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Friday, Sept. 24, 2010 07:21 pm

Kudos to the kids

Most of my distinct memories from elementary school have stuck with me purely because I was impressed that someone else didn’t cry – that girl who stapled her finger, the boy who knocked out his two front teeth, or my big sister with a face full of gravel after a misguided jungle gym move.

But yesterday, as I tore into another six-pack of canned caffeine,* I remembered one very ingrained grade school lesson: Always cut the plastic rings so the birds don’t strangle. If I remember correctly, we had a school-wide program in which we’d bring all of our families’ six pack rings in to be recycled and someone would give the school money. We were supposed to cut them just in case one blew away on its way from place to place.

I still cut the rings. If I don’t, and then walk out of the room, I’ll obsess over my failure at life – and all the birds’ deaths I’m causing – until my laziness is overcome by the nagging voice in my head. Of course, I credit my teachers.

The education system gets a lot of grief for a lot of things, but there’s one thing my old school – and at least one Springfield school – must get: “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.”

This Saturday, the kids in the new Capital College Preparatory Academy in Dist. 186 are getting three hours of hands-on lessons about energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling. The press release the district sent out today says they’re going to learn about vermicomposting and recycled papermaking. They’re also going to learn more about reducing the use of plastic bags.

Since we use at least 500 billion plastic bags worldwide every year, and many of them end up littering the ground and waterways, I’m hoping whatever their teachers tell them about that topic sticks with them like the plastic rings lesson has stuck with me.

Having come of age when using plastic bags at the grocery store was what everybody did, I formed the nasty habit of using them instead of reusable bags. Back then, nobody was telling me otherwise, and now I frequently don’t think about bringing cloth bags until it’s too late.

Here’s hoping that the talk the CCPA kids get this weekend will help make sure avoiding plastic bags becomes first nature when they get a little older. Knowing that it probably will become first nature for them, I can already picture them when they get a little older, wondering why we older kids were so dumb and lazy and left their planet in the state it’s in.

I don’t think my ego can handle that, so I guess I can go ahead and thank them – knowing that they’re learning how to be even more environmentally friendly is already reminding me to do the same.

So, as I get ready to guzzle my next round of canned caffeine – carried out of the store in a cloth bag – I have a toast all ready: Kudos to the kids!

*I blame journalism for the caffeine habit. My mother taught me better. (At least it was from an aluminum can that I swear I will recycle.)

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