WIESBADEN, Germany - Changing a culture doesn't happen overnight.

That's one of the messages Maj. William McGlothlin, operations officer for the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Directorate of Public Works, shared with Wiesbaden High School's Environmental Club during a visit to the school Feb. 5.

"How did Germany become this great energy-conscious, recycling culture? They found that the most efficient way was to go into the schools -- to start reaching people at an early age -- and to influence a behavioral change at the young, impressionable recycler level," said McGlothlin. "We, as Americans, have a lot of catching up to do as regards recycling and the environment."

Members of Wiesbaden's Recycling Club, which began this school year, invited McGlothlin to share ideas about how to broaden their efforts, which currently include a weekly paper recycling program.

Like Hainerberg Elementary School, which recently earned the garrison's Green Boot certificate for its proactive environmental protection efforts, members of the high school's club want to increase awareness and overall participation in helping conserve energy and limited resources.

"All of the classrooms have paper recycling bins, and we go around and pick it up once a week," said senior John Arnold, an Environmental Club member.

With McGlothlin's help, students brainstormed ways to increase their efforts. Suggestions ranged from always ensuring that computers, monitors and lights are turned off when not in use; outside lights remain off during daylight hours; signs are posted encouraging everyone to turn off electrical devices and lights; and other recyclable materials are disposed of properly.

Raising awareness

"It's all about raising awareness," McGlothlin said, pointing out that the U.S. Army and garrison commander, Col. David Carstens, are determined to reduce overall energy and refuse disposal expenses. Installing solar panels on new structures, greater recycling and finding better ways to manage resources are all aimed at reducing the garrison?'s energy bill, which last year topped $32 million. "It's about being good neighbors -- good stewards of the environment."

"I feel that if we're going to accomplish something, we've got to do it with the kids," said Wiesbaden High School environmental science and math teacher David Craig, adding that getting fellow teachers to join in the effort is critical. "The kids follow models and to get the kids to do their part we?'ve got to get the adults to model that same behavior."

Craig added that he would like the Environmental Club to work with local organizations to promote recycling -- such as encouraging the Commissary to find some kind of an incentive to get people to use re-useable bags when shopping.

"Another initiative is to get parents involved in the Environmental Club," Craig said, inviting anyone interested in the high school effort to attend one of the club's weekly Wednesday meetings at the school.

Parents interested in getting involved with the school's Environmental Club should call the school at civ (0611) 705-2260. For details on the garrison's Green Boot certification process, call Maj. McGlothlin at civ (0611) 705-5840 or email William.p.mcglothlin.mil@mail.mil.