School and jail partner to reduce footprints

Carden Conservatory in Huntington Beach and Theo Lacy Jail in Orange may seem like an odd pairing, but the two have recently come together over candy wrappers and chip bags.

Through a program with TerraCycle — a company that takes non-recyclable materials and turns them into products like purses and backpacks — the school receives a donation for each candy wrapper and chip bag the jail recycles. The idea was unanimously approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors in August.

Though the students are beneficiaries, they have no direct involvement with the wrappers, bags or inmates. The candy wrappers and chip bags come from the jail. The inmates pick them out of the trash and box them, and the jail ships them to TerraCycle.

"They don't have their trash going to a landfill," Carden parent and school office manager Patricia Shenkman said. "They know that they are helping the environment and they are helping our students. It's a win-win for everyone."

The students also use recycling bins at their campus.

Since the project's approval, the jail has shipped out six boxes of candy wrappers and chip bags, resulting in $415 donated directly to Carden, which offers preschool through eighth grade.

The partnership with the jail is just part of the non-religious private school's new recycling and sustainability program, which is officially being launched with an assembly at 8:45 a.m. Friday.

"The last two years we've been teaching our students what can be recycled and what can't be recycled," Shenkman said. "A lot of kids didn't know you could make a purse from candy wrappers and chip bags."

The school is not just focusing on recycling but also teaching kids about composting and sustainability with a new organic garden that will break ground in the next few weeks. The garden will feature a soil donation from Rainbow Environmental Services of Huntington Beach and its subsidiary, Agromin of Oxnard, which produces soil and mulch from biodegradable, organic materials.

The Organic Garden at Carden will be in addition to the already existing Kindergarten Garden, which was expanded last year through a grant from Rainbow Environmental Services called the Seed Award. Rainbow has been working with Carden, along with 63 other local schools, to build recycling programs.

"We think its important to educate our future generations on sustainability from a reduce, reuse, recycle standpoint," said the company's sustainability manager, Rochelle Groh.

She said the program not only educates but raises funds since everything Carden recycles — in bins from Rainbow Environmental Services — generates money for the school.

Also being donated are two vermicomposting bins, which use worms to compost organic materials, from Environmental Resource Conservation Solutions.

Shenkman said the push for a green movement is an effort to show that though the school is small, it aims to accomplish big things in terms of sustainability. Carden averages about 100 students a year.

The assembly, which is open to parents, will feature a Rainbow recycling truck and a raffle of donated products from TerraCycle. Guests will include members from the Theo Lacy Jail Sustainability Team, a member from the Board of Supervisors, representatives from Rainbow and Councilman Jim Katapodis.


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