Check Out How These Custodians Took on Recycle Rally

School custodian recycling makes rallying schools next-level awesome.

Author: Staff Writer

Staff Writer

School custodian recycling is often at the core of what sets a Recycle Rally school up for success. Whether it’s captaining sorting and weigh stations or cheerleading the latest sustainability team project, custodians are the unsung heroes of green team advocacy. Here, Recycle Rally celebrates a few of these outstanding custodian stars!


A great-grandmother, custodian, caretaker, and green leader all-in-one


Custodian Mary Martinez holds Recycle Rally award with Legacy Early High School students.


Cleaner, greener spaces abound at Legacy Early High School in Taylor, TX, thanks to senior staff custodian Mary Martinez. “Ms. Mary” is always on the move, leading Recycle Rally efforts around campus from dawn ‘til dusk. Legacy’s recycling results are wow-worthy, too. They have recycled over 700 pounds of plastic and aluminum and even more pounds of cardboard and paper!


Legacy educators credit Ms. Mary’s work ethic and consistency for creating a school-wide recycling culture at Legacy. “She collects cardboard and breaks down boxes like a professional wrestler,” George Solano, Legacy Spanish teacher, says.


As the eldest person in the school community, Solano says Ms. Mary’s actions give true meaning to their school name, Legacy. Ms. Mary says she’s proud of the changes she’s helped foster, like advocating for and securing more bins around campus. “I love that I get to work with teachers and kids,” Ms. Martinez says. “Recycling and helping with our school’s ‘green’ activities make me feel good about myself and our community.”


A heroic custodian makes it a family affair


School custodian Nichole Vest unloading recyclables at Wyoming East High School in West Virginia


While school buildings closed and the world faced lockdowns, Wyoming East High School in West Virginia had another shutdown on its hands. Its booming school recycling center was in jeopardy. The Friends of the Earth club needed a place to store its mounting recyclables. Enter school custodian extraordinaire Nichole Vest!


Nichole voluntarily took recycling left by families at school to her mother’s home. Together, they created a sorting station in their carport. Nichole’s family got together after school hours and weekends to sort, weigh, and manage new recyclables.


Pandemic prowess aside, Nichole has always helped Wyoming East High’s green efforts beyond sorting recyclables—she makes club fliers and recycling bins and contributes to marketing efforts for the club too. “I love that my job gives me the flexibility to help Friends of the Earth recycle,” Nichole says. “I feel like I’m making a difference, and I’m making my community cleaner!”


A jack-of-all-trades brings ambition to school custodian recycling


School custodian Roger LePage at Harbor City International School in Duluth, MN


It’s no surprise that facilities manager Roger LePage could jump right into Harbor City International School‘s sustainability and environmental efforts with ease. He’s been providing graphic and photographic support to the EPA in Duluth, MN, for over 30 years!


Roger relabels and creates new bins with students and is constantly advocating for all of Harbor’s recycling and green initiatives. Despite helping the school’s transformation, he’s humble and hesitant to call himself a leader. “In a school world, the lead has to come from the students,” Roger says. “I am open to what they want to do; I just add my experience to help them achieve the goal.”


Science teacher Brian Scott says that Roger is an integral part of the conversation among staff and students for all sustainability initiatives. “He’s more than willing to have a conversation with anyone about our recycling system and its importance.”


Roger’s inspirational lead makes it easy for Harbor City to go big in pursuit of projects. Next up is creating a “Cans for Conservation” campaign where students choose an endangered animal conservation campaign to receive a donation from money earned through recycling aluminum.


School custodian recycling doesn’t stop with determined dedication


School custodian Sue Bird and students at Trip Elementary School in Grayson, GA


Before Trip Elementary School in Grayson, GA even had an official school recycling program, custodian Sue Bird was already ahead of the game. She’s always been collecting plastic bottles, bagging, and making sure recycling was top-of-mind. In a school of over 1200 students, it was no small feat. Once the program blossomed, Sue spearheaded set up, collection, and made classrooms easier to recycle, and is always on the lookout to find a home for items being thrown away.


Due to Covid-19 restrictions and cost restraints, Trip Elementary could no longer afford the recycling program once school began to resume. Sue took it upon herself to collect, bag, and label recycling bags and made sure she or another staff member carried bags home to be recycled with home recyclables.


Sue’s school custodian recycling dreams live out loud when she sees her community coming together in action and effort. “It brings a smile to my face when I see the students dumping buckets full of plastic bottles they’ve collected from their classrooms into the recycling containers throughout the building,” Sue says. “It makes me feel happy and prideful.” Thank you, Sue!


The dream team of school custodian recycling


Female "dream team" custodians recycling at Meister Elementary in Hobart, IN


The tireless custodial team of Doris Flores, Evelyn Eckhard, and Donna Gaskin make school recycling heroics look easy. When Meister Elementary in Hobart, IN signed up to participate in PepsiCo’s Recycle Rally, Doris, Evelyn, and Donna jumped right in.


“I didn’t even have to ask them if they would take on the extra task of handling the four new recycling bins on top of the additional Covid requirements this year,” Deana Hecht, Meister fifth grade teacher, says. “I wish I could wrap up their recycling enthusiasm! It would truly be like smiley-face emojis and confetti raining down.”


To these three recycling overachievers, staying on top of collecting, sorting, and enthusiasm for counting totals all comes with simple, but great, rewards. “It makes me feel good knowing we are doing a very important part in trying to save our earth,” Doris says. “Getting everyone involved means a better future now and for the next generation.”


Donna echoes that achievement. “Hopefully, we’re making a difference in their lives. I love seeing the kids getting involved, making goals, and achieving them.”


It takes a village for a successful recycling school community, and Evelyn is grateful. “We have to lead the children to be able to make the right choices about our school, their lives, and our Earth,” she says. “Recycling is a daily exercise in my school, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”


A green team custodian, a recycle rallying coach


Custodian Bobby Alvarado helps students sort recycling at Eisenhower Elementary School in Boulder, CO


Head custodian of Eisenhower Elementary School in Boulder, CO, Bobby Alvarado, has championed his school’s green team since its inception in 2013. Bobby helps kids get waste into the correct bins, rinses out food from recyclables, and even digs into the trash to move items from one bin to another. Also, he’s the chief motivator for a winning green team!


Each year the EcoEagles participate in its school district’s Zero Waste Lunch Contest. It’s the annual “big push” to encourage everyone to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost. The school lunch trash is weighed and compared to the other school competitors. Eisenhower Elementary has won all seven times they have entered! They thank Bobby for his support, recycling know-how, and motivational coaching!


“Change starts with our kids,” Bobby says. “When I see that they care for our environment and their future, then I have done my part. When I see the kids involve their parents too, it is a great feeling.”


Above all, Paraeducator Marti Hirsch says that Bobby’s value goes far beyond your average recycling expertise. Often, Bobby chats with kids at lunch to bolster their spirits or jumps into action when there’s an accident on the playground. Also, Bobby speaks fluent Spanish and can relate to the issues of Eisenhower’s Latinx students. Hirsch says that’s an incredible added benefit to Eisenhower’s diverse school population. “The camaraderie he has developed with the students is a continual asset to our recycling efforts,” Hirsch says. “The students like and trust Bobby, so when he talks to them about recycling right, they listen.”


We love celebrating recycling heroes in our school communities! Keep inspiring the next generation of green leaders with some of our favorite recycling resources for classrooms and families.

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