this event.
“[Love-A-Park Day] was one of the parks department’s initiatives to engage the community in volunteerism,” said Dillon. “We get calls all the time from people and organizations wanting to volunteer but just not knowing how or wanting a specific date and some structure to the projects. We have such wonderful, motivated people in Meridian Township and we love giving them a chance to take ownership of these projects in our parks.”
Getting the community involved is a big part of both events.
“Love-A-Park Day is all about getting the community together to spruce up our parks and natural areas,” said Dillon. “By putting together this event we are encouraging people to get outside and really appreciate and care for the parks that make Meridian Township such a wonderful place to live.”
Residents agree that their participation in both the spring recycling event and volunteering in the park areas is crucial to not only environmental awareness, but also to the success of the events.
“I feel like these events do a good job of making more people aware and giving them an opportunity to help out,” said Hong. “Although I feel like community members should be aware of trying to keep their parks clean all year round, this one day is definitely a step in the right direction. I also feel like these events are great opportunities for parents to get involved with their children, allowing kids to start making good habits at an early age.”
Erhardt said that events like these not only raise awareness for environmental issues, but also bring the community together on a deeper level.
“Organizing these events brings awareness to the issue and gives community members an opportunity to connect with their local municipality and with the environment,” said Erhardt. “Maybe even get their hands a little dirty in the process.”
“Last year was successful due to a great turnout from the community and a lot of coordination effort by the parks department,” said Dillon.
Hoping to see equal or higher resident turnout this year, the parks department encourages any and all to come out April 23 to recycle items and beautify the parks and natural areas.