Montana State University

MSU, community team up to take on trash

April 13, 2009 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service

Kevin Vilkin, an MSU freshman and vice president of the Network of Environmentally Conscious Organizations and Public School Outreach Coordinator talks with Anderson School students Friday about the benefits of conscious consuming. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- It may have been the Friday afternoon before Easter, but education continued on several levels at Anderson School near Bozeman.

Kindergarten students practiced counting to 12 by gathering Easter eggs scattered outside the school.

Students in grades four through six -- one wearing the pink ears of an Easter bunny -- sorted through pop cans, Styrofoam egg cartons and plastic bags to decide which items could be recycled.

Representatives of Montana State University and the Bozeman community, as well as students at MSU and Bozeman High School, said they continued to learn the value of working together to keep the Gallatin Valley a beautiful place. More than a dozen of them visited Anderson School to encourage the elementary students to become more conscious about consuming.

By the end of Earth Week, approximately 1,000 students around the valley will have heard their presentation, which emphasizes the three R's of conservation: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, said Jodie DeLay, Assistant Director of Public Relations at MSU. Earth Week runs from April 18 to 25, with a variety of activities scheduled for each day. Activities during the Gallatin Earth Celebration include, among other things, MSU students exchanging trash for trees. Students who collect a bag of litter or recyclable material will receive a small tree to plant.

"It's an effort to be more interactive and to really demonstrate how the city needs the university and the university needs the city," DeLay said. "The more healthy we both are, the better off we are."

Brit Fontenot, program manager for neighborhood conservation groups in Bozeman, and DeLay were part of the group that saw a need to promote conservation with widespread cooperation and K-12 interaction. The group organized the three R's presentations, planned the Gallatin Earth Celebration and developed a pilot program for Irving School. The program will begin during Earth Week. After Irving students learn how they can reduce, reuse or recycle garbage, they'll collect garbage from their school and weigh it. Then they'll sort through the garbage to see what might've been reused, not used at all or been recycled. They'll repeat the process a few days later to see if their knowledge made a difference.

"We want to show students how they can impact the amount of waste that we all have," DeLay said.

In the meantime, high school and college students divided the Anderson students into small groups and dumped boxes of trash on the floor. Lifting up each item, they talked about its recycling potential and gave tips for reducing garbage.

Zach Brown, president of the Bozeman High School Recycle Club, told his group that they might surprise their parents by finding a large rock in their yards and sticking it in the water tank of their toilets. It would conserve water during flushing he said, because the rock would displace some of the water.

"Can you recycle gum?" one girl asked.

Brown told her it couldn't be recycled. A video called "The Story of Stuff" told the students that juice packs can't be recycled either.

"What we really need to chuck is that old throw-away mind set," said the film's narrator.

Students in another small group heard that an apple core takes two months to decompose. A milk carton takes five years. A Styrofoam egg carton will never decompose. Every person in the United States produces an average of 4 1/2 pounds of garbage a day.

Kevin Vilkin, an MSU freshman and vice president of the Network of Environmentally Conscious Organizations and Public School Outreach Coordinator, said recycling isn't enough. People need to think first about reducing their consumption and how they can reuse their trash, he said.

Vilkin urged students to use reuseable water bottles instead of plastic water bottles and canvas shopping bags instead of plastic bags. After telling them that 4.6 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year around the world, he advised them to pick up cigarette butts. They might also take shorter showers and ride their bicycles more.

The group then presented three recycling bins to the school, so the students could practice what they learned.

"Take everything you have learned and share it with anyone who will listen," Vilkin added.

For more information and a schedule of events for Gallatin Earth Celebration, see

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or