PAMEL MOHR 0000-00-00 00:00:00
In five years, the Amesbury Lions in Massachusetts have collected more than 40 tons of metal, plastic, glass computer housing and peripheral equipment. More club members work on this electronics recycling project than any other club activity. Welcome to the green world of Lions. Think of green not as a color but as a lifestyle. More and more people seem to be thinking and living green. But Lions clubs have been preserving and protecting the earth’s resources for years and, in some cases, decades. From recycling paper and cleaning woods and roads of litter to clearing rivers of debris and providing clean water, Lions have been vigilant caretakers of our planet and its inhabitants. Joan Baptiste of the Amesbury Lions credits information in a 2004 LION Magazine article for prompting the original recycling partnership between her club and Boy Scout Troop 4. After reading that banner patches would be offered to Lions clubs that joined in events with local Boy Scouts, members decided to co-sponsor an electronics recycling project with the scouts. Lions now operate the venture by themselves. Held twice a year, the day is heavily publicized in the area. “We’ve also collected free of charge numerous pairs of eyeglasses for Lions recycling and cell phones, which are given to the police department to reformat for battered women,” Baptiste says. The club tacks on a small charge in addition to the recycling company’s fee, and offers home pick-up for another slight charge. Senior citizens and disabled adults are not charged for either service. “It gives them [Lions] the opportunity to do something manual and they’re amazed at the popularity of this service,” says Baptiste. “They get to see old neighbors and friends and catch up. It’s an opportunity for good public relations. People look forward to it, calling the town’s department of public works all through the year asking when the next recycling event will be.” In Arizona, the average age of members of the Prescott Noon Lions Club is probably around 70, says Adrian Langhus, but green has been a way of life for them since 1991 when members first began recycling paper. They originally thought it would be a good fundraiser, but helping the environment is what keeps them going now, he explains. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that about 60 percent of Americans don’t bother recycling their old papers after reading them. Prescott Noon Lions won’t ever be counted among them. With a population of 40,000 today, Prescott’s early leanings when founded in 1864 were more cowboy than environmentalist. There’s nothing old fashioned anymore about either Prescott or the Noon Lions Club, one of four Lions clubs in the city today. The area sits amid the world’s largest stand of Ponderosa Pines at an elevation of 5,300 feet. Surrounded by such natural beauty, Lions may just have a better motive to go green than many. The reason greets them every morning when they open their eyes. Lions agreed that paper recycling could raise money for the club and help save forests at the same time. More than 53 million pounds of paper has now been hoisted, hauled and recycled by Noon Lions, who’ve invested $100,000 in conveyors and collection trailers. They’ve earned $230,000 by selling the paper to a company that makes eco-friendly cellulose insulation for homes—just another reason to keep doing all that heavy lifting. More than 40 worthy causes are beneficiaries of the club’s profits, including a local center for the blind and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Lions rise before dawn twice a week to collect newspapers. They put in around 850 hours a month and use their own vehicles to travel around town picking up the paper, collectively averaging more than 25,000 miles a year. Working together on a green project is a great way to get members outside and seen by the community—getting a little exercise and doing some good at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture—every little bit helps, says Elaine Fisher, a member of the Burr Ridge-Hinsdale-Oak Brook Lions Club in Illinois. After participating in a districtwide trail cleanup the previous year, Lions agreed they wanted to become more involved in environmental work. They found their second project in Fullersburg Woods, a historic forested area that also is home to Illinois’ only waterwheel gristmill still working after being built in 1852. As a station on the Underground Railroad for those fleeing slavery, the Graue Mill and Museum is a popular destination for school field trips and families, and is, in fact, located just a couple of miles south of international headquarters. The heavy foot traffic also leads to litter, which is a distraction to the site’s historical significance and natural beauty, despite being located in a prosperous suburb in one of the Midwest’s wealthiest counties. Lions who spent a sunny afternoon removing large bags of Styrofoam and trash from the woods were frequently approached by hikers who stopped to thank them for their efforts. Ridding roadsides of litter is a common factor in the community cleanups organized by 32 percent of all Lions clubs, but in Missouri, members of the House Springs Lions Club got their feet wet—literally—when they dove into their first big environmental project. They noticed in 1969 that the local branch of the Big River was in need of some serious attention. Located in the metropolitan St. Louis area, House Springs Lions are still clearing the river of dangerous and just plain unsightly debris. They took to the water in seven canoes and a jet ski last year to remove an assortment of junk, including a sunken boat, from the river’s depths. The trash not only clogged and polluted the waters, but also posed a hazard to boaters. So many old tires were dragged out, says Carl Strieder, that a member used his tractor to haul them away from the shore for proper disposal. It’s a hard, dirty job, but the benefits from the day spent on the river—and often in it—far outweigh the work, he believes. “It’s a no-cost way to help the community and get the Lions in front of the public.” In South Dakota, the Dell Rapids Lions got into the recycling business when approached by a recycling company with an offer they couldn’t refuse. And because they didn’t, Dell Rapids Fire and Rescue received a $1,000 donation to its building fund. The biggest problem was where to put a 53-foot trailer the company provided for the collection it wanted Lions to sponsor. That issue was solved when the city agreed to let Lions park the trailer on a street corner. Without the city’s help, says Lion Carolyn Drew, “This project might have been stopped before it even got started.” Residents were so enthusiastic about that initial collection that Lions organized a second one not long after the first ended. And it’s not only Dell Rapids supporting the club. When the family of Lions Sue and Marlowe Hovey visit from St. Paul, Minnesota, they don’t come empty-handed. They bring carloads of paper to toss into the Lions recycling container—more paper means more money to the club. Hovey says the club has collected more than 78 tons of paper and cardboard, “waste that has been kept out of our landfill,” she points out proudly. “The thing we hear most often is ‘Thank you for doing this!’ ” The price of recycled paper has dropped dramatically, from $65 a ton to $30, but Hovey jokes, “The project is so popular with our community that we would probably continue the collection even if the price dropped to zero! And boy, do we have a good time—we don’t care if it’s 100 degrees or 40 below.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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